Names are important, but right now I'd say that a higher priority is getting food and supplies in to people who weren't killed in the cyclone that hit the country.
Tens of thousands of people have already died. The body count may top 100,000 as survivors run out of safe drinking water and food.
United Nations World Food Program (WFP) aircraft touched down in Burma yesterday. Then, according to the WFP, the shipment of supplies was seized. By the bunch that runs Burma/Myanma/Myanmar.
The WFP isn't sending any more aid for now. (UPDATE: Latest News indicates WFP will try again, tomorrow. "U.N. 'furious' as Myanmar aid 'seized'" CNN (May 9, 2008))
That shipment included 34 tons of high-energy biscuits. For survivors of a disaster like this, those biscuits could be life-savers. Literally.
A U.N. spokesman "said he didn't know why the supplies had been seized, but the move has left the WFP with 'no choice' but to suspend its aid shipments." ("UN halts aid shipments to Burma, accuses government of seizing supplies" CBC (May 9, 2008))
Humanitarian aid workers aren't being allowed into the country, which also is not helpful. The junta that runs the country isn't granting visas. CBC" (May 9, 2008))
Interestingly, unilateral action is okay this time. French officials were considering the same idea. "French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, co-founder of the aid group Doctors Without Borders, said this week that unauthorized air drops could be permitted under the UN's "responsibility to protect" mandate, which applies to civilians." ("CBC" (May 9, 2008))
In fact, the news about the Burmese hurricane shows that saving people's lives is so important that "unilateral" action is acceptable. Even if it violates the sovereignty of a non-western nation.
This is no exaggeration: Crossing a national boundary with a formation of aircraft, without permission, and then dropping un-asked-for materials on another nation's territory, would be very close to an invasion.
Of course, the two situations are completely different:
- On the one hand, you have humanitarian aid saving people's lives
- On the other hand, you have big, rough, soldiers barging in and, in the long run, saving people's lives
Except that tyrants often don't have the best interests of their subjects in mind. And they don't seem to give up power, no matter how nicely they're asked. It takes force to unseat such people. And, once the big, rough, soldiers have fought their way through and removed a despot, they can, if they're Americans, stick around to fix roads, water plants, hospitals, and all the other critical systems that the tyrants were ignoring.
I think this comparison is worth thinking about.