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Has anyone from the Government commented on Burma yet?

If they talk about "constructive engagement" it'll be more of the same. You can't reason with the Burmese junta. Best to have a bit of principle for once and wait for the corrupt regime to cave in. Whether it takes 10, 20 or 50 years it will crumble. And then we could actually say "we didn't put greed before conscience" at least in this case.

We should keep our noses out of other countries' business.

Response from the UN and the EU will be typically useless. I think this is a waste of Hagues breath. I fear that nothing will be achieved in Burma unless there is an armed insurrection against the military junta. Pehaps we should back any rebel groups with arms?

Every country has the government it deserves and Burma is no exception.

There are plenty of other corrupt, cruel and despotic governments around the world but I notice we only talk about threatening the weaker ones.

No chance of a trade boycott against the Peoples' Republic of China, eh?

Pehaps we should back any rebel groups with arms?

Don't be ridiculous. We have already interfered several times too many in other people's business.

Very depressing contribution, Traditional Tory.

Two questions for you:

(1) If we accept your argument that we don't face up to stronger nations' human rights abuses does that mean we should ignore other (weaker/ smaller) nations' abuses?

(2) Have more lives been lost because of intervention (eg Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Iraq) or non-intervention (eg Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur)?

'Every country has the government it deserves'- Traditional Tory.
You know TT that I have a low opinion of you but that statement leads me to believe you're the scum of the earth.

I cannot disagree malcolm.

Did the Poles deserve the Nazis and then the Soviets?

Did the Cambodians deserve Pol Pot?

Traditional Tory's views are appalling.

Governments tend to represent the dominant culture of their peoples. You can't impose democracy on nations with authoritarian and brutal cultures.

The right to assembly is fundamental to democracy. Where people gather they gain stength and solidarity, they become one united voice. Why does the situation in Burma receive such scant coverage in our media? I'm glad William Hague is working to profile events and raise awareness.

From a purely pragmatic perspective, just how many votes do the people of Burma get in the next British general election?

To be honest, I really doubt if Joe/Josephine E. Striver of Harlow could point to Burma on a map, let alone tell you why they should be interested.

Elections are won at home.

Tanuki, British politicans must make the case for democracy and justice around the world. It was such calls for democracy that undermined and eventually lead the peoples of Eastern Europe to overthrow the communist dictatorships in the late 1980s and was crucial in preventing the failed soviet coup of 1991. More people will find the courage to stand and fight for democracy if they receive moral support from the west.

Tanuki: surely after 9/11... crises of asylum... the fact that pollution knows no borders... that free trade is the route out of poverty... we know that domestic and international policy are inseparable?

And not everything has to be looked at purely in terms of narrow party electoral advantage.
Foreign policy rarely proves decisive at general elections )(1983 and to some extent '87 were exceptions) but parties attitude toward it is a good indicator in my opinion of how decisive a government is likely to be in office.

Paleo, no one is talking about imposing democracy. There is a very fully-fledged articulate and courageous democracy movement within Burma. In 1990 elections were overwhelmingly won by the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi. The people spoke then through the ballot box, they spoke in peaceful mass protests in 1988, and they are speaking, bravely, again now. What we are talking about now is doing more to support the brave people of Burma in their struggle - not imposing anything on anyone ourselves. We owe it to them to support them.

As for Traditional Tory, I have never seen anything he has written with which I have agreed, and he seems to get regressively worse. His comments here merit no response, except to say that I am ashamed that he and I share the same political party.

My dear Tanuki - first of all, I disagree with you. Yes, you're right that Burma is not going to win us votes in itself, but issues like Burma, Darfur etc are litmus test issues. They give an indication to the voter of what our values are. And so while they may not cast their vote on the basis of our policy on Burma alone, many people will want to know what we think about such issues - and if we have no view, or if we have the kind of obnoxious opinions expressed by Traditional Tory, they will not vote for us. So indirectly, having a foreign policy that puts human rights, global poverty and social justice at its heart will win us support. Secondly, standing up to dictators is in our own interests. Freedom, prosperity and security go hand in hand. Dictators have shown that they breed instability. So if we are a party of freedom, we must be a party of freedom for everyone. Thirdly, Tanuki, not everything in politics has to be about short-term vote-winning. There is an important place in politics for values and principles, for doing the right thing because it is right. William Wilberforce demonstrated that, and I am delighted that William Hague is showing that in the development of his foreign policy.

'Every country has the government it deserves'- Traditional Tory.
You know TT that I have a low opinion of you but that statement leads me to believe you're the scum of the earth.

Malcolm, I find it impossible to take you at all seriously so I'm afraid your OTT insults elicit no more than a wry smile from me.

The 'Every country...' quotation came from Joseph de Maistre, a considerably greater intellect than 'Malcolm', I fear.

We order things in our own 'democratic' way here. The majority of other nation states have a different 'take' on politics and in some cases - Burma an obvious example - that take is brutal and despotic.

However, Burma remains a sovereign state and her internal affairs are not our business. Constructive engagement through the United Nations is not only the best way forward; it is the only way.

The rise of China, and the increasing influence of Chinese ways, point to a coming era in which Western-style democracy will be increasingly marginalised. It is just one system among many, after all.

Time to face facts, eschew sentimentalism and get real about the future.

In the meantime I have two answers to the Editor's question. (1) Iraq and (2) Afghanistan.

It's time to get out of both and to resolve to stay out of similar entanglements in future.

My dear little Sir Percy Cradock-imitator-Traditional Tory ... the Burmese people did not choose this brutal, military regime. They did not 'order' things the way they are in Burma today, nor do they have a different 'take' on basic human rights which are universal. The Generals do, sure, but not the people. There are many things I could say to you in response to your poisonous, perochial, narrow-minded ramblings, but it isn't worth the time and effort bothering with silly little men like you. JUst one thing: If Britain was ruled by a dictatorship, and you were imprisoned and tortured, and your wife (if she had been unfortunate enough already to have married you) was gang-raped, I take it on the basis of your remarks above that you would not want any other country to appeal for your release?

Traditional Tory, can I ask why you will not use your real name? Not only do you use this site to spout obnoxious racist remarks, but you do not have the guts to use your real name. Is that because you actually secretly represent UKIP or perhaps even the BNP?

Or perhaps you are secretly a Labour or Lib Dem activist trying to create a bad name for traditional Tory activists?

Or maybe you really are Sir Percy Craddock?

Traditional [email protected]:25

Do you really consider those adequate answers to the Editor's questions?

We do attempt to exert our influence against stronger countries as well as against the weaker, but it surely makes perfect sense to pursue cases that are easier to bring to a resolution first.

If, one day, we have dealt with all the Zimbabwes and Sudans and Sierra Leones and Serbias and Iraqs, then perhaps we shall look to other cases. But in the meantime it hardly seems an argument to say "If you aren't going to address all of the evils in the world at once, then it is hypocritical to address any - and of course it is impossible to address all of the evils in the world at once, so our only true options are hypocrisy or inactivity." You must see that that is a terribly weak argument.

The argument must come down to this: Do we believe that, if our own peace and prosperity is threatened, so that it is only the pathetic poor and weak of the world that will be harmed whilst we will stay safe and rich, then because it is in our medium-term material interests to sit idly by that is what we should do? Do we say: I am bound to make some mistakes and end up killing some people I did not want to kill, and I may even occasionally make matters worse, so I shall do nothing - at most turn my face away in disgust at the suffering of the miserable? Or shall I say: Yes, I know I might get it wrong, and I accept that it is not necessarily in my best interests to act, but I am strong and powerful and will *not* rest on the fat of my riches when I could spend them trying to fight wickedness?

And then we choose - Is it, as the Editor asked, to be Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Iraq; or do we prefer Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur?

Not only do you use this site to spout obnoxious racist remarks

Such as?

As for your other, rather silly comments, Ben, I suggest you calm down and grow up.

I have no idea upon which particular public or private stages you strut to make arguments of the stamp of that given above but, trust me, unless you use considerably more diplomatic language nobody is going to listen to you.

The United Nations was set up to mediate in exactly this type of situation and it is through the UN that we should now proceed.

This is a situation that calls for clear heads; not emotive hysteria.

Dear Traditional Tory,

So you support the call to bring Burma to the UN Security Council agenda??? If so, it was not at all clear from your contributions.

As for using more diplomatic language, I agree - but I am not going to take any lessons on that from you. From the majority of reactions to the majority of your blog entries, very few if any people take you at all seriously. So it might be you who needs to calm down, grow up and have lessons in diplomacy.

Regarding racist remarks - I think implying that democracy and basic human rights are fine for us, but for the Burmese or any other nation it is not applicable and it's not their 'take' on life, is rather racist.

If I have misunderstood you, forgive me - perhaps you could write a little clearer in future? Perhaps you could also tell us who you are, so we know what perspective you are coming from?

I agree generally with the sentiments of both William Hague and Ben Rogers. China will be watching carefully what is happening in Burma, but - sorry to say - until there is blood on the streets, China will be likely to block any further discussion in the Security Council, and so will Russia. They will do so on the grounds that the Council is only competent to discuss threats to international peace, and although the UK might argue (and has argued) that it is a threat for all sorts of reasons, if China and Russia say "No it isn't", well, that's that. Power politics in the raw. Read "Russia - The Making of a neo-KGB State" in "The Economist" this week. What influence do you suppose we have over Russia to bring Burma to the Council? None whatsoever, as William Hague well knows.


[PS - please be kind to Percy Craddock. I worked with him for five years!]

What influence do you suppose we have over Russia to bring Burma to the Council? None whatsoever, as William Hague well knows.

Quite so; and that influence is likely to diminish in the future as our world is increasingly dominated by China and Chinese values.

There is nothing 'racist' about stating the value-neutral fact that different nations tend towards different types of government. Indeed, nothing counld be more arrogant and, shall we say ethnocentric, than to suggest that Western-style democracy is invariably the proper system for 'less happier lands'.

There are other parties in this country that have long favoured imposing Westminster-style values on the rest of the world. If this is something you favour then your man was clearly Mr Blair, although whether his particular brand of gunboat diplomacy will survive the Brown transition we have yet to discover.

My dear little TRaditional Tory, please read my response to Paleo or my Platform article a few weeks ago on 8 August. In 1990, in Burma, elections were held and the National League for Democracy won the elections. The regime rejected the results. The regime may agree with you that it does not want Western-style democracy, but the people have a different view. In any case, no one is talking necessarily about Western-style or Westminster-style democracy. It is up to the people of Burma to shape what kind of democracy they have. But let me be clear about one thing: I find it offensive for you to infer that a man in Burma being tortured in prison feels the torture less than you would. Basic human rights are universal, regardless of nationality, religion or background. A woman being raped by soldiers in Burma does not enjoy it any more than if your wife (if you have one) would if she was raped. Your earlier remarks were certainly not value-neutral - they were valueless, and abhorrent as such.

Let's try to avoid calling each other "racist" at any opportunity, eh? Traditional Tory's position - that different countries need to evolve their own political cultures and norms in their own time - is a perfectly respectable one that has been held by Conservatives and Tories for centuries. I don't agree with his view that it follows from this that we should not seek to interfere or express our concern when oppression occurs or the sense that it follows that oppression occurs in less advanced countries, but crying "racist" doesn't get us anywhere.

Sorry - the last sentence should have read "...that it follows that oppression matters less when it occurs in less advanced countries..."

clearly all those different people from different races and groups, the few thousand people from a single tribe living in the jungle, the Indian migrants, the orphaned baby, the 12-year-olds with guns, etc., they are all to blame for their government, we should just leave them to die.

How very Traditional.

Joseph de Maistre made his observation ("every country has the government it deserves") around 1800.

The most obvious change since then is globalisation. There is an accumulation of world interests which take from Burma (natural resources, strategic exploitation) but do not give (money or love).

All this motivates and entrenches the barbaric kleptocracy calling itself a government, strengthening them against the heroic efforts of the Burmese people to liberate themselves.

If we do not do everything we can for the people of Burma then we will regret that intensely, in time or in eternity.

If our politics does not serve a civilisation of love, then what does it serve--and how is it worth it? What gains for us can possibly compensate for Burma's pain?

Dear Editor

Please can you overwrite some of the personal abuse on this thread. I posted one comment the other day that was far less abusive, far more accurate and far more relevant than some of this stuff and you overwrote it. I did not understand why.

Traditional Tory

Every country has the government it deserves and Burma is no exception.

That is a very spiteful response from you and rather vindicates my belief that you are a waste of space on this blog. The Burmese voted for democracy in the past, but the junta refused to accept the election results. They followed up with more brutality and repression - Burma is one of the worst places in the world to live in regards to human rights.

What the Burmese deserve is a democratic government. If you're expecting them to overthrow their oppressors, that's easy for you to say given you enjoy a country where you can criticise the government without fear of arrest or torture.

The matter of Burma was brought to the UN Security Council and no action was taken due to the votes oft three countries, which apparently share the Traditional Tory's view of non-intervention:
Russia - which is of course not intervening in Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine or the Stans
China - which in the guise of non-intervention is selling arms to Sudan & Zimbabwe amongst others and blocked effective action on Darfur and Iran
South Africa - which shamefully contends that while many protested and governments and international organisations acted on its behalf that it is wrong to do the same in Burma.

As Ben Rogers knows, I have a totally different view of the 1990 Elections in Burma from every MP in the House of Commons, whatever their party. The National League for Democracy won the elections by an overwhelming majority. But the junta did not cancel the results. Nor did they refuse to recognise them. Before the elections they had said, repeatedly: hold the elections, convene your parliament and draft your new constitution, but until this process is complete and there has been a national referendum on the constitution and the people have decided, we the junta will continue to govern; that's the way it's going to be. When the NLD won, they (understandably enough, I suppose) wanted political power, straight away. No you can't have it, said the junta. Yes we demand it, said the NLD. In this stand-off, the NLD might have won. The junta could have conceded. I wish they had. But the junta had the guns, and not a single Army unit came out in support of the NLD.

It is, alas, historically too close to the events for the true facts about the 1990 Elections to be generally acknowledged. But if you read my article "Broken Promises or Failure of Communications" in the April 2007 issue of "Contemporary South-East Asia" (it can be downloaded from: http://www.iseas.edu.sg/csea.htm but you pay a small fee),you may begin to understand how complex the issue of the 1990 Elections really was and why, then as today, there is not a single politician in the West who is in the least interested in admitting that the 1990 Elections were not, in either Burmese or international law, to a governing parliament until the constitutional process set out by the junta had been completed.


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