Summary: Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser, created a stir Sunday when he appeared to endorse the application of a Myanmar-style military coup to reverse the results of the 2020 U.S. presidential election at a public event in Dallas. Duke University political scientist Edmund Malesky, who specializes in Southeast Asia, is available to comment on Flynn’s comment and the situation in Myanmar.
“The statement was roundly condemned and Flynn has since distanced himself from his video-recorded statement, but the insinuation revealed that this aspiration to emulate Myanmar’s junta in America is actually widely shared by a large number of QAnon adherents,” says professor Edmund Malesky, a professor of political economy at Duke University and director of the Duke Center for International Development in the Sanford School of Public Policy.
“Lost in the hubbub, however, was a discussion of what Flynn’s implicit endorsement of the coup in Myanmar means for the actual citizens of the name-dropped country, many who have been engaged in costly and dangerous civil disobedience movements, protests and even armed conflict to thwart the return to Tatmadaw (military) rule.”
“The previous period of junta-led socialist governance was miserable for almost all Myanmar citizens, driving the country into abject poverty with little access to government services of any kind. The short period of civilian governance, which began in 2011 and led to the election of the National League for Democracy in 2015, was clearly reversing these trends, poverty was halved and the economy was nearing middle-income status.”
“Moreover, contrary to the QAnon conspiracy, the military-supported political party lost in a landslide election that had minor irregularities, but was deemed free and fair by international observers.”
“It is critical that we not let confusion about the true state of events in Myanmar undermine efforts to restore the country to democracy. The Biden administration has been at the forefront of an international effort to use economic sanctions and coercive diplomacy to support this opposition, reverse the coup, undermine the economic resources of the Tatmadaw and ultimately restore the country’s nascent democratic experiment.”
“This effort entailed difficult negotiations with Myanmar’s Southeast Asian neighbors and multinational corporations that might benefit financially by cozying up to the new military dictatorship. Progress was being made but the situation is fragile and easily reversible.”
“More than ever, it is important to get the facts out about what is really happening in Myanmar and what the coup truly means for the sacrosanct American values of liberty and democracy.”
Edmund (Eddy) Malesky is a professor of political economy at Duke University and director of the Duke Center for International Development in the Sanford School of Public Policy. He is a specialist on Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam and was the principle investigator for the Myanmar Business Environment Index (MBEI), which ranked the economic governance of Myanmar’s states and regions in 2018 and 2020. Malesky has published extensively in the leading political science and economic journals and has received various awards including the Harvard Academy Fellowship and the Rockefeller Bellagio Residency Fellowship.
For additional comment, contact Edmund Malesky at:
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