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Role of Corporations and Lobbyists behind Burma’s Reformation

T S regime

Foreign Policy of America:
Foreign policy realism means you pursue U.S. interests exclusively, no matter the cost to other countries or peoples or even the world.
U.S. interests in turn are business interests. One would hope that U.S. interests would be those of the American people, who certainly even with their differences want the country to stand for what is right and to live up to the sacrifices that have been made by so many American soldiers. Unfortunately, those interests are intangible, and hard to measure. So instead, U.S. interests have mutated. Now they are corporate interests. This raises the question, what do corporations want? Formerly, American corporations wanted to employ American workers to produce products to sell both in the U.S. and to the world. For this they needed access to natural resources. Hence, Washington has backed one resource rich dictatorship after another for a century or more. That’s historical realism.

Role of Corparation or Lobbyists:
But now many domestic corporations have realized that they don’t have to be “American.” They can be “International,” and not only exploit international natural resources but human resources as well (and hide income from U.S. taxes). This is what has driven the huge push in the last three decades to outsource production to some of the worst dictatorships on earth, starting with China, as a means to exploit their laborers in serf-like conditions. It’s also behind the open arms that many American businesses give to illegal immigrants, rather than push for legislation in D.C. to allow the immigrants legal worker status, since this would mean that they would have to pay them higher wages. Overall, it’s a horrible picture, and it makes me appalled at my own country. The only other modern foreign interest (other than terrorism and WMD proliferation) is if some poor U.S. traveler gets sick or robbed or kidnapped, in which case the local embassy will probably try to help.

For Burma, a big U.S. interest following World War II was countering the rise of communism, and the dictator of the country, Ne Win, fit the bill as an ally no matter how poorly he treated the people. It didn’t help that many of the rebels against him organized under the Communist Party banner. To repeat, a basic U.S. foreign policy is to back its allies. Alliances in turn are viewed as very long term relationships. The modern U.S. relationship with Burma really started with its first autocrat, so that is, fundamentally, the nature of the alliance: The U.S. together with whatever authoritarian regime is currently in power. Truly shifting American backing to the pro-democracy side, meaning Suu Kyi, the NLD and the ethnic nationalities, in effect would betray this alliance, which is why the support that has been given has been tepid and mostly for show. Washington, even under Obama, still backs the dictators, witness the rush to reestablish a military to military relationship.

As a sign of just how bad it really is, Obama himself essentially “gave” Senior General Than Shwe the license to commit genocide against the Rohingya people. The violence of the last two years wouldn’t have happened without the U.S. “policy shift.” Also, the U.S. has no concern for the negative implications of the economic development that the shift enabled, including where the dictatorship is allowing a few opportunities for Burmans, but none for the ethnic nationalities (other than for corrupt, traitorous leaders). This is a subtle use of divide and conquer, and evidence of the regime’s own underlying racism. The generals recognize that if Burma is going to develop, and by default more people are going to get a share of the totalitarian pie, then all of this should go to the Burmans. However, for the U.S. this bias is insignificant. Suu Kyi and the NLD also don’t seem to have any complaints with the approach.

Secondly, the U.S directly backs corporate interests in Burma. Formerly this was for resource extraction, mainly involving the Total/Chevron natural gas pipeline, but now with the policy change it is being extended to labor exploitation as well. U.S. companies not only want to get in on Burma’s resource rush, they want to set up sweatshops there to produce goods dirt cheap. After all, China is no longer such a bargain, and there is also now a large backlash in America against Chinese-produced goods. (I’m proud that Dictator Watch has been calling for a boycott of Made in China goods for over a decade.) Finally, Burma is a perfect example of the opening point that Obama does not understand, including how to position the U.S. relative to, the truly evil, in this case the military junta that remains 100% in charge of the country: SLORC/SPDC/NDSC. It also appears that by reversing its sanctions, the Administration is trying to bribe the regime to end its secret nuclear program, including its relationship with North Korea.

In conclusion, this is the sad tale for Burma. The people who are now overjoyed that the few remaining sanctions were renewed this week for another year, are missing the bigger picture. To the people of the country, no matter what sweet-sounding words you hear, the United States Government is not your friend. It is only pretending to be your friend. It’s really your enemy. It will not in any material way help you achieve real freedom and democracy. Instead, it is actively supporting your oppressors. This was the case before Barack Obama, and it will be the case long after he is gone, until that glorious day when another Lincoln arises, and puts principles over profit.

This article is part of reflection on Burma’s relationship with U.S. foreign policy from the perspective of international political think-tank news centre, “The Global Digest” posted on May 16, 2014.


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