The fiscal cliff is looming, but President Obama is overseas making a victory lap and taking credit for policies implemented by his predecessor. A State Department spokesperson told reporters last week that Obama’s trip to Burma will highlight what “clearly stacks up as a major early success of the Obama administration.”
On the surface, that sounds right. Burma was driven into misery for decades after Gen. Ne Win implemented the “Burmese Way to Socialism” in 1962, but the country of about 55 million has experienced a remarkable transformation in the past two years. The former general now in charge has welcomed more foreign investment, lifted the house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, held elections that brought opposition party candidates into parliament, released political prisoners, relaxed press restrictions, and moved to make peace with some of the country’s ethnic minorities.
President Obama will surely laud these reforms, enjoying a rare moment of foreign-policy success, when he visits Rangoon as part of a three-day Southeast Asia tour. Yet Burma’s political calculations had little to do with Mr. Obama or with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The country’s change instead was prompted by—steady yourself, Foggy Bottom—the administration of George W. Bush, who put in place a diplomatic framework that nudged Burma in the right direction when the generals were finally ready to embrace reform.
The Bush foreign policy placed a strong emphasis on human rights and instituted a multilateral effort to pressure the junta, using regional bodies like the 10-member Association for Southeast Asian Nations and international organizations like the United Nations. The Bush team also maintained sanctions against the junta’s leaders and steered humanitarian assistance to the Burmese people as best they could.
When the Obama crew took over the State Department, they “reviewed” these policies for months—and then discovered that the status quo was quite appealing. (Read More)
Of course, during his visit to Southeast Asia the US media lapdogs were swooning and bashing Republicans.
Update: Some more links via Drudge: