McCain Calls for ‘Strong Action’ Against Burma ‘Thugs’

Senator John McCain held one of his regular conference calls with bloggers. His prepared remarks focused on a speech he’s making today in Detroit to the Hispanic business community, his satisfaction in having beaten back Democrats in their efforts to force withdrawal in Iraq (which he attributes mostly to Petraeus’ honor, integrity, and leadership), and the situation in Burma.

The latter took the bulk of his time. He applauded President Bush’s strong language on the atrocities being perpetrated against Burmese monks. He described in some detail his immense admiration for Aung San Suu Kyi and that he refused to call the place “Myanmar.”* He said “it’s time for strong action against these thugs.”

I was one of the first questioners and his Burma statements preempted the one I would have otherwise asked. I asked for clarification on “strong action.” He responded that we must bring more pressure on China to bring pressure on the Burma government, call on ASEAN to “throw ’em out,” and use “any trade and economic sanctions at our disposal,” unilateral or otherwise.

He expressed his “hope” that his words weren’t interpreted as a call for military invasion. I allowed that the thought had crossed my mind but was happy for the clarification.

Ed Morrissey followed me and asked the question I would otherwise have asked: His rationale for skipping last night’s debate on black issues and his thoughts about the impact on the party. He said he had a prior commitment for a “major event” in New York City and was not able to work out a time switch with PBS but that he would have welcomed — and would still welcome — an opportunity to discuss those issues at a different time. He turns down debates all the time because there are so many and “I don’t have time to do ’em all.” Further, he stated he will proudly “rest on my record” for advocating for equality and opportunity for all Americans.

The announced purpose of the call was to introduce the launch of his first television and radio ads. He didn’t actually mention them. In my view, they’re powerful but, as I’ve noted before (see McCain Falling into the Kerry Trap?) focusing so much on his experience as a prisoner of war a generation ago is a mistake. He should be highlighting his vision for the future; we already know about his past. He’s a genuine hero but that doesn’t qualify him to be president.

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*For those unfamiliar with this controversy, BBC’s “Should it be Burma or Myanmar?” provides an interesting primer. The short version:

The ruling military junta changed its name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989, a year after thousands were killed in the suppression of a popular uprising. Rangoon also became Yangon. The Adaptation of Expression Law also introduced English language names for other towns, some of which were not ethnically Burmese.

The change was recognised by the United Nations, and by countries such as France and Japan, but not by the United States and the UK. A statement by the Foreign Office says: “Burma’s democracy movement prefers the form ‘Burma’ because they do not accept the legitimacy of the unelected military regime to change the official name of the country. Internationally, both names are recognised.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

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    Free Burma!
    International Bloggers’ Day for Burma on the 4th of October

    International bloggers are preparing an action to support the peaceful revolution in Burma. We want to set a sign for freedom and show our sympathy for these people who are fighting their cruel regime without weapons. These Bloggers are planning to refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4 and just put up one Banner then, underlined with the words „Free Burma!“.

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