Report

The United States and Burma: troubled past, uncertain future

20 Mar 2012
Description

For 20 years, the US pursued a policy towards Burma that was bound to fail.

The Obama Administration cannot take credit for the reform programme launched by President Thein Sein in 2011, but its more nuanced approach placed the US in a position where it could respond promptly and positively to recent developments. Since Hillary Clinton’s successful visit to Burma in December that year a number of measures have been taken to encourage.
Key Points - For twenty years, the United States pursued a hard line policy towards Burma that was never going to meet its stated objectives. This policy also flew in the face of Burma’s critical geostrategic position and growing importance in regional affairs. The reform programme launched by President Thein Sein in 2011 was prompted largely by internal developments, and was not in response to external pressures. While the Obama Administration cannot take credit for the reform programme, its more nuanced approach towards Burma permitted it to respond promptly and positively. After two decades of mutual hostility, there are the beginnings of a more co-operative bilateral relationship, but this rapprochement could easily be derailed.
The US and other countries can help, but Burma’s future will ultimately be decided by the Burmese themselves, in their own time and in their own fashion. However, nothing can be taken for granted. The relationship is still fragile and the process of rapprochement could easily be derailed, either by developments inside Burma or by critics of the process outside it.

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2012
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