Thu, May 06, 2010 - Page 9 News List

How the US should engage with Myanmar

By Wesley K. Clark , Henrietta H. Fore and Suzanne DiMaggio

If a different scenario emerges, it should open the way for a much more active US role in assisting with capacity building, governance training and international efforts to encourage economic reforms. One priority should be the development of an appropriate mechanism for ensuring that revenues from the sale of natural gas are properly accounted for, repatriated and allocated to meet urgent national needs.

In adjusting its policy toward Myanmar, the US must face reality with a clear vision of what its foreign policy can achieve. US influence in Myanmar is unlikely to outweigh that of increasingly powerful Asian neighbors. Therefore, the US should make collaboration with other key stakeholders, particularly ASEAN, the UN and Myanmar’s neighbors — including China, India and Japan — the centerpiece of its policy.

In every respect, conditions in Myanmar are among the most dire of any country in the world and it will take decades, if not generations, to reverse current downward trends and create a foundation for a sustainable and viable democratic government and a prosperous society. The US needs to position itself to respond effectively and flexibly to the twists and turns that a potential transition in Myanmar may take over time, with an eye toward pressing the Burmese leadership to move in positive directions.

Wesley K. Clark is a Senior Fellow at UCLA’s Burkle Center for International Relations. Henrietta H. Fore is a former administrator of USAID. Both are co-chairs of the Asia Society-sponsored Task Force on US Policy Toward Myanmar. Suzanne DiMaggio is director of Policy Studies at the Asia Society.

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