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Biden’s Flawed Myanmar Policy

It was America’s abandonment of a failed sanctions policy in favor of calibrated engagement that helped bring about the formal end of Myanmar’s military dictatorship in 2015. Today, US President Joe Biden’s administration must adopt a similar strategy – or risk allowing Myanmar to become a failed state.

NEW DELHI – As the Israel-Hamas war rages, the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza is grabbing headlines – as well it should. But another armed conflict, in Myanmar, is also causing mass suffering, with more than two million people internally displaced and over a million more streaming into neighboring Bangladesh, India, and Thailand. And it is attracting far less international attention.

This is not to say that outside forces are not engaged in the conflict in Myanmar. On the contrary, the United States seems to view supporting the rebel and pro-democracy groups attempting to overthrow the military junta – which returned to power in a February 2021 coup – as a kind of moral test. But its approach is doing Myanmar little good.

After the military overthrew Myanmar’s nascent civilian government – to which it had begun ceding power barely six years earlier – US President Joe Biden’s administration re-imposed wide-ranging sanctions, which it has since ratcheted up. But, so far, the sanctions have left Myanmar’s military elites relatively unscathed, even as they have unraveled the economic progress made over the last decade and inflicted misery on ordinary citizens.