The US Needs to Return to Realpolitik and Support the Coup in Myanmar
This article might sound cynical or morally wrong, but, before you disregard it and dismiss me as evil, take a moment to read and think. The US needs to support the coup in Myanmar.
As a bit of background, Myanmar, also known as Burma, was shaken by a coup last week. According to CNN (the international branch of CNN, which is far better and different than the domestic branch) on Tuesday, February 2nd, “Myanmar’s powerful military has taken control of the country in a coup and declared a state of emergency, following the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior government leaders in early morning raids.”
Since then, the military has more or less retained power despite widespread protests and international condemnation. Biden, for his part, said that “The United States removed sanctions on Burma over the past decade based on progress toward democracy. The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action.”
That approach is wrongheaded. To win on the international stage, the US needs to disregard what is morally right and instead focus on what is in its best interest. In this case, that means the US needs to support the coup in Myanmar and stomach the idea of building a relationship with the country’s new, unsavory leaders.
That is because the coup is not about power. This isn’t a case of some epaulet-clad, cigar-chomping general using his troops as pawns to boost his ego. Rather, the coup is about Myanmar’s relationship with China.
Over the past few years, China has forged stronger and stronger ties with Myanmar’s democratically-elected government. For example, it built pipelines across the country, which gave it access to the Bay of Bengal and advanced its strategic position. Further investments in Myanmar’s mines and energy infrastructure tied the two countries even closer together. China bought the country, as it is trying to buy the US, and Myanmar’s government went along with it. In fact, according to ABC News, “Suu Kyi [the former president] has shifted closer to Beijing in the past few years.”
China now has billions of dollars invested in the country and has plans to spend tens of billions more in buying influence, infrastructure, and leverage.
The coup is a response to that. The generals and soldiers that seized power did so because they were concerned with their nation’s drift into China’s orbit and furious with China’s support of ethnic Chinese rebels in Myanmar.
“While everyone is easily saying that the development in Burma is favourable to China and moving forward it will become pro-Beijing, they forget that it was the Aung San Suu Kyi-led government under which Myanmar was inching closer to the Communist regime of China. And this is why the latest political changes in Myanmar will make sure that the country becomes more anti-China and comes closer to India…
In mid last year, the Myanmar Army spokesperson alleged, “one foreign country” is providing sophisticated arms and financial support to Myanmar based insurgent groups. Brig Gen Zaw Min Tun- the spokesperson for Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) said that – Arakan Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Kachin Independence Army the Shan State Army-North, and United Wa State Army (UWSA) – all of which are ethnic rebel armies based in Myanmar’s northern province which share a border with China’s Yunnan province – are being supported by Chinese businessmen and the Chinese Communist Party…
This tells us how the Burmese military is accepting Indian investment while keeping large Chinese investment at bay. The fact that Myanmar has not allowed Chinese investments in a large hydroelectric project means that the de-facto rulers of the country are not swayed in the favour of the Chinese and as the de-facto rulers are now again turning into de-jure rulers, it means that going ahead, India and Myanmar will see closer cooperation and any mischievous attempts by China will find it further away from Myanmar and even jeopardize its pipeline which goes through Myanmar into Yunan province.”
In other words, the men who took over Myanmar are no friends of China. China has been arming rebels and buying influence in their country with impunity for far too long and they are finally doing something about it. The US needs to support the coup in Myanmar because it is an excellent opportunity to roll back Chinese influence in the region.
If we sanction and harass the coup leaders, they’ll drift back to China. They need an international backer, and if it’s not the US and its allies, then that backer will be China, as the Diplomat recently predicted.
But, if we take advantage of the situation, then perhaps it could turn into a foreign policy win for the US. If the Biden Administration decides to support the coup in Myanmar, then we can potentially push back against China’s influence, cause it billions of dollars in investment losses, and gain a new ally in our Cold War against that communist regime.
Doing so might seem morally wrong. Dealing with unsavory characters always does. But what is more important, our strategic position or doing the right thing? The Chinese threat is an existential one. When we faced a similar threat during the Cold War, we backed dictatorships from Iran’s shah to military dictatorships in South America. We recognized that keeping America safe and improving its geopolitical position was far more important than backing freedom and democracy in the third world.
That recognition has been lost in recent decades. President from Bill Clinton to Obama focused on what was “right,” rather than what was the best decision. We are a nation-state with interests, not the world’s policeman. That means we need to do what is best for us rather than what might seem like the decision a morally upstanding person might make.
Practical considerations must override moral concerns. To fight China, something that should be the main reason behind each and every decision we make, the US needs to support the coup in Myanmar and keep the coup leaders anti-China.
By: Gen Z Conservative
Image at top from: Wikimedia