The Obama administration's break with the policy of isolating the world's worst regimes has just suffered another defeat. Efforts to alter the behavior of Iran and Syria through engagement have gone nowhere. Now, it seems clear that the change in policy has failed, as well, in Burma, the Asian country also known as Myanmar.
On Monday, the National League for Democracy, Burma's main opposition party, announced that it will not participate in an obviously rigged election that the ruling military has been preparing to stage this year. The elections would have marked a milestone in what the world has long hoped for: a return to democracy in one of the world's most brutal and longest-lasting dictatorships. But opposition leaders as well as other observers soon saw that the rules of the pseudo-democratic exercise offered nothing but a trap -- an effort to perpetuate military rule in a country where the military has already ruled for almost half a century.
The Burmese generals, who renamed the country Myanmar, have already tried once before to offer the pretense of democracy by slapping new political paint on a crumbling house. The results only made it all look uglier.