Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

There’s No Place Like CounterPunch

There's no place like CounterPunch, it's just that simple. And as the radical space within the "alternative media"(whatever that means) landscape continues to shrink, sanctuaries such as CounterPunch become all the more crucial for our political, intellectual, and moral survival. Add to that the fact that CounterPunch won't inundate you with ads and corporate propaganda. So it should be clear why CounterPunch needs your support: so it can keep doing what it's been doing for nearly 25 years. As CP Editor, Jeffrey St. Clair, succinctly explained, "We lure you in, and then punch you in the kidneys." Pleasant and true though that may be, the hard-working CP staff is more than just a few grunts greasing the gears of the status quo.

So come on, be a pal, make a tax deductible donation to CounterPunch today to support our annual fund drive, if you have already donated we thank you! If you haven't, do it because you want to. Do it because you know what CounterPunch is worth. Do it because CounterPunch needs you. Every dollar is tax-deductible. (PayPal accepted)

Thank you,
Eric Draitser

Appeasement Complex


Several years ago, I wrote an article about Burmese cooking. My editor at the magazine inserted a sentence at the end of the piece that read something like this: “And there has never been a better time to visit Burma and sample its delicious cuisine.”

I immediately called up the editor and explained that, yes, Burmese cuisine is delicious, but it was probably one of the worst times to visit the country. I told her about the sanctions against the Burmese government and the tourism boycott favored by opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. I managed ultimately to persuade the editor to remove the offending sentence, but it wasn’t easy. Editors: can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.

Burmese food is still delicious. But the tourism ban is largely a thing of the past. Last fall, the Burmese government released Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. She reciprocated by endorsing small-scale tourism, a policy shift that the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) adopted last May. And last week, the most important tourist of all, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, arrived in Rangoon to tour the famous golden pagoda, among other things. This first visit to Burma by a U.S. secretary of state in more than 50 years heralds a possible breakthrough in U.S.-Burma relations, shines a light on an ongoing transformation in Burmese society, and has generated the predictable pushback from those who suffer from the political disease known as the appeasement complex.

Back in 2008 when the Burmese military junta announced a new constitution as a step toward civilian rule, the international community responded with considerable skepticism. The military didn’t look as though it intended to give up any real power. When Thein Sein won election as president earlier this year, The New York Times described it as “a move that cements the military’s control of a new political system.” The new president was widely considered a puppet of the top military general Than Shwe.

Sometimes, though, puppets manage to take on a life of their own. Burma has not exactly become a democracy overnight. But the changes initiated by Thein Sein are significant nonetheless. “The Burmese government has recently released more than 6,000 political prisoners,” writes Iqbal Ahmed in Is Burma Really Changing? “In an uncharacteristic move, former army general Thein Sein, who came to power in March, thwarted the Chinese-funded $3.6-billion Myitsone dam project in the state of Kachin, relenting to continuous pressure from the Burmese citizens in that region.”

The government has passed some significant laws legalizing peaceful protest and union strikes. The head of the censorship bureau, essentially calling for his own early retirement, told Radio Free Asia that “press censorship is non-existent in most other countries as well as among our neighbors and as it is not in harmony with democratic practices, press censorship should be abolished in the near future.” After holding talks with the government, Aung San Suu Kyi plans to run for parliament in upcoming by-elections.

Government mediators are even pursuing agreements with rebels who have been fighting, in some cases for decades, against the military. The first agreement, with Shan rebels, was negotiated a couple days ago. According to one civil society observer, mediators have reached out to Karen, Karenni, Chin, and Kachin rebels as well.

“It’s Burma rebooted,” the NLD’s second-in-command U Tin Oo told Newsweek. “Everything is happening with a speed we couldn’t even foresee.”

When President Obama announced at the end of his Asia tour last month that Secretary of State Clinton would visit Burma, The Washington Post editorialized that the administration was giving the government there “undeserved validation” because the generals had yet to create a “peaceable democracy.” Clinton, who doesn’t represent a peaceable democracy either and perhaps knows something about unreasonable expectations, went anyway. There she sat down with Aung San Suu Kyi, parlayed with Thein Sein, and promised U.S. support in step with democratic changes.

It’s a great irony that Hillary Clinton, who criticized Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election for being “naïve” in offering to meet with the leaders of “rogue” nations, is the one extending an open hand to Burma. But the Obama-Clinton initiative is far from naïve. It borders on the devious. In addition to ushering in U.S. businesses to compete for Burma’s considerable natural resources, the opening to Burma is part of a much larger effort to reduce China’s sway in its traditional sphere of influence.

China has been heavily invested in Burma. And the Burmese are starting to worry about becoming too dependent on their big brother in Beijing. “Concerns about this Chinese-led development and its many inherent risks are a heated topic in Burma today,” writes FPIF contributor Dan Beaker in Burma’s Big Brother. “Discontent can be heard in the rallies and public statements of opposition armed forces in the border areas, in cabinet and parliamentary meetings in Napyidaw, in the teashop natter of academics in Yangon, and in the day-long councils of elders in swidden and fishing communities across the rural hinterlands. Conducting research in central Burma earlier this year, I often heard talk of ‘the Chinese invasion,’ referring to the investment drive, and of the use of ‘Chinese agents dressed as investors’ in a recent privatization of government assets.”

The imminent détente with Burma has continued to generate criticism from those who suffer from the appeasement complex, a syndrome that causes politicians to conflate diplomacy with selling out and negotiating with kowtowing. Unfortunately, the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has an advanced case of this syndrome. “Secretary Clinton’s visit represents a monumental overture to an outlaw regime whose DNA remains fundamentally brutal,” shechastised the Obama administration.

The Republican presidential candidates have yet to get behind Ros-Lehtinen. Perhaps some of them are still scrambling to find Burma on the map (hint: some people call it Myanmar). But never doubt that Gingrich, Romney, Perry, and Santorum suffer from their own appeasement complexes. My favorite example comes from Michele Bachmann, who is always good for a laugh. After Iranian students stormed the British embassy and London pulled out its diplomatic staff, Bachmann told supporters in Iowa, “That’s exactly what I would do [if I were president]. We wouldn’t have an embassy in Iran. I wouldn’t allow that to be there.”

The United States hasn’t had an embassy in Iran since 1979. The Bachmann team tried to clarify that she was speaking hypothetically about a time when the United States might have an embassy in Iran. But that, frankly, is worse. According to the first interpretation, Bachmann simply made a gaffe. According to the clarification, she was stating a policy. We wouldn’t have an embassy in Iran – or Burma – because…because they’re bad people. And we don’t talk to bad people, ever. And yet Bachmann continues to share the stage with Rick Santorum. Go figure.

John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, writes its regular World Beat column, and will be publishing a book on Islamophobia with City Lights Press in 2012.

John Feffer is the director of Foreign Policy In Focus, where this article originally appeared.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians