Distant Myanmar (Burma before 1989) is a country in Southeast Asia, bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos, and Thailand.
It is a country with a population of 54 million and consists of one hundred (100) separate national minorities.
It is considered one of the countries with the worst human rights record and a country tightly controlled by the military.
Even during the recent brief period – since 2010 – with some form of democratic government, the military has run the most important ministries.
The ethnic cleansing of one of its minorities is considered one of the worst of our time. Some 700,000 people were uprooted and fled to Bangladesh to escape. And this took place under the ‘democratic regime’ of Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been honored with the Nobel Peace Prize.
So, in this distant country, the armed forces just staged a coup and officially took power, sending politicians to prison.
The reason given for the coup is of great interest: they did it, they said on the country's military television station, because there was fraud in their recent November elections…
The military promises to stay in power only for a year.
Okay, one might say, why should we care what happened in a country with so many problems – Myanmar or Burma or whatever, on the other side of the world?
We should be interested. Because the problems of the world are contagious. It is not just the coronavirus that spreads and mutates. There are analogous situations in human behavior. Coups, for example.
Coups first take place in remote places, and then in more central parts of the world. Over time, they become more acceptable. Because authoritarian regimes – under the guise of a little bit of democracy – are tolerated. And then, they spread. One gets legitimacy from the other. Erdogan from Putin and Sisi in Egypt, etc.
Anthony Blinken, the new U.S. Secretary of State, reacted vigorously and correctly from the first moment the coup was reported.
“We call on Burmese military leaders to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections on November 8,” he said, adding “the United States stands with the people of Burma in their aspirations for democracy, freedom, peace, and development. The military must reverse these actions immediately.”
As I wrote in my commentary yesterday titled ‘The U.S. Loses its Moral Imprimatur,’ the words of American officials – like those of Blinken – however positive they might be, do not have the same weight they did a few years ago – especially after the events of January 6. Their moral force has been lost.
Nevertheless, over time – after the facts about the attempted insurrection on Capitol Hill are clarified and the forces behind them are punished – and as long as the right decisions continue to be made, America’s lost moral prestige and its ability to move the world in the right direction will be restored.