Burma has largely been in the sort of loser country — those of the Gap and the Seam — that we can live with. Unlike Ba’athist North Korea, Russia, Milosevic’s Serbia, Saddam’s Iraq, Syria, etc., Myanmar has kept its dysfunction largely to itself. Allowing its neighbors of India, China, and Thailand to develop in peace, Burma has long been a problem we can deal with later.
Then Burma, lacking refinaries and experiencing the sort of economic problems states do, raised gasoline prices. They did this at the same time of mountain economic pressure over lack of both economic and political reforms. Burmese political activists lept at the opportunity, mass-rallied, and were quickly killed.
The outrage against Burma’s rulers is a product of these facts, with one more: Burma’s neighbors are becoming rich. If the same events happened twenty years ago, the world would pat itself on the back for larger achievements elsewhere. If the same events happened in Africa, the world would not care. That the events did happen a generation agian, and are happening in Africa, testifies to this fact.
So what should we do?
Remove the junta, of course. That others are worse does not give them an excuse to remain in power. Burma is not democratizing in the idealistic (leading to free and fair eleections) or materialistic (leadering to free markets) sense. It kills its own people, and does not meaningfully participate in regional economic growth.