Obama has been leading by engaging

In his first inaugural address, US President Barack Obama offered an invitation to the world's most closed countries. "We will extend a hand," he said, "if you are willing to unclench your fist." This statement encapsulated the foreign policy of "engagement" that he endorsed during his first term — an approach that, despite some shortcomings, has a lot of merit. From the beginning, however, the Obama administration has made clear that engagement is not an end in itself, but a means to various goals, both bilateral and regional.

In Myanmar, the bilateral goal was to nudge the government toward greater openness and democracy — something that has unquestionably happened. The pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest; her party won seats in parliament; and millions of Burmese are now studying their country's constitution and have petitioned for amendments.

To be sure, much remains to be...

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