November 13, 2019

How Myanmar Duped the West

“Is the American foreign-policy community wise enough, disciplined enough, and knowledgeable enough about Asia to build an effective coalition to balance a rising China? The example of Myanmar is a worrying one.

Myanmar received extraordinary attention from the last administration, with visits from both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama. But the crucial Southeast Asian country turned out not to be the human-rights miracle many in both parties envisioned. And when events in Myanmar failed to follow the idealistic script written in Washington, the U.S. responded in ways that undermined the country’s reformers, empowered its military and strengthened China’s hand. The U.S. failed even to demonstrate a balanced approach to human rights the people of Myanmar might have respected.

In the early years of the Obama administration, many Americans fell in love with a fantasy: the idea that Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese political leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and endured 15 years of house arrest, was in the process of taking power from a defeated military junta. They misread the situation fundamentally.”

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