Patterico's Pontifications

8/15/2009

Sen. Jim Webb Secures American’s Release From Myanmar

Filed under: International,Obama — DRJ @ 9:32 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

Senator Jim Webb, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, has traveled to Myanmar and successfully negotiated the release of American captive John Yettaw:

“Yettaw is to be officially deported Sunday, when he will fly with Webb on a military plane to Bangkok, according to a statement from Webb’s office.

The 53-year-old from Falcoln, Missouri, has been held in Insein, Myanmar’s largest prison, notorious for widespread torture and other abuse of both political prisoners and ordinary criminals.”

Yettaw had been sentenced to seven years in prison “for swimming secretly to the residence of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.” Webb also visited with Suu Kyi, which the AP described as a rare visit.

This is great news for the Yettaw family but it sounds like the U.S. government is handing another in a growing line of PR and engagement victories to a totalitarian regime:

“While Washington has traditionally been Myanmar’s strongest critic, applying political and economic sanctions against the junta, President Barack Obama’s new ambassador for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, recently said the administration is interested in easing its policy of isolation. Webb has said that “affirmative engagement” could bring the most change to Myanmar, concerning those who think a hard line is the best approach.

Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations suggested Webb’s visit could help persuade the junta to free Suu Kyi.
***
Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962. The junta called elections in 1990 but refused to honor the results when Suu Kyi’s party won overwhelmingly.”

Ad hoc diplomacy has become more common in the last 20-odd years, especially in Democratic Administrations. It’s a way for the United States and the Administration to save face if things don’t turn out well but it also undermines the authority of the State Department and the Administration itself. (Wonder what Hillary Clinton thinks about this?) It also sets a bad precedent if the result involves American concessions and international approval.

But it does generate good humanitarian PR.

– DRJ

20 Responses to “Sen. Jim Webb Secures American’s Release From Myanmar”

  1. When you have no principles, it is impossible to violate them.

    Mike K (addb13)

  2. AIG should kidnap some peoples. Exxon probably too.

    happyfeet (42470c)

  3. I too am wary of ad hoc diplomacy. Since the days of the Bush Administration, liberals have been fetishizing “engagement” and have always turned a blind eye when the Jimmy Carters and Jesse Jacksons of their party meet with and grant legitimacy to oppressive regimes. I heard once that Bill Clinton absolutely hated Carter’s meddling in the Middle East, North Korea, and other hotspots, but perhaps that is what Clinton wanted people to believe. I think that President Obama will come to regret the foreign policy freelancers in his party. He certainly wouldn’t stand for it from a Republican.

    JVW (cf83aa)

  4. Maybe soon the administration will talk to Honduras. Hopefully, they won’t have to arrest some American first.

    Kevin Murphy (3c3db0)

  5. Kevin…Perhaps they should.
    I see a “Mouse That Roared” scenario here, and The One would be highly susceptible to it;
    since (as has been pointed out), when you believe in nothing, you’ll believe in anything.

    AD - RtR/OS! (f615b7)

  6. They could arrest me (I’ll agree to surrender at the nearest Honduran Consulate for deportation):
    I could use a couple months vacation in the tropics – all expenses paid.

    AD - RtR/OS! (f615b7)

  7. I’m sure all Webb had to do is go on bended knee and beg forgiveness for imagined transgressions against the benevolent ones. Or, failing at that attempt, he could always regale them with the story about how he refused to shake Bush’s hand when offered in gratitude for his service to his country.

    Dmac (e6d1c2)

  8. Actually, Dmac, Webb refused to shake Bush’s hands because his son was fighting a ridiculous war in Iraq AND had campaigned against Webb for George Allen claiming that Allen was a greater American. I have seen Webb’s purple hearts and I met him multiple times and it is clear that this former Secretary of the Navy (under Reagan) is one of the most respected members of Congress for a reason.

    The reason Webb got an American freed is because when he pierces you with those eyes in a conversation it is like he is reading your soul. I wish he had been VP for Obama.

    Zimpo (4e4a4f)

  9. Zimpo,

    Dick Cheney also has a penetrating gaze. Do you really think that’s all it takes to be VP?

    DRJ (cabca2)

  10. I could use a couple months vacation in the tropics – all expenses paid.

    Yes, but not in August-September. Hot, wet, hurricaney. Wait for December.

    Kevin Murphy (3c3db0)

  11. Webb’s military service is beyond reproach. He also wrote some decent books, like “The Emperor’s General” which I liked a lot. He bristled when Bush pressed him on his son’s service in Iraq (when Webb thought that the war was being run by a moron (Rumsfeld)). He later made up.

    Democrats who think Webb is going to vote their way on everything should think again — Webb is very conservative on a number of issues. One of those is women’s rights, and his stand there cost him any chance of being the VP.

    Kevin Murphy (3c3db0)

  12. Wow. It’s ironic that Zimpo said an American got freed because of Webb’s piercing eyes in conversation is like he’s reading your soul. Same thing happened to me when I first met my husband. And I surrendered, just like Myanmar’s officials. Funny that.

    Dana (57e332)

  13. “It’s ironic that Zimpo said an American got freed because of Webb’s piercing eyes in conversation is like he’s reading your soul.”

    Dana – I thought it was ‘cuz Webb turned somebody upside down and stuck their penis in his mouth. He wrote about that in one of his books. I’m waoting for photos.

    Plus, you know Clinton would have been all over this if it had been a couple of hot chicks.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  14. Webb refused to shake Bush’s hands because his son was fighting a ridiculous war in Iraq

    I see – and what did his son think about this?

    I have seen Webb’s purple hearts and I met him multiple times

    Sure you have, sweetheart. Why do I have the feeling that those moments are “seared into your memory” as well?

    Dmac (e6d1c2)

  15. I would really be interested in your analysis of Jim Webb’s prison reform bill.

    Pete Muldoon (5b5c28)

  16. I know some people in Myanmar….. they think the guy who got arrested is an idiot and/or a mental case.
    I dunno what sending a Senator to free him really gains the US and it seems we are making grand gestures about reckless individuals (look for the hostages that are in Iran to get some of this love… maybe some others will show up in Venezuela soon)

    SteveG (97b6b9)

  17. Webb is really a loose cannon. He resigned as Sec Navy in Reagan’s administration because they didn’t build the 600 ship navy. He was inexplicable rude to Bush who only asked after his son’s welfare at a White House reception for new senators. Webb could have declined the invitation. Some of his books were good but I have bought the last one as I think he is a jerk.

    I suspect Webb’s ego has expanded with his new office. It wasn’t modest before.

    MIke K (addb13)

  18. Webb flew into Naypyitaw which is the Myanmar equivalent of Neverland… normal Burmese have no idea what happens in the “administrative capitol”.
    I think unofficial westerners… (that means you… are banned)
    Even Yangon has a billboard at the airport exit that says something like “we the people stand shoulder to shoulder against the imperialist stooges” instead of a “Welcome tourists” sign

    That said, a policy of engagement isn’t the worst idea for Myanmar… nothing else seems to have worked, and it isn’t like the junta is going anywhere, or as if the junta is harboring terrorists, so … have a go…

    Jim Webb will eventually give Obama a noogie

    SteveG (97b6b9)

  19. Here is the post I did yesterday on this topic. I am still pretty irritated by the whole thing.

    http://wrathfuldakini.blogspot.com/2009/08/i-am-calmer-now-but-jim-webb-is-still.html

    wrathful Dakini (193b04)

  20. Imagine thugs hijacked your country and renamed it in their own image…and the press tripped all over themselves to use the new name…

    Call it “Burma” instead–it’s a small blow for decency, freedom and the Burmese people.

    Noel (23b09a)


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