Don’t usually discuss non-climate politics in this space, but because I’ve been to the lovely nation of Burma years ago, want to bring up a couple of points.
First, until you’ve visited a nation ruled by a Communist dictatorship, it’s difficult to understand how crushing its grip on the population can be. When I visited, back in the l980’s (when Burma still appeared to have a chance at democracy) I read in a local English-language paper, obviously intended for tourists, of entire villages "volunteering" their time on weekends to work on road building projects. Right. What could be more fun than breaking rocks in the hot sun on a Saturday?
Second, although the demonstrations sparked by fuel price increases and led by monks have made the headlines, the mover behind the scenes turns out to be the wife of the president, which is becoming something of a tradition in Republican politics. Just as Nancy had a lot to do with Reagan’s peace-making with Gorbachev, perhaps his single greatest achievement, so too does Laura Bush have a lot to do with US support for the Burmese people, who, believe you me, need all the support they can get.
At least, that’s according to the Washington Post:
Burma has occupied a prominent spot on the White House radar screen
since first lady Laura Bush became personally upset about the
situation. In recent weeks, she has called on U.N. Secretary General
Ban Ki-moon to urge more action on Burma and summoned reporters to
condemn the government — unusually public moves by the first lady.
"What we’re trying to do is . . . ratchet up the pressure on this
regime, to get them to understand that there is a time now for a
political transition and that they should be using the turmoil in the
country as a vehicle for planning and achieving that transition, rather
than trying to crack down on it and turn the clock back to a time that
the Burmese people are no longer willing to tolerate," said national
security adviser Stephen J. Hadley.
Why this is buried at the bottom of the story, I have no idea. From an American perspective, it looks like a lede to me.
One final point: the regime changed the nation’s name, for its own creepy purposes, but as James Fallows wisely points out, this is a trick that others need not respect. It’s Burma, people. Say it. And pay attention, because chances are it’s going to get very ugly very soon in that beautiful place.
[Update: forgot to mention that Laura’s armtwisting also resulted in a great headline from McClatchy: "Bush Astounds Activists, Supports Human Rights."]
(photo from Racoles, via Flickr)