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Thailand, Myanmar, and Combodia, places that most Americans may be hard pressed to locate on the world map, are getting a visit from Obama. These visits are (hopefully) planned well in advance, even so, important domestic fiscal cliff negotiations are being deliberated, and internationally another Israeli conflict ("Israel has the right to defend itself"...but what about the fenced Palestnian's rights) commands the headlines, and under this cloud this Presidential visit has special gravitas.

Myanmar has a long recent history of ruthless military dictatorship oppressing it's people and imprisoning it's protesting patriots. The current mood of the generals has changed and the first steps to an open, democratic society are evident. In this new vacuum the world's most militaristically powerful nation wants to step in to make a bridgehead for democracy while lessing the influence of expansionist China in that region.

Obama is leading that charge, not only to counter China's influence, but for American businesses to set up shop in that minerals and energy (natural gas) rich region, ripe for development of the resources to uplift its impoverished population.

If Obama can influence Myanmar's government, which holds hundreds of political prisoners and continues to struggle to contain ethnic violence, to take a more sharper turn towards progressive ideals, it will further his resume be being a statesman of his generation.  

Here's hoping Obama can seize the opportunity.

 

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well, that's an interesting spin (0+ / 0-)
    Obama is leading that charge, not only to counter China's influence, but for American businesses to set up shop in that minerals and energy (natural gas) rich region, ripe for development of the resources to uplift its impoverished population.
    You might want to study the past and recent history of Myanmar for some perspective.

    What about my Daughter's future?

    by koNko on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 05:51:41 PM PST

    •  I'd like to hear your spin too (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      koNko

      I know their recent history is horrible but not much else. Do you think the trip is a bad idea?

      I'm ignorant but curious.

      America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

      by cacamp on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 06:43:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not a bad idea (0+ / 0-)

        This trip, I mean. In fact I really welcome US support of normalization of relations with Myanmar.

        What is controversial and not entirely welcome in the region (depends who you ask) is the military aspect, which has intensified some regional conflicts and is seen by many observers (including quite a few American Foreign Policy analysts) as projection of American military hegemony.

        Clearly it is aimed at "containing" China's influence (something the State and Defense Department vigorously denny but just about everyone else considers to be obvious) by developing military and economic relationships with the countries that ring China in Central, South East and East Asia.

        So far, this has not produced greater stability, but rather, quite the opposite, a case in point being US meddling in regional disputes over various islands subject to conflicting territorial claims, which have been low level conflicts for decades, but more recently have turned into hot confrontations as the US conducted various military exercises and promoted the idea of a coalition in ASEAN against China.

        This came to a dangerous flash-point this summer in the conflict between Japan, China and Taiwan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands when the Mayor of Tokyo (a far-Right reactionary troublemaker) ran a campaign to "Nationalize" these islands forcing both the Japanese and US governments into a difficult position.

        Officially, the US backed-away from the situation in this case, but it is an example of how upsetting the balance by inserting the US military in such situations can cause some actors to be emboldened and other to stake harder positions in response.

        I think it is notable that the US justified it's insertion in these conflicts as "Strategic National Interest" and the general thrust of the "Pivot to Asia" is to shift the military focus and assets of the US military to Asia - something that looks suspiciously like the usual gunboat diplomacy and military hegemony that has historically prompted arms races  and tended to destabilize the strategic balance.

        Historically, this has tended to become self-fulilling prophecy as antagonists harden their positions.

        One wonders how the US would react if China announced a similar policy in the northern hemisphere and conducted war games in the Caribbean with Cuba - as I recall, the US was not exactly welcoming of such a move by the USSR in the 60's, Monroe Doctrine and all that.

        Does that doctrine now circle the globe? Interesting question.

        And then there is the part about Militarism and Oil. Interesting combination.

        China has so far been welcoming of the changes in Myanmar (they border, have a long relationship and China was pressuring the JUNTA to liberalize policy) but if the US pursues a formal military relationship with them, I would expect China to take that as an aggressive move.

        Obama would be wise to tread very carefully and recalibrate US policy to keep a more comfortable arms distance and engage China as a partner in this area rather than driving wedges.

        While Liberal may tend to assume such actions are benign if a Democratic president is making the policy, to other eyes it looks uncomfortably like Neocon thinking and in a long-term viewpoint, a potential threat when governments change and policy with it.

        Imagine yet more US military bases and assets in a region. Then, imagine events conspire to put a a more aggressive and adventurous President in office. Different picture?

        Failing to look at the situation that way is failing to look at what other see, or imagine as a possibility.

        This is a major shift in US policy that will outlast the Obama Administration.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 08:08:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  thanks, I fully agree about the militarism (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          koNko

          The American Empire thinks in the same way as the Roman empire did, everything is accomplished by either a display of force or the actual use of force. I suppose that's true in Myanmar also, if the U.S. begins making military agreements with the regime China has every right to feel threatened.

          IMO, Obama is pursuing nearly the same foreign policies as Bush and Clinton. He may be less in thrall of the generals but he still believes in "projecting power" and keeping the most formidible war machine the world has ever known. I doubt very seriously that the pentagon budget will take a hit under any grand bargain he signs off on, it will still be the same bloated albatross hung around the necks of the people. So while I'm ignorant about Myanmar history I harbor no illusions about the Empire.

          America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

          by cacamp on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 10:47:55 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Wikipedia, actually, has a decent, concise history (0+ / 0-)

            Here, and they correctly make a critical divide in the national history between the Imperial, feudalistic, era and the British colonial fabrication of modern Burma as an appendage of their Indian colony.

            It is essential to understand the geography and traditional ethnic divisions both of which have and continue to influence the trajectory of the society.

            It would also be important to understand the influences of Thailand, India (traditional, including the present Pakistan and Bangladesh) and China, which share a common history and the very diverse ethnic and cultural composition in their bordering areas.

            As a society they have suffered and have a long way to go to get to a nation in the modern sense, just as their neighbors do, and it won't be easy.

            In fact, one danger is the uneasy truce between minority "nations" and the Burmese majority could fall apart as the country develops, absent the guns to heads the JUNTA used.

            You could also read my older diaries in the period of the October 2007 demonstrations that ultimately set the stage for change.

            Wishing them well.

            And hoping Obama falls out of love with drones and gets the US out of Afghanistan one day so they can go through the difficult evolution they face (by comparison, Myanmar is is good shape).

            What about my Daughter's future?

            by koNko on Mon Nov 19, 2012 at 04:57:54 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Obama's Olive branch diplomacy (0+ / 0-)

          The Chinese expansionist policy in that region has to be contained. China’s aggression borders on the hysterical. They have already raped Tibet. They have territorial disputes with Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, and India. Diaoyu/Senkaku islands dispute captured the headlines recently. Indian border incursions are common. China claims the territory of Arunachal Pradesh in India. Visitors to China from this Indian state are not even required to obtain a visa.  Talk about interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

          Obama’s Myanmar visit is, therefore, not only to help democratic process gain traction but also to establish a business presence, and, if need be, to establish a military presence to counter China’s aggressive expansion policies in that region.

          However, if US presence in that region makes China’s leadership (corruption runs rampant and top 70 Communist leaders are billionaires) open to implement more democratic reforms, then Obama’s visit can be pivotal in liberating more than a billion people from the yoke of one party rule in China. And that will cement Obama’s historical visit as an olive branch diplomacy changing the face of that region.

  •  It's part of a much larger geostrategic pivot. (0+ / 0-)

    China is the only country left on Earth with both the economic potential and political disposition to be globally threatening in future decades, especially when it has to start transitioning from high-growth economics to more sustainable models.  Internal pressures like that are when authoritarian politicos typically start looking to ratchet up external tensions as a distraction or, in desperate enough demographic circumstances, to rid society of surplus young men on the battlefield.  

    "They fear this man. They know he will see farther than they, and he will bind them with ancient logics." -The stoner guy in The Cabin in the Woods

    by Troubadour on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 08:54:19 PM PST

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