Jim Webb: "We Can't Afford to Ignore Myanmar"

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I have really mixed feelings about Jim Webb's NY Times op-ed on Myanmar, but it's definitely worth reading. Having returned from meetings in Myanmar earlier this month, Webb makes the case that we "can't afford to ignore Myanmar." One of the main reasons Webb sites is China, namely that we "have allowed China to dramatically increase its economic and political influence in Myanmar, furthering a dangerous strategic imbalance in the region." Webb also notes that "Russia is assisting the Myanmar government on a nuclear research project." Finally, Webb believes that sanctions haven't worked, and that it would be "bad for us to fold our arms, turn our heads, and pretend that by failing to do anything about the situation in Myanmar we are somehow helping to solve it."

So, what do we do according to Webb?

1. "[W]e must focus on what is possible"
2. "We must talk to Myanmar’s leaders."
3. "[O]ur government leaders should call on China to end its silence about the situation in Myanmar, and to act responsibly, in keeping with its role as an ascending world power."
4. "[W]ith respect to reducing sanctions, we should proceed carefully but immediately."

This is pure realpolitik, and I understand that's how international relations often works. The idealistic side of me, though, the part that wants America to stand for Democracy, liberty, and human rights, isn't thrilled.