October 27, 2010 - In September 2009, President Barack Obama’s administration announced a new U.S. policy direction for relations with Burma/Myanmar. Over the past year, this new course has moved the United States away from previous efforts to isolate Burma’s ruling generals, balancing economic sanctions with "pragmatic engagement" and initiating efforts to expand channels of communication with the military leadership at higher levels of authority.
Against this backdrop, the Asia Society established a Task Force on U.S. Policy toward Burma/Myanmar in the fall of 2009 to assess the shift in American policy and provide concrete recommendations for how the United States could best approach this new path of engagement. The Task Force’s report, Current Realities and Future Possibilities in Burma: Options for U.S. Policy, was released in March 2010.
With elections set to be held on November 7, the first in Burma in 20 years, this update provides an overview of key developments in Burma since the Task Force’s report was published. For reasons outlined in the update, it is clear that the upcoming elections will not be inclusive or fair. In short, Burma's military leaders have willfully ignored calls from the international community to allow the full participation of opposition leaders and ethnic minorities in the elections.
It is also clear that the new U.S. approach toward Burma has not yet yielded any significant results or progress. The United States should remain vigilant with regard to the postelection government’s attitudes toward democratization, national reconciliation, and human rights and, at the same time, continue and even step up efforts to pursue an engagement process aimed at promoting a better understanding of these objectives among Burma’s future leaders. In doing so, the United States will position itself to respond effectively and flexibly to the twists and turns that a potential transition may take over time, with an eye toward pressing the new government to move in a positive direction.
Indeed, how developments unfold should be a major consideration in calculating adjustments to U.S. policy. From this vantage point, the recommendations outlined in the Task Force’s report remain relevant and continue to offer a sensible way forward.
Post-Election, How Should the US Engage Myanmar?
CNN Op-ed by Suzanne Dimaggio
Asia Society Task Force Report on U.S. Policy toward Burma/Myanmar
Op-Ed: Breaking Burma's Isolation
By Wesley K. Clark, Henrietta H. Fore, and Suzanne DiMaggio
To read a wide-ranging review of Asian policy toward Burma that includes perspectives from leading experts in nine countries, click here.
For more information, visit AsiaSociety.org/BurmaMyanmarReport.