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U.S. President Barack Obama during an event with Young South Asian Youth Leaders at Yangon University, Myanmar, Nov. 14, 2014 (AP photo by Gemunu Amarasinghe).

Is Washington’s Myanmar Policy the Model for U.S.-Cuba Normalization?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Over the past year, the Obama administration has rapidly repaired diplomatic and economic ties with Cuba. Last month, in the latest of many agreements, Washington and Havana signed a deal restoring commercial flights between the two countries for the first time in more than 50 years, just as the White House approved construction of the first U.S. factory in Cuba since the 1960 embargo. The outreach is an attempt, according to President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, to ensure that the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement is nearly irreversible by the time Obama leaves office. To further cement ties, Obama will visit Cuba later this month—making him the first U.S. president to do so since Calvin Coolidge.

White House officials have started mentioning a more specific template for Obama’s Cuban outreach and for how Cuba might open up its economy and political system: Myanmar. The Obama administration sees Myanmar as a success story, and one in which it played a central role in pushing the generals who ruled the country toward elections. Now, it apparently sees U.S.-Myanmar relations as a model, as well—an example of U.S. diplomacy and soft power at its finest. ...

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