Saturday, October 8, 2011

IRCPPS in the Links: Is Burma on the verge of a democratic thaw?

in Dart-Throwing Chimp, Jay Ulfelder gives some analysis:
...Viewed through this wider lens, recent events in Burma make a little more sense. Like Gorbachev’s initially timid steps toward openness (glasnost) in support of economic restructuring (perestroika), the Burmese government’s recent reforms seem to identify that country as a budding case of liberalization by imposition. After the collapse of the USSR, dictators may have become more inclined to err on the side of caution and forego the potential gains from reduced economic friction. More recently, though, the Chinese government’s success (so far) in managing these trade-offs in its favor seems to have re-opened the door to liberalization from above.

Whether this process will create an opening for democratization or will reinvigorate dictatorship in Burma is impossible to know right now. Either way, though, I think it is crucial that we avoid confusing this timid expansion of civil liberties with a genuine commitment to expanded political rights. As Serge Schemmann wrote about the greatest of the twentieth century’s accidental democrats, “Though the West lionized Mikhail Gorbachev as a reformer, it is important to remember that his goal was not to destroy or even humanize Communism, but to perpetuate it.”