As the crisis began its second week with only a feeble rescue operation in place, frustrated voices, including France's foreign minister and a broad collection of groups representing exiles from Myanmar, also known as Burma, urged a humanitarian operation in defiance of the government's insistence that it alone control any assistance. Government critics contend that the ruling generals have failed in their responsibilities to the people, opening the way for the United Nations to invoke its "responsibility to protect" provisions adopted in 2005 that give the Security Council power to ignore national sovereignty for humanitarian reasons.Essentially, that's the argument that has been made at Jotman (see here, here and here). American blogger Andrew Sullivan has made it too. The article continues:
"They should just start landing the helicopters," said Soe Aung of the National Council of the Union of Burma, a pro-democracy group based in Thailand. "People are being exposed to disease and hunger and wondering why they have been forsaken by the rest of the world. It's time to move in."
Representatives of aid organizations said most governments have no appetite for a confrontation with the generals. They said China's support for the regime prevents the Security Council consensus needed to adopt French calls for aid to be forced in.Since when did China rule the world? The truth is that only France appears to have made an serious effort -- so far -- to fight for such a UN resolution. Britain actually opposed it. I am not blaming Britain. Britain was playing "good cop" last week, in the hope that the junta could be persuaded to receive international aid. The effort appears to have failed misserably, but it was arguably worth trying.
But this week is different than last week.
This week, the question must be put to Beijing: will China agree not to veto a UN resolution that would invoke "responsibility to protect" vis a vis the Burma cyclone disaster? If passed, such a resolution would render a large-scale international relief effort binding international law. It is immensely important that the Security Council pass such a resolution. The stakes could not be higher for millions of Burmese.
Because a massive aid operation coordinated by the UN, with the US and other world powers playing leading roles, is likely to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Burmese.
If China would defend the decision of the junta to be picky and choosy about outside aid sources and pocket choice aid relief to sell on the black market, it should be compelled to say as much.
The countries of the United Nations cannot side step this question; the Security Council must vote.
Does Beijing want to obstruct large-scale international relief to Burma that could save a million lives, or does want to play host to the world at the Olympic Games? That's China's choice to make. Our responsibility is to get a large-scale reflief operation underway.