By Kevin E. Richards (Ret. Col.), U.S. Army War College
In a recent lecture at the U.S. Army War College, retired Colonel Kevin Richards discussed U.S. interests in Myanmar and Southeast Asia. He began by recognizing that there is a serious movement toward democracy in Myanmar, a country (formally known as Burma) that has been ruled by Generals and the military for more than 50 years. The "defining moment" that triggered this movement, he said, was Cyclone Nargis in 2008 and the government's inability to help its own people. Along with the tragedy of the cyclone which resulted in the death of more than 100,000 people, the dissident movement, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, has focused the world's attention on Myanmar's repressive regime and its terrible human rights record.
Myanmar's importance to the United States derives from its strategic location. It is nearby the two emerging giants of Asia--China and India--and sits astride the commercial trade routes between the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East-Persian Gulf region. It has untapped natural resources and lies close to the vital chokepoint...