On September 25, President George W. Bush spoke at the United Nations to condemn human-rights abuses by the government of Myanmar, siding with Burmese political dissidents. Throughout October, protests in Myanmar grew more aggressive, and the government backlash became more cruel. But why is President Bush endorsing regime change now?
Since 1988, Burma (Myanmar) has been ruled by a military junta that finances itself with opiate production. The U.S. government has been largely silent on this junta’s excesses because American notables have been profiting from the drug trade. Furthermore, Burmese officials were cooperating with Chinese business interests. There is no need for regime change when the right people are making money.
Since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Afghani opiate production has dwarfed that of Burma. Opium has become Afghanistan’s chief export, and Afghanistan is controlled by American interests. China is a major refiner, distributor, and consumer of these Afghani opiates and is working with the United States to move the dope. Burma’s ability to generate profit has collapsed, and the junta has been reduced to a liability—second-rate competition.
In his U.N. speech, President Bush implied that Burma needs a new government. He plans to tighten economic sanctions on Myanmar, citing that dictatorship’s appalling...