from Asia Unbound

U.S. Policy Toward Myanmar: Too Much, Too Soon?

November 19, 2012

Crowds line a street outside the home of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi as U.S. president Barack Obama arrives to meet her in Yangon November 19, 2012.
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On Monday Yangon time, President Obama visited Myanmar’s former capital and became the first sitting American president ever to travel to the one-time pariah. His itinerary included meetings with both President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as an address before Burmese students, officials and former generals at the historic University of Yangon. “When I took office as President, I sent a message to those governments who ruled by fear.  I said, in my inauguration address, ‘We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist,’” said Obama during his remarks. “And over the last year and a half, a dramatic transition has begun, as a dictatorship of five decades has loosened its grip.”

While Obama acknowledged “this remarkable journey has just begun,”  the rapid evolution of U.S. policy toward Myanmar over the past year suggests the Obama administration is betting heavily on Thein Sein and his ability to maintain the momentum of reform. In a new piece for, “Head Over Heels,” I argue that the economic and political changes underway in Myanmar —though substantial—may not be as secure as  the United States and other outside observers think.

You can read my entire piece for Foreign Policy here.