Amid America’s preoccupation with domestic politics, President Barack Obama is sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a mission to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
President Obama’s decision to send Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the southeast Asian country of Burma (Myanmar) next month reflects the US desire to encourage recent steps toward democratization by the Burmese regime.
Mrs. Clinton’s visit – the first by a US secretary of State in more than 50 years – also suggests two other Obama goals. One is to nudge Burma to continue diversifying from its heavy reliance on China over decades of military rule.
Another is to signal, both to Americans and to the world, that a president who came into office proclaiming an open door to dialogue with America’s adversaries is pursuing that policy.
But the focus is on supporting Burma’s fledgling steps toward democracy, which include an initial shift this year to a civilian-led government and measures opening up an economy long controlled by the military.
Calling Clinton’s visit “a substantial reward” to the regime, Notre Dame University Prof. George Lopez says the Obama administration is signaling recognition that “the flip side of sanctions designed to force policy change are incentives to reward concessions made and to stimulate more in the future.”
Mr. Obama laid out a carrots-and-sticks policy toward Burma in 2009, renewing US economic sanctions designed to punish the regime for human and political rights violations while signaling an opportunity for improved relations if Burma were to undertake reforms.
In announcing his decision Friday to dispatch Clinton, Obama said his aim was to “seize what could be an historic opportunity for progress and make it clear that if Burma continues to travel down the road of democratic reform, it can forge a new relationship” with the US.
Obama finalized his announcement only after consulting by telephone with Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy activist and 1991 Nobel peace laureate who was released from house arrest last year.
The irony of Barack Obama continues: when he ran for election many felt he’d be weak on foreign policy and strong on getting American back on its feet. It is turning out that foreign policy is his strong point and his domestic policies are the disappointment to many. And Hillary Clinton? Many feel she is one of the most effective Secretaries of State in years.