The Burmese protesters in Burma cannot prevail unless they divide their opponents and obtain support from parts of the military and the police. Street protests do not generate enough of an incentive to split the armed forces. Shutting down the economy with concerted strikes would induce serious hardship on the military establishment but I have not seen any indication that the opposition has the capacity for labor actions. George Bush’s threats of sanctions, however well-meaning, are empty because the United States already restricts trade with Burma.
When the wall fell and many Germans were still concerned that the Communist government might lash out violently, economics professor Johannes Welcker had an interesting idea.
May be, it is time to pay military leaders off. Just as golden parachutes persuade managers to surrender to hostile take over bids, spending a couple of hundred million dollars to remove the military from government might be a good investment. It’s certainly cheaper than sanctions or civil war. The investment would eventually be recouped by the benefits of trading with a free country and free people.
Of course, such an arrangement would have to indemnify the military dictators from responsibility for their crimes against humanity. However distasteful amnesty may be, it is worth it if it prevents more inhumanity.
To render any commitment by the military credible, the officers ought to receive monthly rents that will be paid out only as long as the armed forces stay out of politics. It is then up to the Burmese people to re-negotiate and re-design civil-military relations.
When the dictators know that they will be safe, it ought to be possible to buy them off. The costs would be a pittance compared to the benefits of peace, liberty, and democracy.