Welcome to the Obama Administration’s “new” Burma policy, announced Wednesday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Embracing Burma’s Generals
Burma’s ruling junta is killing ethnic minorities, preparing a sham election and possibly cooperating with North Korea on a nuclear program. So what better time for the United States to elevate talks to a higher diplomatic level?

Welcome to the Obama Administration’s “new” Burma policy, announced Wednesday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “Engagement versus sanctions is a false choice in our opinion,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters. “Going forward we will be employing both of those tools.” The White House also welcomed Burma’s foreign minister last week in a little publicized visit.

This is diplomatic repackaging, par excellence. The U.S. has an embassy in Rangoon and the chargé d’affaires there talks to Burmese officials. The Bush Administration tried high-level chats with the junta, too. Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Eric John flew to Beijing in June 2007 to ask for the release of Burma’s rightful leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The Burmese refused.

The Bush Administration’s innovation was to push for higher-level, multilateral pressure on Burma at the United Nations Security Council, coupled with targeted financial sanctions against the junta’s top brass. Former First Lady Laura Bush also spearheaded a public relations war, visiting refugee camps and speaking directly to the Burmese people through radio broadcasts. continue
Embracing Burma’s Generals

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