Burma is a moral minefield where we all need to tread carefully, critically and creatively, bearing in mind a number of “D” factors.

The D’s that could Determine a Viable Burma Policy

Some observers were alarmed when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently outlined a foreign policy based on the “three D’s” of defense, diplomacy and development.

They drew attention to a fourth “D”— democracy—and asked where it fit into the Obama administration’s foreign policy. Vice President Joe Biden mentioned this fourth “D” when he addressed a conference in Munich, Germany, last month.

In a recent interview with The Irrawaddy, US Ambassador to Thailand Eric John said: “Defense, diplomacy and development—the ‘three D’s’ as Secretary Clinton framed them—will indeed be the pillars of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, but I contend that all three of the components are intrinsically tied to democracy promotion and that this theme will remain central to the new administration’s foreign policy agenda.
In other words, democracy is inherent in all three pillars.”
The promotion of democracy has long been a central component of US foreign policy and will clearly continue to be so under the Obama administration.

When Secretary of State Clinton visited Asia last month she said that Washington’s Burma policies of sanctions and engagement had failed and she promised a policy review.

Her statement further fueled speculation about US policy on Burma, with some government officials, including Chinese, wanting to know more about such a possible policy shift.

In The Irrawaddy interview, Ambassador John indicated that the Obama administration’s Burma policy would remain essentially the same as Bush’s, saying: “The end policy goal remains the same: the start of a genuine, inclusive political dialogue in Burma and the release of all political prisoners.”

His answer should satisfy many Burmese democracy and campaign groups inside and outside Burma, who are united in their desire to see the US maintain a tough policy until the regime offers some genuine political gesture, such as releasing political prisoners and making the “road map” more inclusive.

Clinton would do well to stick to the four D’s on Burma and retain smart sanctions against the regime and its cronies until some genuine movement is seen. But it should be a two-pronged policy, not confined to sanctions alone.

The US needs to engage with Burma’s neighbors and such powerful allies as India and China. More importantly the US must be creative in finding a way to counterbalance China’s growing influence. continue http://www.irrawaddy.org/opinion_story.php?art_id=15280

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