April 27, 2004


(via Kevin Whited):
A Need to Act on Burma (John McCain and Madeleine Albright, April 27, 2004, Washington Post)

The world's democracies have a common moral obligation to promote justice and freedom. In few places is this obligation more acute than in Burma, a country in which a band of thugs, led by Gen. Than Shwe, controls the population through violence and terror. The regime has a record of unchecked repression. It has murdered political opponents, used child soldiers and forced labor, and employed rape as a weapon of war. Nearly one year ago the Burmese military junta launched an orchestrated, violent attack against democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and hundreds of her supporters. Since then the regime has kept more than 1,000 political activists imprisoned, including elected members of parliament. It recently sentenced three Burmese citizens to death for contacting representatives of the International Labor Organization.

The Burmese junta, with the cynical support of neighboring governments, has announced a "road map to democracy," beginning with a constitutional convention in May. The convention is expected to be stage-managed by the junta, which has offered no meaningful participation to Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, no timetable for progress toward a political transition, no release of political prisoners and no guarantee that the military will cede control to democratically elected leaders. Instead, the junta's proposals seem designed to institutionalize military control by creating a veneer of civilian authority, while meeting only the minimum expectations of Western democracies in order to avoid further sanctions.

The past several decades have taught us one lesson--over and over and over again--cynical attempts to create a veneer of democracy inevitably lead people to demand genuine democracy and the leadership that has made it a mantra ends up succumbing whether that was their original intent or not. We need not think that Franco, Pinochet, Marcos, Trujillo, the Afrikaaners, etc., really meant what they said about preserving and fostering democratic institutions, the reality is that they ended up leaving behind them liberal democratic societies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 27, 2004 1:28 PM
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