Options for U.S. Policy Toward Burma


Asia Society Task Force Report Launch

Current Realities and Future Possibilities in Burma/Myanmar: Options for U.S. Policy

News media can call 212-327-9271 or email pr@asiasoc.org for more information about the report, which is available for download at http://AsiaSociety.org/BurmaMyanmarReport

As the Obama administration turns to the thorny issue of engaging Burma’s authoritarian regime, a new Asia Society Task Force report offers a detailed strategy that positions the United States to respond effectively and flexibly to the twists and turns that a potential transition in Burma may take over time. The stakes are high. With Burma’s generals preparing to convene elections later this year, a comprehensive U.S. approach -- taken in concert with regional partners -- provides the best hope for bringing Burma into the world community.

The Task Force’s report entitled Current Realities and Future Possibilities in Burma: Options for U.S. Policy recommends framing U.S. policy toward Burma based on changes taking place in the country with careful consideration of how the instruments at its disposal, including both the engagement and sanctions sides of the equation, can be tapped to encourage political and economic reform. To pursue these goals, the Task Force advises that the U.S. strategy should employ effective channels of communication, focused assistance programs, reform-oriented economic activity, coordination with Burma’s neighbors and the international community, and, if and when necessary, the tightening of targeted financial sanctions.

The U.S. Task Force was co-chaired by General Wesley Clark and former Administrator of USAID Henrietta Fore, and directed by Suzanne DiMaggio, Director of Policy Studies at the Asia Society. During his 34-year career in the U.S. Army and the Department of Defense, General Clark was awarded many military decorations, several honorary knighthoods, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. As the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance, holding the equivalent rank as Deputy Secretary of State, Ms. Fore oversaw U.S. relief efforts in Burma in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in May 2007. Ms. DiMaggio is an expert on U.S. foreign policy in Asia and engaging repressive governments, including Burma and Iran. Other members of the Task Force included Nobel Laureate in Economics Amartya Sen, former U.S. Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, and Executive Director of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth, among others.

The Asia Society is simultaneously releasing a wide-ranging review of Asian policy toward Burma, incorporating national perspectives from leading experts in nine Asian countries. Taken as a whole, the reports present an agenda of policy prescriptions for regional governments and the international community. A common thread running through all the reports is a concern about the lack of a cohesive international strategy to deal with Burma. While all acknowledge that the real impetus for change must come from inside Burma, the reports also call attention to the potential significance of external influence on the country. The reports offering regional perspectives were contributed by experts from Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.

The report is available for download at: http://AsiaSociety.org/BurmaMyanmarReport

The press release is attached below.

Photo, above: Evening at Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. (Voishmel/AFP/Getty Images)