Burma, Six Months Later

Via the In Asia blog, the Burma cyclone, six months after. Despite the heart-wrenching stories, the takeaway leaves room for hope:

Six months on, most of the initial logistical and political obstaclesto providing aid have been overcome. And the overall relief effort isshifting its focus from emergency response to longer-termreconstruction projects that will help restore the livelihoods ofpeople whose lives have been irrevocably altered by Cyclone Nargis.

Without making any apologies for the Burmese regime’s handling of the cyclone, I think we can conclude that a humanitarian invasion would probably have done more longterm harm than shortterm good. The post doesn’t go into details, but the challenge now seems to be how to get around to doing more longterm good.

We’ve understandably heard a good deal since last Tuesday about the Obama administration’s approach to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m very curious to see where international aid and development factors into the global equation, especially given the new constraints imposed by the financial crisis. But even if the absolute values will be reduced, there’s still a lot to be discussed in terms of whether and how humanitarian can and should be integrated into a strategic vision. I’m not convinced they’re compatible. But given the prominence of the “dignity agenda” in Candidate Obama’s discourse, I’d welcome the discussion.

More World Politics Review