This week the regime delivered its answer: Get lost. The government promulgated rules that make clear that an election planned for this year will be worse than meaningless. That had always been the fear, given laws that guaranteed the military a decisive role in parliament, no matter who won the election. But the new rules make it official: Burma’s leading democratic party and its leader, Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, will not be permitted to take part.
As the editors note, even the Foggy Bottom team could not hide its dismay, declaring that the move “makes a mockery of the democratic process and ensures that the upcoming elections will be devoid of credibility.” But it also makes a mockery of Obama’s obsession with engagement. There are more constructive things the administration could be doing to aid the cause of democracy and reestablish our standing in its defense. The editors suggest: “It needs to pursue financial sanctions that target Burma’s ruling generals and their corruptly amassed wealth. It needs to rally the European Union and Burma’s enablers, such as Singapore, to take similar actions. And it needs to take more seriously the security challenge posed by the regime’s intensifying wars against minority nationalities and the resulting refugee crises.”
Will we? Well, that’s always the question with the Obama team: in the face of ample evidence that what they are doing is ineffective or counterproductive, will a course change be made? So far, the answer — from Russia to China to Burma and beyond — is no.