President Obama is visiting Myanmar, better known as Burma. At the beginning of his term, Burma seemed set to take the place in the Axis of Evil left vacant by Iraq. In addition to brutally suppressing a pro-democracy movement, the regime's leaders had cultivated ties with North Korea and expressed an unhealthy interest in ballistic missiles and nuclear technology. Matters came to a head in 2009 and again in 2011 when a North Korean ship headed for Burma, carrying what the administration suspected might be ballistic missiles.
Then suddenly Burma came in from the cold. It released Aung San Suu Kyi, darling of the democracy movements, and told John McCain that it was done with all that nasty nuclear business. Case closed, right?
Well, not so fast. Although I welcome Burma's public rejection of nuclear weapons, experts had real reasons for concerns about Burma's past activities. I understand it is hard to imagine poor, backwards Burma in possession of nuclear weapons. But Burma's leaders are isolated and a bit paranoid. Which sounds like North Korea. We know how that worked out.
Administration officials are careful to make clear that they continue to be concerned about Burma's nuclear interests, as well as its relationship with North Korea. And it is worth stating at the outset that much of the information provided by dissident groups is of little value. It is often technically ignorant gossip gussied up as intelligence. Some of it appears to be outright fabrication, the sort of defector clap-trap made famous by Iraqis like Rafid Ahmed Alwan, better known as "Curveball."
But even if one strips away the near-hysterical claims of some dissident groups, some disquieting facts remain.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let's look at a few.
The first one is a doozy. Hungry?