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Thread: Burma: catch all thread

  1. #21
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    Default interview with a former slave

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc7qMyIu4G4

    This guy was used in a press gang as a porter and human shield for 4 years before his escape to the Karen state.

  2. #22
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    Here's some background on the tragedy playing out in Burma:

    While the work of French clandestine services in Indochina enabled the opium trade to survive a government repression campaign, some CIA activities in Burma helped transform the Shan States from a relatively minor poppy cultivating area into the largest opium-growing region in the world. The precipitous collapse of the Nationalist Chinese (Kuomintang, or KMT) government in 1949 convinced the Truman administration that it had to stem "the southward flow of communism" into Southeast Asia. In 1950 the Defense Department extended military aid to the French in Indochina. In that same year, the CIA began regrouping those remnants of the defeated Kuomintang army in the Burmese Shan States for a projected invasion of southern China. Although the KMT army was to fail in its military operations, it succeeded in monopolizing and expanding the Shan States' opium trade. (excerpt from The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity In The Global Drug Trade by Alfred W. McCoy)
    Secret War In Burma: The KMT

    The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia - Wikipedia

    The Politics of Heroin - Amazon

    Alfred W. McCoy - Wikipedia

    Some other players:

    ‘’Chevron and its consortium partners continue to rely on the Burmese army for pipeline security and those forces continue to conscript thousands of villagers for forced labour, and to commit torture, rape, murder and other serious abuses in the course of their operations,’’ revealed the 76-page report, ‘The Human Cost of Energy’.

    Chevron should act on ‘’its moral and legal obligations to human rights rather than profit from human rights abuses,’’ the report added of this project that earned the Burma’s junta about 1.1 billion US dollars in 2006, over half of its total earnings from the sale of gas to neighbouring Thailand, which was 2.16 billion dollars that year.

    ‘’Chevron can be sued by villagers from Burma if it does not stop the human rights violations,’’ Naing Htoo, EI’s Burma Project coordinator, said during a press conference at the launch of the report. ‘’The violations are happening every day.’’
    Burma: US Oil Major Complicit in Abuses - Rights Lobby - IPS News

    BANGKOK, Apr 29, 2010 (IPS) - When shareholders of the multinational company Chevron gather for their annual meeting in the U.S. city of Houston in late May, they will come face to face with Naing Htoo, whose community has suffered due to the exploits of the energy giant in military-ruled Burma.

    "I want to expose what has gone on as a result of Chevron’s investments in Burma," says the 30-year-old from the Karen ethnic minority. "The shareholders need to know where their money is going and the suffering it is causing."
    Pressure Mounts On Energy Giant Chevron To Disclose Revenue - IPS News

    I had planned tonight to read from my last interview with Aung San Suu Kyi, but I decided not to – because of something Suu Kyi said to me when I last spoke to her. "Be careful of media fashion," she said. "The media like this sentimental version of life that reduces everything down to personality. Too often this can be a distraction."
    The Hypocrites Who Say They Back Democracy In Burma - John Pilger - antiwar.com

    A sad state of affairs.

  3. #23
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    A couple more things that may be of interest from Alfred McCoy, author of The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity In The Global Drug Trade:

    PD: How does the CIA's policies affect drug interdiction? I've spoken for example to former Drug Enforcement Administration officer Michael Levine, who has expressed anger that he was pulled off cases because he got too close to someone who, while being a big trafficker, was also an asset of the CIA.

    AM: Mike Levine speaks from personal experience. In 1971 Mike Levine was in Southeast Asia operating in Thailand as an agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA]. At the same time I was conducting the investigation for the first edition of my book.

    Mike Levine said that he wanted to go up country to Chiangmai, the heroin capital of Southeast Asia at that point, the finance and processing center and hub of an enterprise. He wanted to make some major seizures. Through a veiled series of cut outs in the U.S. embassy in Bangkok, instructions were passed to his superiors in the DEA, who told him he couldn't go up and make the bust. He was pulled off the case.

    $$$

    That meant that when the CIA was running one of its covert action wars in the drug zones of Asia, the DEA would stay away. For example, during the 1950's the CIA had this ongoing alliance with the nationalist Chinese in northern Burma. Initially mounting invasions of China in 1950-51, later mounting surveillance along the border for a projected Chinese invasion of Southeast Asia. The DEA stayed out of Southeast Asia completely during that period and collected no intelligence about narcotics in deference to the CIA's operation.

    Let's take two more examples that bring it right up to the present. [First] the Afghan operation: from 1979 to the present, the CIA's largest operation anywhere in the world, was to support the Afghan resistance forces fighting the Soviet occupation in their country. The CIA worked through Pakistan military intelligence and worked with the Afghan guerilla groups who were close to Pakistan military intelligence.

    In 1979 Pakistan had a small localized opium trade and produced no heroin whatsoever. Yet by 1981, according to U.S. Attorney General William French Smith, Pakistan had emerged as the world's leading supplier of heroin. It became the supplier of 60% of U.S. heroin supply and it captured a comparable section of the European market. In Pakistan itself the results were even more disastrous.

    In 1979 Pakistan had no heroin addicts, in 1980 Pakistan had 5,000 heroin addicts, and by 1985, according to official Pakistan government statistics, Pakistan had 1.2 million heroin addicts, the largest heroin addict population in the world.
    McCoy Interview, 11/9/91

    Military Misadventure: Present Situation

    Counterintuitively, as their power wanes, empires often plunge into ill-advised military misadventures. This phenomenon is known among historians of empire as “micro-militarism” and seems to involve psychologically compensatory efforts to salve the sting of retreat or defeat by occupying new territories, however briefly and catastrophically. These operations, irrational even from an imperial point of view, often yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the loss of power.

    Embattled empires through the ages suffer an arrogance that drives them to plunge ever deeper into military misadventures until defeat becomes debacle. In 413 BCE, a weakened Athens sent 200 ships to be slaughtered in Sicily. In 1921, a dying imperial Spain dispatched 20,000 soldiers to be massacred by Berber guerrillas in Morocco.
    McCoy Article, 1/8/11

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    A link to an article by some human rights outfit concerned about possible excessive use of force by Royal Thai Police during drug crackdowns:

    A deafening silence

    Its not as if the Bush Administration didn't know what was going down in Thailand. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights special repporteur Asma Jahangir expressed "deep concern" about the "extra-judicial executions" in the spring of 2003. Before Prime Minister Thaksin came to the U.S. for the first time as a head of state in June 2003 Human Rights Watch sent the White House a letter detailing the drug war atrocities taking place. The June 911 letter mentioned the over "2000 killings" and quoted Thai government officials including Thaksin himself on the drug crackdown. "In this war drug dealers must die." (Letter to U.S. President George Bush: Press Thaksin on Extrajudicial Executions, Burma. Human Rights Watch June 9, 2003). It also quoted Interior Minister Wan Muhamad Nor Matha referring to the drug crackdown. "They will be put behind bars or even vanish without a trace ... who cares?" (ibid) The Human Rights Watch report politely mentioned that the U.S. reputation may be "sullied by association with a bloody and murderous campaign in the name of the war on drugs" due to our on going anti narcotics training and money to the Thai police. (ibid)
    The Royal Thai Massacres by Roger White

    An interesting link to the elite Thai Border Patrol Police Aerial Reinforcement Unit who as far back as the late Fifties were receiving Ranger training at Benning:

    As part of this support, the newly opened CIA station in Bangkok worked with the Thai government to form contingency plans in case of a Chinese invasion. Part of these plans involved the creation of a local guerrilla force. A choice was made to use the Thai Police as the source for these guerrilla fighters since the Thai Police were viewed as more flexable than the Royal Thai Army. In addition, Thai Police were already distributed around the country and could provide a faster reaction to events than the Thai Military. Strong support for the plans was given by the Director-General of the Thai National Police Department, General Phao Siyanon.

    The CIA assigned James William 'Bill' Lair to work with the Thai Police on the project. An American front company, Southeast Asia Supply Company, or Sea Supply, was also created to administer the training programs.
    PARU - nationreligionking.com

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    I am not about to try to tie up the heroin problem by casting blame at the CIA. I've certainly looked at the situation closely enough in Afghanistan & Pakistan to be completely convinced that it's a problem there that is wholly derived from Pakistani tolerance of the traffic because it's the same insurgents who're using it to finance their imperialist agenda.

    Worse, every time someone tries to talk about the problems in Burma, there's always some pinhead who goes off on a rant trying to blame the US for the problems. That by focusing only on the drug trade, and again tying it to poorly substantiated allegations of CIA involvement.

    Since it's sure as hell not heroin dealers forcing the Thai government to treat refugees so badly, or forcing the Burmese military to engage in mass rapes, slavery, and broad amounts of wanton slaughter of civilians *today*, attempting to curtail discussion with a tired out "blame the USA" argument simply isn't going to cut it here. The countries where the heroin trade flourishes are almost uniformly pseudo-communist dictatorships, and nearly every one of them shares a border with China.

    Also, antiwar.com is not at all a credible news source. It makes Fox News look fair & balanced, and Glen Beck look level headed and rational. It's the other side of coin of extremist propaganda nuttery in that respect. If you really believe that stuff, I suggest you FOIA the CIA for disclosure of related material, or contact the National Archives to see if they've got material related to it since it would now be over 20 years from the end of the Viet-Nam war & overdue for mandatory declassification.

    In any case, I sure didn't post any of this stuff to give you an opportunity to go off on some jackass poorly sourced leftist rant that has nothing more going for it than your disdain for the USA.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anonamatic View Post
    what I think of as the `Chinese toilet ring'
    In any case, I sure didn't post any of this stuff to give you an opportunity to go off on some jackass poorly sourced leftist rant that has nothing more going for it than your disdain for the USA.
    My apologies then. Perhaps it is as Confucius say, "Man who stand on toilet ring high on pot."

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by anonamatic View Post
    In any case, I sure didn't post any of this stuff to give you an opportunity to go off on some jackass poorly sourced leftist rant that has nothing more going for it than your disdain for the USA.
    Let's leave the personal attacks out of this, shall we? Thanks.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Exclamation "Its about Tribes, Stupid"

    Have been working with some volunteer buddies helping various ethnic resistance movements and underground activists in this region at intervals now into our seventh year.

    After working with ethnics at political, military and grassroots levels, I am not sure of much of anything in this complex land, since I am not on the ground full time. There are, however, a few observations to share.

    The media, along with rants from the political Left and Right as well as American audiences, in general, all remain fixated on simplistic images of Burma ... with Aung San Suu Kyi as "the darling of democracy" imprisoned and now released, juxtaposed against the dictator General Maung Aye backed one way or another by profit-hungry nations and international corporations, to include Chevron and TRANSOCEAN.

    This misses the point.

    After all we have been through in Iraq and Afghanistan in terms of "not getting it" early on in the matter "ethnic power brokers", it is well to consider that the real issue to be creatively faced in Burma is (1) "Ethnic Balance of Power", as well as (2) the role ethnic resistance armies could play in support of vital US National Security interests.

    With over 130 different groups and sub-groups, most of which occupy Burma's border areas, and on whose ancestral lands most of Burma's natural resource wealth lies, these ethnic minorities comprise roughly half of the country's populace and legally 7 of its 14 states. The truth is that "Democracy" per means discrimination again to these minorities at the hands of the Burman majority, as has historically been the case. Ethnics dispute the "Democracy First" affirmation of Aung San Suu Kyi, and instead assert that "Matter of National Reconciliation" among all ethnics is the #1 imperative for what ails Burma. Its all about balance, fairness and the righting of old wrongs.

    More importantly, ethnic resistance armies comprise the only internal military capacity able to thwart the Burmese dictator backed by China which is after unfettered access to the Indian Ocean. Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD dont have any such capacity. Ethnics, using simple unconventional warfare methods, can be an enduring thorn in the side of all those who seek to profit off of stolen ethnic lands. A target-rich environment.

    UW remains the superior form of war in these parts...something that gives ethnics negative leverage to become potential stakeholders in economic development coming like a freight train at them, rather than being mere speed bumps in the way of others' profit.

    The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) for example racked up 80:1 KIA and 120:1 WIA ratios against the Burmese Army in 2009. This is testament to the resolve and competency of freedom fighters who have had their families murdered for decades going up against the conscript and child soldiers in the Burmese Army, which has almost fatally bad morale. Ethnics are a force to be reckoned with no matter how materially impoverished they may be.

    Ethnics are also the only internal power base to be applied against the spread of radical Islamists coming through Bangladesh and India. (Bali bombers in 2002 admitted that the Islamic populace of Burma was a future target for radicalization).

    So also are ethnic potential "players" in the matter of containing the Burmese dictator's aim of developing nuclear power.

    America has a bad track record of not cultivating ethnic power bases well in advance of conflict come surely at us. Burma is now a case in point.

    Bottom line. Working now on US vital interests in the region to contain China, radical Islamists and nuclear proliferation, is a compelling reality for us. Yet we remain dangerously fixated on 5 meter targets elsewhere.

    Harnessing the Unconventional Warfare power potential of ethnic resistance movements should be part of our "condition setting" calculus. Part of that calculus should involve ethnics compelling needed evolution of the dictator's Dark Ages business model. This could be accomplished by experimenting with more enlightened entrepreneurship ventures that empower the masses as a viable tax base, instead of their being the object of rape, pillage and plunder, as is now the case.

    Vulnerability? Fear. The dictator and his stakeholders / supporters are fundamentally fearful of loss of profit, loss of image, loss of economic opportunity, fear of increased insurance costs, fear of media and fear of the truth of what is going on in the shadows. In China's case, it is particularly fearful of unstable access to the Indian Ocean.

    Getting wrapped up in Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD (an organization with internal effectiveness and corruption problems) is no different than once again putting all our money and hopes on single ponies like Karzai, Chalabi, and other dictators most recently in the spotlight.

    As author Robert D. Kaplan once said when talking about SWA, "Its about tribes, Stupid."

    Note: We coincentally smuggled him into the jungles of Burma in 2008 to do research for his present book "Monsoon".
    Last edited by Tim Heinemann; 02-07-2011 at 09:16 PM. Reason: Misspellings

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Heinemann View Post
    A target-rich environment.
    The dictator and his stakeholders / supporters are fundamentally fearful of loss of profit, loss of image, loss of economic opportunity, fear of increased insurance costs, fear of media and fear of the truth of what is going on in the shadows.
    I could be mistaken, but a significant source of the Junta's revenue seems to flow from the gas pipeline. How feasible would a dedicated effort to sabotage the pipeline be? How would you describe or imagine the effect cycle of such a course of action? What about the assassination of military and civilian leadership, to include outside enablers of the regime? Would such activities be helpful or unhelpful? Thanks.
    Last edited by Backwards Observer; 02-07-2011 at 11:41 PM. Reason: added question

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    Quote Originally Posted by anonamatic View Post
    The countries where the heroin trade flourishes are almost uniformly pseudo-communist dictatorships, and nearly every one of them shares a border with China.
    Isn't something over 90% of the world's opium grown in Afghanistan and shipped through Pakistan? There are borders with China in both cases but neither can be credibly called a "pseudo-communist dictatorship" and any attempt to attribute the opium trade in these countries to Chinese machinations would be taking sinophobia to hitherto unheard of heights... quite an accomplishment given the heights sinophobia has reached in the past.

    The US has a bit of a past in Burma, as do Britain, China, and others; companies from the US, France, China and others are involved to various extents today. None of these escape some level of complicity and responsibility for current conditions. It would certainly be unreasonable to blame it all on the US, the CIA, or Chevron/Total/PTT, just as it would be unreasonable to blame it all on China.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Let's leave the personal attacks out of this, shall we? Thanks.
    I was out of line. My apologies to everyone.

    I won't retract my observation about Chinese border nations however. There's a very clear pattern there, and there's been one for quite a long time. Not a single one of the communist border states, much less some of the quasi-failed non-communist ones, are in any danger of becoming the next Hong Kong.

    I think Tim Heinemann nailed this better than I could. It's part of why I wanted to focus on the conflict issues rather than narrowly on the drug trade issues. I think it's safe to say that in any modern failed state situation that it's going to be highly likely that organized crime and drug traffic will opportunistically take hold if there's an opening for it. To focus only on those issues in Burma, which has been all too common in the past, is to miss the boat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anonamatic View Post
    I was out of line. My apologies to everyone.
    Well, as you apparently intended to insult "everyone", I feel much better now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anonamatic View Post
    I won't retract my observation about Chinese border nations however. There's a very clear pattern there, and there's been one for quite a long time. Not a single one of the communist border states, much less some of the quasi-failed non-communist ones, are in any danger of becoming the next Hong Kong.
    The Vietnamese aren't doing all that badly, in their own way. They won't be the next HK, but they've stepped out of the basket and have a functioning economy. Still a ways to go, but that's common enough in the world. India might also be cited as a Chinese border state that has made a bit of progress.

    Your observation on opium production being focused in Chinese border states is accurate enough, though it's not clear what conclusion you intended to draw from it. It would be equally accurate, for example, to observe that the vast majority of the world's opium is grown in places that were once colonies or occupied territories of a European power noted for having once run history's most successful state-sponsored drug trafficking operation. Again, drawing conclusions from that observation would be risky.

    Easy to make observations; harder to move from observation to legitimate conclusion.

    Certainly Burma is a conflicted place, and it's an ugly conflict. Almost seems a slice of Africa transported to SE Asia, or a throwback to the bad old days in SE Asia. The degree to which outside parties are responsible, or might be capable of forcing resolution, is debatable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Backwards Observer View Post
    I could be mistaken, but a significant source of the Junta's revenue seems to flow from the gas pipeline. How feasible would a dedicated effort to sabotage the pipeline be? How would you describe or imagine the effect cycle of such a course of action? What about the assassination of military and civilian leadership, to include outside enablers of the regime? Would such activities be helpful or unhelpful? Thanks.
    I don't know how helpful they'd be if they came from external sources. In that situation it's entirely possible that China could see them (understandably too) as a threat. That even when their own interests would be better served by regime change. In a lot of respects they're stuck, and that in unpleasant ways. On one hand if they want to get rid of a failed regime, they're stuck knowing that if they replace it with something that looks exactly like the last pile of thugs they'll end up with just a new pile of thugs, on the other toleration of corrupt regimes means that they're never going to realize the sort of trade and prosperity with their neighbors that they really want. In some ways (and this is a very bad & limited comparison), the US has been facing a somewhat similar problem with Mexican cartel violence. The most recent solution that the involved parties there have turned to has been intensive training of Mexican forces by Columbian police & military forces. That effort while very promising, is just getting underway, so the outcomes from it are as yet to be determined. In Burma, it might be possible for China to cut it's ties to the junta & put some support behind their opponents directly without falling into a trap of needing to create ideological and dogmatic models out of any new regime. It would be enough to say that they support self-determination for the people without insisting what that should look like. Such a stance might likely be politically palatable where other, more witlessly complex options would not be.

    In part some of the key enablers are corporations like Chevron too, & even trying to get them to grow some ethics is a wretched can of worms. They'll quite happily buy their way out of any criticism, & it's because they're so intractably unethical that they're turning themselves into a valid target.

    In terms of the opium trade, as far as I know 90% of it does come from Afghanistan, and an awful lot of it ends up in Arab states too. Iran for instance has a not very well reported serious problem with young people becoming addicted to opium that originates from there. I wouldn't be at all surprised if that has been a factor in muting the natural political opposition there.

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    Default stuck in the middle with juntas

    Quote Originally Posted by anonamatic View Post
    In a lot of respects they're stuck, and that in unpleasant ways.
    I appreciate that you took the time to whip up the diplomatic voodoo. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

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    Default Couple of points...

    The degree to which the Chevron and Total stakes in the Yabama pipeline "enable" the military regime is I think substantially exaggerated. It's appealing stuff for the knee-jerk anti-corporate crowd but the argument doesn't stand up to scrutiny. The pipeline exists, and the Thais are going to buy the gas in any event: they don't give a hot round one about human rights abuses in Burma. If Total and Chevron tried to influence the Burmese government they'd simply be forced to sell their stakes, which would be bought by Chinese or Thai interests and business would go on as usual. If Total and Chevron backed out the same would happen. If retrospectively, Total and Chevron had refused to build the pipeline, someone else would have. No shortage of oil companies in Russia and China willing and able to take on a project like that. Burma's energy reserves, and the willingness of the neighbors to buy the product, are enabling factors, but placing the blame on those contracted to build the infrastructure doesn't accomplish much.

    I don't see how the Chinese are in any way "stuck" by current circumstances. The status quo is acceptable to them. They don't have a US or western ally on that part of their border. The disorder in Burma has no major adverse impact on them. Burma would not be a major market for Chinese goods in any event and an open Burmese economy could emerge as a competitor in industries demanding cheap labor. The Chinese will be perfectly happy to deal with what is. Like the Thais, they don't care about the human rights abuses, any more than they do in Angola, the DRC, or Sudan. They will develop energy resources and build pipelines no matter what anyone else thinks. Of course there's a risk that pipelines could be sabotaged during a rebellion, or that a new government could cancel existing deals and nationalize projects, but the Chinese are taking similar risks in many places and apparently see them as acceptable.

    I could be mistaken, but a significant source of the Junta's revenue seems to flow from the gas pipeline. How feasible would a dedicated effort to sabotage the pipeline be? How would you describe or imagine the effect cycle of such a course of action? What about the assassination of military and civilian leadership, to include outside enablers of the regime? Would such activities be helpful or unhelpful?
    You'd get some publicity by whacking the CEOs of Chevron and Total, but there wouldn't be much impact on Burma. You could certainly wreck the Burmese economy (in a loose sort of way I suppose you could call it an economy) by sabotaging energy projects, or create a leadership vacuum by killing officials... but really, who cares enough to bother? There would be all manner of legal implications and risks, and whose interests are sufficiently threatened by the status quo to take them? As in many other backwaters, Burma's leaders are protected largely by their nation's economic and strategic irrelevance: lots of people will preach and deplore, but at the end of the day nobody is willing to do something about it.

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    Dayuhan, as always your stolid sobriety is invigorating. You ask,

    ... but really, who cares enough to bother?
    What make you of this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Heinemann View Post
    Ethnics, using simple unconventional warfare methods, can be an enduring thorn in the side of all those who seek to profit off of stolen ethnic lands. A target-rich environment.

    Bottom line. Working now on US vital interests in the region to contain China, radical Islamists and nuclear proliferation, is a compelling reality for us. Yet we remain dangerously fixated on 5 meter targets elsewhere.

    Harnessing the Unconventional Warfare power potential of ethnic resistance movements should be part of our "condition setting" calculus.
    Last edited by Backwards Observer; 02-08-2011 at 09:08 AM. Reason: add quote

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    The idea of harnessing the unconventional warfare potential of ethnic minorities in SE Asia to "contain China, radical Islamists and nuclear proliferation" seems rather farfetched to me. For one thing, I'm not at all sure the ethnic minorities have any interest in being harnessed, except to the rather limited extent to which it would serve their immediate interests. I doubt they'd be terribly interested in fighting our enemies; they have enemies of their own. I also doubt that the Chinese, the proliferators, or the radical Islamists would even notice.

    If China were to occupy Burma the ethnic minorities would resist and could be "harnessed". If AQ were to establish a cell or the North Koreans (or the Burmese junta) were to set up a nuclear lab in the Shan or Karen territories some harnessing might be done... but none of these really seem like high-probability events. About as likely as a full moon on Chinese New Year, IMO, and scarcely worth planning for.

    I can't see how they could be harnessed against the above in any sort of offensive capacity, as the subject of the offense would have to be rather far away, and they aren't folks that like to travel, or fight, outside their own domain.

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    Thanks Dayuhan, I appreciate your taking the time to reply. Perhaps in this Chinese New Year of the Rabbit / Cat, the peoples and polities of Asia could all take a moment to reflect on the wisdom of Confucius, who say, "Man who fart in church must sit in his own pew."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Your observation on opium production being focused in Chinese border states is accurate enough, though it's not clear what conclusion you intended to draw from it. It would be equally accurate, for example, to observe that the vast majority of the world's opium is grown in places that were once colonies or occupied territories of a European power noted for having once run history's most successful state-sponsored drug trafficking operation. Again, drawing conclusions from that observation would be risky.

    Easy to make observations; harder to move from observation to legitimate conclusion.

    Certainly Burma is a conflicted place, and it's an ugly conflict. Almost seems a slice of Africa transported to SE Asia, or a throwback to the bad old days in SE Asia. The degree to which outside parties are responsible, or might be capable of forcing resolution, is debatable.
    I agree with you about Viet-Nam, & while they have some distance to go with governance etc. I think they're headed in the right direction.

    Part of the reason why I'm making these observations is it's difficult to come to solid conclusions, more difficult to come up with potential solutions. It's also not quite that easy to see some of the patterns, and even when you can get past origins & past causality to current origins & causes, those things are only of limited use to trying to come up with solutions as they exist today. Trying to fix these problems, my god it's just not easy. When considering opium for example, one thing I try very hard not to forget is the antipathy China has towards the opium trade. It's a safe bet they dislike it more than anyone else in the area as a nation.

    I think it's worth it to work on these problems. They're hard ones, and developing strategies isn't easy. It's difficult to pay attention to them amidst the drowning roar of whatever fancy the global media is piddling around with in the passing moment. I've had gnats chase me with a higher attention span than some of the major media sites seem capable of producing.

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