Friday, May 23, 2008

Intervening where necessary

Timothy Garton Ash has been both defended and mocked at this location.

Yesterday, however, he wrote something well worth reading (all the more surprising considering the place where it appeared) about the aftermath of the devastating cyclone in Burma.

I have no doubt that we have a responsibility to act in this case, and that we have just cause to do so without the explicit consent of Burma's illegitimate rulers, who are letting their people die rather than letting in international aid. Unlike over Iraq, I would credit even George W Bush with right intention here. I suppose you could Noam-Chomskyishly argue that the interests of the west might be served by gaining influence over a buffer state between India and China (and, yes, Burma does have oil), but I don't think that's why a US ship is standing off the delta with helicopters and supplies. Proportional means? Yes, air drops and a "sea bridge" for aid would seem proportionate to save the lives of certainly tens of thousands, and potentially hundreds of thousands, of men, women and children....

The responsibility to protect has to be exercised responsibly: that is, with a careful, informed calculation of the likely consequences. I conclude that we should use every means except that of military-backed unilateral - or western "coalition of the willing" - action, which has few reasonable prospects, is arguably not the last resort, and would not have right authority. This does not mean we do nothing. We have a responsibility to act by every other means available, and there are many forms of "intervention' short of the military. (For us ordinary citizens, that includes ensuring the charities that do operate there have sufficient funds. In Britain, one good way to do that is through the multi-charity Disasters Emergency Committee, dec.org.uk.)

(Edited selections via Mick Hartley, via Norm. Emphasis added.)

Especially now that it seems that the aid will get through, it is worth contributing (in Germany, for instance, to Aktion Deutschland Hilft).

And for his other, lesser, service in this piece, I am grateful to Garton Ash for his effort to popularise the word 'Chomskyishly', although -- despite what you might think -- he is not the first to use it.

2 comments:

Phila said...

I am grateful to Garton Ash for his effort to popularise the word 'Chomskyishly', although -- despite what you might think -- he is not the first to use it.

I like that it's Noam-Chomskyishly, for the benefit of those who wouldn't get the joke otherwise. Very conscientious!

abdelmoaty said...

burma ahs no oil comparable to Iraq's
still chomsky is right