« | Home | »

Nyan Win Goes to Washington

Tags: | |

Over the past two months, the United States, which for more than a decade has isolated the Burmese junta, appears to have dramatically shifted its policy towards the regime. After a comprehensive internal policy review, the Obama administration announced that it would engage with Burma more directly, though it would also (for now) maintain sanctions on the regime. In a sign of thawing relations, the Burmese foreign minister, Nyan Win, went to Washington in September – a rare visit for a senior junta leader.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill some powerful lawmakers have been pushing for a change in policy: most notably, Senator Jim Webb. But John Kerry, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would also like greater engagement with Burma, according to several associates who’ve worked with him for decades. In fact, they say, Kerry would be interested in making a high-profile trip to Burma, depending on the outcome of the 2010 elections (they’ll be rigged, of course, but could even so deliver some suprises with a number of relatively independent candidates). Indeed, within the State Department several friends who work closely on Burma policy have told me that Foggy Bottom is likely to push for even more engagement, thinking up ways to improve Burma’s financial sector and meeting with Chinese officials to discuss ways of co-operating to promote reform in Burma.

For its part, the junta appears to be intent on building better ties to the US – by allowing Webb to see Aung San Suu Kyi, for example, a privilege denied even to the UN secretary general. Yet Washington would do well to regard this apparent openness with caution. As I have noted before, the Burmese junta has been adept at giving the outside world just enough to win some concessions, without ever opening up enough to allow real change. Unfortunately, US policymakers who have only recently begun taking an interest in Burma don’t seem to be aware of this history.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.

  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • name on Who is the enemy?: Simply stating it is correct doesn't make it so, I just wish you would apply the same epistemic vigilance to "Muslim crimes" as you do to their Hebrew...
    • Glen Newey on Unwinnable War: The legal issue admits of far less clarity than the simple terms in which you – I imagine quite sincerely – frame them. For the benefit of readers...
    • Geoff Roberts on The New Normal: The causes go back a long way into the colonial past, but the more immediate causes stem from the activities of the US forces in the name of freedom a...
    • sol_adelman on The New Normal: There's also the fact that the French state denied the mass drownings of '61 even happened for forty-odd years. No episode in post-war W European hist...
    • funky gibbon on At Wembley: If England get France in the quarter finals of Euro 16 I expect that a good deal of the fraternity will go out the window

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

  • From the LRB Archive

    Edward Said: The Iraq War
    17 April 2003

    ‘This is the most reckless war in modern times. It is all about imperial arrogance unschooled in worldliness, unfettered either by competence or experience, undeterred by history or human complexity, unrepentant in its violence and the cruelty of its technology.’

    David Runciman:
    The Politics of Good Intentions
    8 May 2003

    ‘One of the things that unites all critics of Blair’s war in Iraq, whether from the Left or the Right, is that they are sick of the sound of Blair trumpeting the purity of his purpose, when what matters is the consequences of his actions.’

    Simon Wren-Lewis: The Austerity Con
    19 February 2015

    ‘How did a policy that makes so little sense to economists come to be seen by so many people as inevitable?’

    Hugh Roberts: The Hijackers
    16 July 2015

    ‘American intelligence saw Islamic State coming and was not only relaxed about the prospect but, it appears, positively interested in it.’

Advertisement Advertisement