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feature story - Report: "Current Realities and Future Possibilities in Burma: Options for US Policy"

march 22nd, 2010

As the Obama administration turns to the thorny issue of engaging Burma’s authoritarian government, a new Asia Society Task Force report offers a detailed strategy that positions the United States to respond effectively and flexibly to the twists and turns that a potential transition in Burma may take over time. The stakes are high. With Burma’s military leaders preparing to convene elections later this year, a comprehensive U.S. approach—taken in concert with regional and international partners—provides the best hope for bringing Burma into the world community. The Task Force’s report, entitled Current Realities and Future Possibilities in Burma: Options for U.S. Policy, recommends framing U.S. policy toward Burma based on changes taking place in the country with careful consideration of how the instruments at its disposal, including both the engagement and sanctions sides of the equation, can be tapped to encourage political and economic reform.

In addition to the report of the Task Force, the Asia Society is simultaneously releasing a wide-ranging review of Asian policy toward Burma, incorporating perspectives from leading experts in nine Asian countries, including Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Singapore, and Thailand. Taken as a whole, the reports present an agenda of policy prescriptions for regional governments and the international community. A common thread running through all the reports is concern about the lack of a cohesive international strategy to deal with Burma."

The U.S. Task Force was co-chaired by General Wesley Clark and former Administrator of USAID Henrietta Fore, and directed by Suzanne DiMaggio, Director of Policy Studies at the Asia Society. During his 34-year career in the U.S. Army and the Department of Defense, General Clark was awarded many military decorations, several honorary knighthoods, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the UCLA Burkle Center. As the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance, holding the equivalent rank as Deputy Secretary of State, Ms. Fore oversaw U.S. relief efforts in Burma in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in May 2007. Ms. DiMaggio is an expert on U.S. foreign policy in Asia and engaging repressive governments, including Burma and Iran.

"Burma is at the center of a torrent of powerful economic forces, and at the same time its political system is frozen," said Task Force Co-Chair Wesley Clark. "Decades of pursuing policies of isolation and sanctions by the U.S. have done little to influence change in Burma, so it’s time to do something different. The U.S. must ensure that its policies do not inadvertently support or encourage authoritarian and corrupt elements in Burma. At the same time, if the U.S. sets the bar too high at the outset, it will deny itself an effective role in helping to move Burma away from authoritarian rule and into the world community."

“The new direction in U.S policy will require greater cooperation with regional players in order to succeed," said Task Force Director Suzanne DiMaggio. "With elections expected to be held later this year, the first in Burma in 20 years, the U.S. should make collaboration with other key stakeholders, particularly Burma’s Asian neighbors, ASEAN and the U.N., the centerpiece of its policy."

The global launch of the U.S. Task Force report and the collection of reports from Asia will be held at events on March 31, 2010 at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. and at the Institute for Strategic and Development Studies in Manila, and on April 7 in at the Asia Society in New York City and at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations in New Delhi.

Copies of the report, along with other multimedia resources, will be available online for viewing and downloading as of March 31, 2010.

Task Force Co-Chairs
Wesley K. Clark, U.S. Army (ret.) General; Senior Fellow, UCLA Burkel Center
Henrietta H. Fore, Former Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); Chairman and CEO, Holsman International

Project Director
Suzanne DiMaggio, Director of Policy Studies, Asia Society

Task Force Members
Donald Emmerson, Director, Southeast Asia Forum, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University
George Packer, Writer, The New Yorker
Thomas Pickering, Former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch
James Scott, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, Yale University
Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in Economics; Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Prof. of Economics and Philosophy, Harvard University
George Soros, Chairman of Soros Fund Management and the Open Society Institute
Richard Williamson, Former U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan; Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.

Senior Advisors
Priscilla Clapp, Former Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy in Burma
Sean Turnell, Professor of Economics, Macquarie University, Australia

Project Manager
Robert W. Hsu, Senior Program Officer, Policy Studies, Asia Society

Advisory Group
Maureen Aung-Thwin, Director, Burma Project/Southeast Asia Initiative, Open Society Institute
Jack Dunford, Thailand Burma Border Consortium
Mohamed Jawhar Hassan, Chairman and CEO, Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia
Carolina Hernandez, Founding President, Institute for Strategic and Development Studies, Philippines
Khin Maung Nyo, Editor, World Economic Journal (Burmese/Myanmar Version)
Andrew Kirkwood, Myanmar Country Director, Save the Children
Rajiv Kumar, Director and Chief Executive, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations
Cynthia Maung, Founder, Mae Tao Clinic
Jamie Metzl, Executive Vice President, Asia Society
Min Zin, Journalist; Graduate Student, University of California, Berkeley
Michael Mitchell, Consultant, Orion Strategies
Mya Than, Economist, Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Thailand
Nay Win Maung, CEO, Myanmar Egress
Nilar Oo, International Rescue Committee
Yoshiji Nogami, President, Japan Institute of International Affairs
Elaine Pearson, Deputy Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch
Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Director, Institute of Security and International Studies, Thailand
Josef Silverstein, Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University
David Steinberg, Distinguished Professor, Georgetown University
Rizal Sukma, Executive Director, Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Indonesia
Simon Tay, Chairman, Singapore Institute of International Affairs
Thaung Htun, UN Representative, National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma
Thiha Saw, Editor in Chief, Myanmar Dana Business Magazine
Tin Maung Maung Than, Senior Fellow and Coordinator, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore
Alex Wagner, Executive Director, Not On Our Watch
Harn Yawnghwe, Director, Euro Burma Office
Zhai Kun, Director of Division for Southeast Asian and Oceanian Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations
Frances Zwenig, Counselor, U.S.-ASEAN Business Council

Partner Institutions in Asia
Macquarie University, Australia
Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations
Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Indonesia
Japan Institute of International Affairs
Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia
Institute for Strategic and Development Studies, Philippines
Singapore Institute of International Affairs
Institute of Security and International Studies, Thailand
A review of Chinese policy was conducted by experts and scholars in China working in their individual capacities

LINK: "Current Realities and Future Possibilities in Burma" (Asia Society)


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