It's still not clear how much help Burma is going to allow in. The French foreign minister is making noises that sound curiously close to a humanitarian invasion:
In response, the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, suggested that the United Nations should invoke its “responsibility to protect” civilians as the basis for a resolution to allow the delivery of international aid even without the junta’s permission.
The UN, understandably, wants to stick to more conventional sorts of pressure. But what kind of leverage does the rest of the world have? They barely interact with us.
Then there's the food problem: Myanmar's rice harvest seems to have been devastated, though of course, it's pretty hard to get any information about what's going on. The reports we have seem to be at about the level of neighborhood gossip; they're filtering out through a network of aid workers that is, as one might imagine, under considerable strain, not to mention the eye of the regime. But at this point it the rice markets seem pretty convinced that Myanmar's going to flip from exporting to importing rice. The last thing the world needed right now was less grain on the world market.
It seems to me that now would be a very good time for the US to call a temporary halt to its ethanol program, and ship that grain to where it might actually provide a net benefit. Of course, who knows if they'd let it in. But then, it's hard to think of any place that grain wouldn't be better used than in American cars. And of course, anyone who wants to take me up on my earlier suggestion could try one of these recipes tomorrow night. Or hell, just pop in some convenience foods.