President Obama is attending the ASEAN meeting and will use the opportunity to stress the need for Asian cooperation and emphasize the United States commitment to being a major player on the economic scene. During the meeting he will be in the same room with Burma military leaders who rule their nation with an iron fist. There are signs Obama seeks to move away from the Bush strategy of having no relations with a dictatorship to one in which the United States might gently move Myanmar’s leaders into a more democratic stance. A few days ago, a Burmese diplomat indicated his nation might be willing to allow opposition members to participate in the upcoming elections.
It is easy to condemn dictators, it is difficult to find ways of gently moving them in a direction of a more open society. Obama’s decision to be pro-active makes more sense than pretending it is all or nothing in dealing with a dictator.