Time to Go ‘Down in Flames’ for Burma

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said that after the Rwanda genocide she swore ‘that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.’ She faces such a crisis again.
After six months, the Obama administration’s review of U.S. policy toward Burma still does not appear to have focused on the one measure with the best chance of inducing the regime to change: a global arms embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council. The case for Security Council action on Burma long has been compelling, but now is even stronger.

General Than Shwe and the military junta ruling Burma continue to wage a war against their own people. Recently, thousands of Burmese from the Kokang ethnic group living near Burma’s northeastern border have fled to China to escape a new military assault by the Burma army. Not only is the regime a threat to its own people, but there are growing signs that it undermines international security and stability as well. For example, the growing military relationship between Burma and North Korea likely includes North Korean support for a nascent nuclear program in Burma. Even China, long one of the junta’s most quietly consistent supporters, this week became sufficiently frustrated with the junta’s reckless rule to issue a rebuke to Burma’s generals for provoking refugee flows across the border into China’s Yunnan Province.

As the United States assumes the presidency of the UN Security Council this month, it should renew a diplomatic effort at the council, coordinated with the United Kingdom and other allies, to pass a long-overdue arms embargo of Burma. This at least would deny the ruling junta its primary tools of oppression and help stop the atrocities it commits against its own people. It will not be easy. But such a push would be an effective, multilateral, and noble centerpiece for the Obama administration’s policy toward Burma because both the justification for Security Council action and its chances for success have significantly increased. continue
Time to Go ‘Down in Flames’ for Burma

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