Something else died on the streets of Yangon
SHAUN HEASLEY/Getty Images News It was January 20, 2005, a heady time. U.S. President George W. Bush had just won reelection and believed the Bush Doctrine had handed him a powerful mandate. And he intended to run with it: Today America speaks anew to the peoples of the world: All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: ...
SHAUN HEASLEY/Getty Images News
It was January 20, 2005, a heady time. U.S. President George W. Bush had just won reelection and believed the Bush Doctrine had handed him a powerful mandate. And he intended to run with it:
Today America speaks anew to the peoples of the world: All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.”
Oh, how times have changed. This was White House Press Secretary Dana Perino speaking to reporters yesterday:
I have a statement by the President on Burma that I will read out for him,” she said, “and then a statement about the FAA…. I call on all nations that have influence with the regime to join us in supporting the aspirations of the Burmese people and to tell the Burmese Junta to cease using force on its own people who are peacefully expressing their desire for change.”
In case you missed it, that was the vaunted “freedom agenda” lumped in with airport delays. To the tens of thousands of Burmese risking life and limb to demand freedom from their oppressors, Perino essentially said: We aren’t really going to stand with you, but we’ll definitely put a call in to China and Russia to see what they can do.
The hope of the Bush administration is apparently that increased sanctions—or the threat of them—and travel restrictions on a half dozen or so top junta leaders will bring the regime in Yangon crumbling down.
But just ask a Cuban how effective these kinds of sanctions are at toppling dictatorial regimes. The increased sanctions Bush announced at the United Nations on Wednesday are little more than symbolic. They will likely have almost no impact on the political situation, and the same goes for Europe’s existing sanctions. As one European observer put it, “Stopping European companies from investing in a pineapple juice factory is laughable.”
As for the now apparently universal belief that China can somehow be shamed into pressing the junta for democratic reforms, that’s a joke—as Bill Overholt pointed out here on Wednesday. But let’s step back for a second here: Is the United States really prepared to stake the hopes of freedom on the Chinese Communist Party? Is this what the Bush Doctrine has come to?
The danger of the Bush Doctrine was always that people in places like Burma, Sudan, or Zimbabwe might take it seriously. That they would literally stand up for their freedom, expecting Team Bush to stand with them. “We either go to democracy or back to military dictatorship,” one Burmese citizen wrote to the BBC this week. The Bush administration, apparently believing it has done enough, is prepared to sit back and watch the latter happen. More than 100,000 Burmese citizens a day are standing, and the Bush administration is sitting down.
That may be the saddest comment yet on the Bush Doctrine.
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