The XX Factor

Sen. Jim Webb to Meet With Crackpot Leader of Reviled Nation. Hooray!

It seems like a strange time to be hopeful about a change in U.S. policy toward Burma, what with the regime having just sentenced a Missouri man to seven years hard labor and all. But opponents of U.S. sanctions have more reason for optimism than they’ve had since the embargo began 12 years back. In February, Hillary Clinton dared to point out that sanctions against the Burmese people hadn’t had any appreciable effect on the regime. The Huffington Post , the Christian Science Monitor , and DoubleX have all published recent pieces critiquing the West’s myopic focus on Suu Kyi’s release. Yesterday, to my amazement, Suu Kyi’s lawyer himself published an op-ed cautioning “against focusing too heavily on her plight to the exclusion of the broader situation in Myanmar.”

Today Sen. Jim Webb-a critic of sanctions and supporter of engagement-arrives in Yangon. He will supposedly be meeting with General Than Shwe, and will be the first Senior American official to do so-ever. He’ll be pilloried for it, but he’s there with the blessing of an administration rightly skeptical of the status quo. The suffering and sacrifice we have imposed upon ordinary Burmese has done nothing to advance our interests or theirs, and Suu Kyi’s outrageous conviction is just further evidence of that inefficacy.

Photograph of crowd protesting Burmese government by Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images.