TROUBLE SPOTS….What a mess. I suppose the world is always a mess, really, but quite aside from everything happening in the Middle East there sure seem to be an unusually large number of trouble spots right now.

In Myanmar, the thuggish generals who run the place have once again placed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. This is one of the nastiest little regimes on the planet.

In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe defies belief by getting even worse with time. He has kicked out all foreign journalists, arrested the opposition leader, and has more or less warned potential demonstrators that they will be slaughtered if they take to the streets.

In the Congo, the killing continues apace and it would almost certainly take at least 50,000 troops to put a stop to it. So far there’s less than 10% that many there.

Groups like Amnesty International do what they can in situations like this, and their work is worthwhile. Mocking them is like refusing to donate to a cancer fund because, after all, a hundred bucks isn’t going to cure cancer. But at least it’s something.

On the other hand, it’s surely true that pressure at the national and international level is the only way to really make a difference. But short of war, which few seem to have the stomach for in cases like these, the usual answer is economic sanctions, and I’ve always wondered just how effective these really are. Historically, what’s the success rate for import bans, asset seizures, travel restrictions, and the like?

Still, unless there’s evidence that economic sanctions actually make things worse, that’s the way to go until the world community is ready to send in troops to these places in large numbers. Congress is ready to do just that in the case of Myanmar, and here’s hoping it works. Nothing else seems to.

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