Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I've not hesitated to kvetch about the things the Obama administration has gotten wrong, so it's only fair that I note when it has done the right thing in the right way. One of the things Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have gotten right is their handling of Burma, easing that vicious military junta back into the world through the use of old-fashioned diplomacy rather than drones and bombs. We are now seeing the results of those efforts.

Democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi’s first trip to the U.S. in decades starting Monday could prompt a further easing of U.S. economic sanctions against Myanmar, analysts said, although the visit will mainly serve as a victory lap for the demure figure celebrated by Republicans and Democrats alike.

During her six-stop, near three-week trip, the Nobel laureate is expected to meet with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest U.S. civilian award. She also may spend a night in the White House and be feted at a dinner in her honor attended by former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton as well as Microsoft head Bill Gates.

The Obama administration is keen to highlight her visit as a foreign policy success in an election year, analysts added, given her role in pushing the long-isolated pariah state also known as Burma to open its doors, legalize protest, ease media restrictions and release hundreds of political prisoners.

President Obama has every right to claim this as a foreign policy success. The tireless prodding and pushing has worked. Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom from decades of isolation and house arrest is testament to that. Her election to Parliament, even if at this point the military leadership continues to hold all of the power, has been a signal that the current leaders are loosening their grip, albeit slowly.

Ironically, also visiting the US at this time is Burma's current president, Thein Sein and there is some concern that all of the attention paid to Aung San Suu Kyi is upstaging him. If handled appropriately by the Obama administration, this need not be a major concern.

While some believe Thein Sein has felt upstaged by Suu Kyi, both share a desire to see Burma emerge from isolation, analysts said.

“She’s gone out of her way to be quite constructive in parliament,” said Turnell. “And let’s face it, if it weren’t for her, Burma wouldn’t be on anyone’s radar.”


So, welcome to them both



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