Monday, November 19, 2012
President Obama spent about six hours in Burma on his way to a summit meeting in Cambodia, enough time to visit with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and give a speech at the University of Yangon. Enough time to celebrate the progress that country has made away from a military dictatorship sealed off from the rest of the world, and to encourage further efforts toward freedom and democracy.
Some say it's too soon for the president to visit Burma. I would say there is no fixed set of criteria for determining when a country is ready for the seal of approval that a presidential visit and restoration of relations represents. Was it too soon for Nixon to visit China in 1972? Forty years later, that country still has serious human rights problems and is a long way from democracy. Burma too has a long road ahead. But it doesn't seem premature to applaud the progress that the people of Burma have already made, and help bring their country into the light.