May 9th, 2008 17:10 EST
Geopolitics in Myanmar
With over 80,000 people killed and almost two million left homeless, Myanmar teeters on the edge of collapse. The military junta that has ruled the country since 1962 has proved to be highly irresponsible, failing to inform people of the upcoming calamity. Now it refuses to accept foreign aid. But the junta's incompetency is only part of the problem. Geopolitics is the other.
The maps of Asia clearly show that the geographical position of Myanmar (former Burma) is far from desirable. Squeezed between two regional giants – China and India – it would face total annihilation if one of them waged a war against the other. What is more, Myanmar also borders unstable Thailand, ruled by a military junta, and Bangladesh – a predominantly Muslim country carved out from Pakistan in 1971.
Consider this scenario...
If the Myanmarese government fully accepts the help offered by the United States and United Nations, it will greatly upset China. Often does it happen that with humanitarian aid come troops to keep order among hordes of hungry people. Should the Marines land in Myanmar, Beijing will certainly send its troops to protect the poor neighbor's integrity, what in diplomatic jargon means “we want our share of the cake too.” With America and China on the verge of war, India and Pakistan start to mobilize their armies on the mutual border in case a greater conflict breaks out. Dozens of reporters, who has arrived in Myanmar with foreign aid, report back in what deplorable conditions lives the 40 million population. If also some of them mentions that the Chinese communists have all but invaded the small country, the American people may demand their commander-in-chief save another nation from oppression. Iraq got their freedom, let Myanmar has its chance too. So the U.S. Navy sends a couple of aircraft carriers to the Bay of Bengal; the Chinese follow the suit. Taiwan, a small island that solely depends on the American military, asks protection. Another carrier is deployed.
As the two world powers prepare for an all-out war, other countries refuse to be passive observers. Communist North Korea moves its army south to the border guarded by several thousands of American troops. Japan does not want the Korean peninsula to turn red, so Tokyo sends an expeditionary force to stop the communist offensive. This worries Russia, which remembers Japan's imperial ambitions from the beginning of the twentieth century, and warns that it will not back from using nuclear missiles to protect its interests. Despite several years of relative peace on the Indo-Pakistani border, now both countries decide to solve long-time territorial disputes through military means. As Islamabad concentrates hundreds of thousands of troops on the eastern border, radical Islamists from north of the country wage an armed uprising, supported by the remnants of the Afghan Taliban.
Both Pakistan and India are in possession of nuclear weapons and their strategic forces have already been informed to stay on alert. Meanwhile Iran offers the Islamists help in their struggle against the American ally. Europe dreads war on its doorstep so it allows Russia to install its forces in Ukraine and the Baltic republics. Despite protests, the Russians march to Kiev, Vilnius and Tallinn, and demand a free pass to Poland. Warsaw wary of historical precedences refuses to welcome foreign troops and calls on other NATO members to execute article 5 which speaks of defending a member state by all possible means. But the fear of conflicting Moscow is too great and the NATO, with the USA involved in Asia, rejects the plea. The Russians again border Germany.
Sounds like too black a scenario to come true?
Remember that the First World War broke out because one madman assassinated one unimportant royal. American boys were sent to Vietnam and later to Iraq because those countries were thought to have “posed a serious threat to the national interest.” It doesn't take much to start another war.
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