Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War
October 1, 2007: With the crackdown on the protests in
Burma, is there any real chance of the situation changing? Most of the
pressure on the military dictatorship in Burma has been in the form of
economic sanctions. Much of the reliance on economic sanctions reflects
a misunderstanding of just how resilient a dictatorship can be. In
the case of Burma, this is a dictatorship that has gone on since 1962,
and has had changes at the top. As such, this is not going to be an
easy regime to topple, even with the latest crackdown on dissidents and
the death of a Japanese photographer.
The dictatorship in Burma has to deal with the era of Google
and YouTube and videos from those sites are generating outrage in
the West. But Burma's being protected in the UN Security Council by
China (and to a lesser extent, Russia), primarily because it is a
customer for their weapon systems (like the Russian MiG-29 and the
Chinese J-7 and Q-5 combat aircraft).
Invading Burma would also be a very tough proposition. The
Burmese Army generates respect from the Thai military (which is no
slouch itself) for its ability to fight in the jungle, and it is large
with 428,000 personnel, formed into over 330 combat battalions. Burma
also is getting weapons from Europe as well, particularly T-72 main
battle tanks and BTR-3U infantry fighting vehicles from the Ukraine. It
also has spent the last twenty years increasing its mobility and
logistics. Most impressively, it is an all-volunteer force. Any fight
with Burma will be against people who have chosen to fight for their
country, not conscripts a much tougher proposition.
So, what options are available? Not many. The present
iteration of the Burmese dictatorship is not showing many signs of
weakness. Economic sanctions from the west have hurt, but when Burma's
GDP is only $13 billion, and doesn't get much tourism (only 750,000
visitors a year), and Burma's trade comes primarily from Thailand and
China. The increasing ties with India also help, since the Burmese can
now play India off China and vice versa.
In essence, the situation in Burma is one where the Western
powers have played all of their cards to date, and have nothing to show
for it. Burma has been able to remain afloat, largely by increasing
its trade with neighbors, and the dictatorship is well-entrenched. At
this point, the Burmese dictatorship just has to wait out the West,
and will do so, barring a colossal mistake on its part. Harold C.