Small Wars Journal

Building and Balancing in Burma: China, US Military Engagement, and Capacity Development

Mon, 07/18/2016 - 9:57am

Building and Balancing in Burma: China, US Military Engagement, and Capacity Development

James A. Chambers, Kasi Chu, Chelsea B. Payne and Catherine R. Platt


In 1898, Rudyard Kipling gazed up at the world’s tallest pagoda – the golden Shwedagon– in tropical Rangoon and marveled, “This is Burma, and it is quite unlike any land you know about.”1 Over previous decades, Kipling’s West had cobbled an amalgam of peoples and traditions into a colonial entity unlike anything the indigenous people knew about. In the words of Thant Myint-U, this process created artificial geographical borders, stripped the monarchy, and “pushed Burma into the modern world without an anchor to the past” except for the influence of Buddhism and military conquest.2 Today, new demands of the 21st century world converge in Burma*, creating a potential model for development through multinational partnerships. Given the military’s traditionally-held privileged position in Burma, United States Department of Defense organizations experienced in capacity development could potentially build partnerships that foster both healthcare and professional military reforms – a two-pronged approach currently pursued in other nations. This paper will briefly review Burma’s rich history, current geopolitics as well as future domestic and international development. The authors propose a US military engagement promoting multi-faceted capacity building through contributions from unique assets including Special Operations Forces, Air Advisory Assistance and the USAF International Heath Specialist program.

*For consistency with current US government nomenclature, “Burma” and “Rangoon” are used throughout this article rather than “Myanmar” and “Yangon.”


Burmese history is rooted and nourished in martial lore, beginning in 1044 CE with the rule of warrior-king Anawrahta, the first of three militant monarchs particularly revered in the country’s history. Their 33-foot statues guard the parade grounds in the capitol Naypyidaw. Over ensuing centuries, Burmans subsumed the ethnic kingdoms, including the Mon (1757) and Rakhine (1760). Burman armies destroyed the Thai capital of Ayutthaya three times, most recently in 1767.3 Burmese invasion of Manipur and East Bengal in 1824 led to the first of three Anglo-Burmese wars before Burma was incorporated as a province of India in 1885.4 British pacification exacerbated ethnic conflict through divide-and-rule, and made village leaders representatives to the Crown rather than their traditional role of protector from the “5 evils” – fire, flood, thieves, enemies, and government.5

1941 to 1962

During the war, future leaders of Burma including Aung Lee forged military social networks important in subsequent domestic politics.6 Attlee proffered independence as a single nation without a road map to ethnic reconciliation. 7

In 1947, Aung San finalized the Panglong Agreement with the Shan, Kachin, and Chin people to establish the Union of Burma based on three principles negotiated with a majority of ethnic leaders – decentralized federal structure, recognition of ethnic chieftaincies, and the right to eventual secession.  Unfortunately, Aung San was assassinated before Burma gained independence in 1948. Attempts at reconciliation halted with British departure, leaving disparate political and ethnic groups with conflicting post-colonial ambitions.8

Despite internal challenges, during the 1950’s Burma contributed to regional advocacy regarding conflict in Indochina and helped organize a seminal Asian-African Conference in Indonesia.9 Relations with neighboring China were complicated by civil war in the latter as Kuomintang migrated into Burma. Nonetheless, Burmese Premier Nu assisted Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai to introduce the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.10 Burma defined the relationship as paukpaw (cousins, kinship), while simultaneously regarding Beijing as the primary potential external enemy, relying on the US as a balancing power.11 During this period, over 1,200 Burmese officers trained in the US, far more than in any other country, through International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs.12


Widespread dissatisfaction with a constitution that didn’t reflect the Panglong Agreement contributed to a military coup in 1962, placing General Ne Win in control of a militarized and further Burmanized government.13 Beginning in the late 1970s, the US provided a humanitarian assistance program prompted by Burmese poverty as well as military assistance to help stem opium production. From 1980 to 1988, the US continued to serve as Burma’s primary partner in IMET programs, graduating 255 officers.14


The US government (USG) halted military exchanges in 1988 after the Burmese junta responded to protesters in Rangoon by killing at least 3,000 and imprisoning thousands more. In 1990, Burma’s military regime was known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). The SLORC rejected national election results which favored the National League for Democracy (NLD), and placed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.15 The SLORC was abolished in 1997 and the military regime was then called the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

As the US distanced itself, China, then India, engaged the regime to gain trade and access to energy and mineral resources.16 The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) neighbors pursued “constructive engagement,” which, along with trade with Russia, Thailand, China, and India, buffered the effects of Western sanctions.17 Three years before the Jasmine Revolution and Arab Spring, Burmese citizens led the Saffron Revolution in 2007 to protest economic stagnation and disproportionate military spending.18 Harsh government response led the US and other Western nations to impose additional sanctions, while less-aligned international leaders, such as Nobel Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, called upon China to help influence reform and resolution to the protests.


The following April, the SPDC proposed a new constitution, the first in 20 years, with plans to vote via public referendum on May 10th, 2008.19 Positive changes began emerging over the next five years. After a year in office, President Thein Sein stated his goal was to introduce “genuine democracy” and heal rifts “based on the Panglong Spirit.”20 In the 2012 elections, NLD gained 42 of 46 possible seats as Aung San Suu Kyi became a member of parliament. The USG restored full diplomatic relations with Burma and hundreds of political prisoners were released.21 Former President Thein Sein’s government then began to “Look West” likely due to a perception of overreliance on China.22 The Burmese government expressed its goal to pursue national development “which must be environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.”23 Limited US dialogue with the Burmese military occurred through diplomatic engagements, academic exchanges, and Burmese participation as observers in humanitarian portions of the multinational 2013 COBRA GOLD exercise.24


Burma hosted the 2013 Southeast Asian Games and assumed chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2014, both vital steps towards gaining political legitimacy. President Obama attended the 2014 ASEAN Summit in Naypyitaw, where he met with former President Thein Sein and continued discussions on humanitarian and democratic reform in Burma.25 A landmark general election was held November 8th, 2015, the first national vote since 1990.26 The NLD overwhelmingly won the majority. Although Aung San Suu Kyi remains barred from assuming the presidency under the 2008 junta-drafted constitution, she declared prior to the election that she has “already made plans” to be “above the president.”27 Her childhood friend, Htin Kyaw, was sworn into office as president on March 30th, 2016.28

Aung San Suu Kyi initially assumed four of eighteen cabinet posts including foreign minister, minister of education, minister of energy and the newly created position minister to the president.29 She has since stepped down from the ministries of energy and education.30 On April 5th, 2016, she was named state counselor, a newly created position similar to prime minister that could empower her over Burma’s president.31 Aung San Suu Kyi quickly released plans to free political prisoners and student activists and on April 8th, 2016 over 100 political prisoners were released.32 Yet, the new government still faces challenges with ethnic and religious conflict in the western portion of the country. In particular, it is unclear what the new government’s approach will be toward the country’s Muslin Rohingya population. Burma’s drive toward democracy and its rapidly evolving political landscape make it reasonable to add formal military ties to other means of engagement as Burma negotiates two broad categories of challenges (vide infra) which will, to a large degree, define its future trajectory. 

International Access and Resources     

Today, the strategic nexus between global powers has resurged in importance for access both to intrinsic resources and petroleum shipped through the Indian Ocean, where deep sea ports would ameliorate China’s strategic “Malacca dilemma.” In 2013, a natural gas pipeline, designed to deliver 12 billion cubic meters of gas annually produced in Burma to China, was completed.33 A second parallel pipeline opened in 2015 carrying crude oil to China from the Rakhine coast, which is projected to transport 22mn tons of oil annually to China.34 China has also heavily invested in hydroelectric plants while seeking to expand oil, natural gas, and transportation projects.35 Beijing has provided Burma with an estimated $3 billion in military assistance and hundreds of millions more in economic assistance.36

India initially protested the junta’s human rights conflicts in 1988, but has changed its posture to counterbalance Chinese investment and influence.37 Democratic reform in Burma would allow a more congruent posture for the world’s largest democracy, increase security, and provide additional transport corridors to the Indian Ocean.38 Thailand has also invested heavily in deep-sea ports, petrochemical projects, and land transportation links.39 Less proximate regional ties with North Korea and Russia have supported defense and nuclear energy capability, but not as robust commercial ties.40 Resource-rich Burma has long experienced exploitation that produced the cynical aphorism shwe shi hma amyo taw, “relatives only when he possesses gold.” The modern nation’s 21st century wariness is perhaps summarized in another Burmese saying: ayeit nei nei akhet cho cho, “use a tree’s shade and break its branches.”

Humanitarian / Medical

After emerging from colonialism as the richest Southeast Asian nation with anticipated further economic growth, Burma currently faces dire economic, political, human rights, and health challenges. Even before Cyclone Nargis, the health situation was tragic. A UN post-doctoral fellow insisted in 2008 that “delivering humanitarian aid should be the priority.”41 Others predicted “a poverty emergency…heading toward a humanitarian crisis.”42 While 40% of government expenditures went to the military, only 0.3-3% were spent on health, the lowest rate worldwide and far below recommendations set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for low-income countries.43 Previously in Burma’s large HIV-positive community, less than 20% received anti-retroviral medications due to both budget restrictions and lack of access for NGO assistance.44 However, with improved access to prevention and antiretroviral therapy from 2005-2013, new infections in Burma declined by 58%.45 HIV prevalence has also declined in Burma, although it remains high in certain populations including people who inject drugs (23.1 percent) and female sex workers (6.3 percent).46

Post-Nargis, in 2010, Burma provided the second-worst healthcare system in the world,47 spending only $1.10 per capita on heath care and 40 cents on education despite supporting a large standing army.48 Today, despite exporting rice, pulses, and fish, 40% of Burmese children under 5 years old are moderately stunted, worse in ethnically neglected areas.49 Burma also has high maternal mortality as well as the third highest rate of death in children under five in the Asia and Pacific region (62 deaths per 1,000 live births).50 Burmese citizens suffer 50% of all malaria mortality in Southeast Asia, and the most drug-resistant strains in the world are found along Burma’s eastern border.51

Lack of medical investment surfaces in cynical quips: “Where do the generals go for medical care? The airport.”52 What medical resources do exist disproportionately support the junta. One author asserted that the Tatmadaw developed a cadre of doctors for themselves -- civilians are a source of support for the military rather than the reverse.53 In response, NGOs have created teams of medical volunteers for numerous tribal peoples in the Burmese highlands, often conducting trans-border operations from Thailand.54 Private hospitals sponsored from Thailand and Singapore have begun to fill the gap in larger cities, but fall far short of providing for all the citizens’ needs, particularly in rural, non-Burman ethnic areas.55

The Question of Military Engagement

The Burmese military has exercised excessive control for decades.7,6Tatmadaw fragmentation would likely leave a vacuum with multiple factions vying for control of an infrastructure which, outside the military (a 400,000-man force with the country’s best medical and educational resources) has largely been dismantled.56 Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese expatriate scholar Thant-Myint U, as well as prominent economists and UN strategists in varying degrees, agree with the perspective of Singapore’s foreign minister George Yeo who asserted “…without the army playing a major role in any future solution, Myanmar cannot hold together.”57

The European Union (EU) and US appear to agree that a transition period working with the military to rebuild capacity is needed,58 and support Dr. David Steinberg’s view of “an obvious need to expose the upcoming military elite to international standards of military responsibility through overseas training programs.”59 Burma benefits from the regional examples of Thailand, South Korea, and, most recently, Indonesia, for a transition which will likely require at least a generation.60

Parallels with Indonesia

Through 2008, the SPDC appeared to emulate the pre-1998 Indonesian model, out of touch with current needs in Burma or practice in neighboring countries.61 Indonesia previously experienced ethnic, racial, and religious conflict exacerbated by colonial divide-and-rule methods, and faced regional rebellions.62 Both countries experienced coups with subsequent military primacy in the 1960s.63

In Indonesia, President Suharto recruited technocrats to modernize the economy with international assistance. Burma’s leader Ne Win instead pursued isolation, significantly worsening the nation’s economic standing.64 Decades later, leaders of both countries were casualties of economic crisis. The SLORC accepted Ne Win’s resignation in 1988, realizing the need for global engagement.65 In 1998, Suharto also resigned as military officers advocated reform to protect the core mission of their institution, promote professionalism, and distance the military from the failings of that regime.66 According to a key Indonesian general, reformist officers of the time were prompted to respect democratic practices and human rights largely through US  IMET programs.

A 2008 interview of thirty Burmese officers suggests a significant percentage of those in mid-career favorably considered similar change.67 One factor that eased Indonesia’s transition was the improved living condition of many resulting from Suharto’s early economic policies. Burma’s current rulers do not enjoy this same parachute and will need to increase legitimacy in the eyes of its 21st century, relatively wired populace.

Role for the United States

To preserve security and sovereignty, while striding towards modernization, it appears Burma wants to “rebalance external political and economic relations”.68 The nation could profit from China’s investment and military support, but many are cautious about overreliance.69 China would not benefit from a failed state on its border with unstable ethnic areas through which its petroleum is being piped, nor from the emigration of political or humanitarian refugees.70 India also has expressed support for increased US balance in Burma, and in the 1990s approached Washington about this.71 Other parties have advocated US involvement to help moderate development in a more environmentally responsible fashion.72

In 2012, the NGO International Crisis Group (ICG) suggested several actions the US could undertake to support reform: provide political support; provide technical assistance for capacity-building; and engage with the Burma military.73 According to the ICG, the latter “remains a very powerful institution, and… a resumption of appropriate forms of  military-to-military engagement would be a powerful signal” for a vector change and focus on disaster response as well as officer training and exchange.74

Retired Lt Gen Agus Widjojo of Indonesia has particularly emphasized, “Resumption of military contacts between the United States and Burma is desirable and would have salutary impact on democratization.”75 In 2008, he recalled meeting with a Burmese military officer who related the positive impact of US-Burmese joint antinarcotics operations, and favored a resumption of US military contacts including IMET.76 Lt Gen Widjojo continued, “Education is a far more effective foreign policy tool than sanctions,” contending “IMET played a crucial role in Indonesia’s democratization and could do so in Burma too.”77

Rebuilding relationships accelerated with President Obama’s dual-track engagement policy in 2009, the first major rapprochement since US downgraded diplomatic ties in 1990.78 Subsequent to Obama’s overtures, Former President Sein Thein had reciprocated with several gestures, including meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi and releasing hundreds of political prisoners. 

Recognizing nascent reform, Secretary Clinton visited Burma in 2011, the first such travel for a Secretary of State since 1955.79 In 2012, Washington reestablished the US Agency for International Development (USAID) mission and President Obama became the first US commander-in-chief to visit Burma -- the extension of rapprochement with Department of Defense (DoD) partners is a reasonable next step.80 Since 2005, the DoD has prioritized stability operations comparably to combat missions.81 Even in the absence of robust democratic institutions in 1979, the US continued aid as well as its IMET program with Burma. Recent progress in openness and political reform merits consideration for reinstituting such programs.

Special Operations

Before the US Department of State (DoS) articulated a pivot shift towards Asia, in 2010 author Robert Kaplan outlined the increasing economic and political importance of the Indian Ocean region in Monsoon. According to Kaplan, competition versus cooperation among global powers over access to Burma’s ports and resources “provides a code for understanding the world to come.”82 Monsoon analyzes Burma from a variety of perspectives, including those of former Special Operations Forces (SOF) commander Colonel Timothy Heinemann, US Army (retired).

Colonel Heinemann, a former dean of the US Army Command and Staff General College, emphasizes the importance of ethnic integration and advocates increased NGO access, believing “ethnic rights and the balance of ethnic power are preconditions for democracy in Burma.”83 These issues must be faced first, or little has been learned from Afghanistan and Iraq.”84 He has commented that health care and food security are top priorities, and that both can only exist in a secure environment, which for Burma means a more inclusive, balanced military force.85 Other SOF veterans and Burma hands interviewed in Monsoon assert priorities should include establishing humanitarian networks and medical clinics.86

Mr. Kaplan and Colonel Heinemann are correct in that the nuanced understanding and discreet support associated with culturally and linguistically trained Special Forces would be of invaluable assistance in partnership with a reform-oriented Burmese government. As asserted recently in Foreign Affairs, a traditional forte of SOF resources has been to support an “indirect approach… working with and through non-US partners to achieve security objectives… (to) forge relationship that… are conduits for understanding and influence through which the United States can help other countries solve their own problems and contribute increased security in their region.”87 However, as Admiral William H. McRaven, US Navy (retired), who authored the classic study Special Ops has observed, certain missions traditionally considered as “special operations” can be successfully prosecuted by non-SOF personnel.88

International Health Specialists

One such corps of linguistically and culturally trained service members is encountered in the International Health Specialist (IHS) program, which provides each geographic combatant command with medical professionals and NCOs serving as health advisors and coordinators for partnership programs with host nations. Humanitarian development in concert with DoS, USAID and private organizations is an approach increasingly used by the DoD.

When US embassy country teams request an intervention to build medical capacity, IHS staff choose from a variety of options, frequently coordinating educational programs through the Defense Institute for Medical Operations (DIMO), a joint organization that has provided over 250 courses and shared learning experiences in more than 124 countries since 2002.89 Disaster response, public health planning, HIV control, malaria prevention, and inter-institutional health leadership represent only a few challenges for which IHS, DIMO, and other DoD organizations can help Burma reorient and expand its medical infrastructure for its citizens. While private US enterprises with experience establishing sustainable, cost-effective health care in the developing world (e.g., Sanford Health in Ghana) could complement Thai- and Singapore-sponsored private hospitals, IHS and DIMO could assist the Burmese government and expand a historically military oriented healthcare system to provide for the needs of its citizens. This would build upon the current infrastructure to include ethnic groups in all regions, addressing the tremendous health access disparities while simultaneously increasing the legitimacy needed by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Htin Kyaw’s government.

Aviation Advisory Assistance

Collaboration to support health is not restricted to syringes and scalpels. In rural areas, matching resources to populations via aviation can provide a synergistic adjunct to healthcare. The Brazilian Air Force has for years provided airlift for government as well as private/NGO medical professionals and supplies serving the Amazonian basin; some missions are further assisted with corporate sponsors such as 3M and Johnson & Johnson.90 Not only do such sorties provide primary care and specialist services to rural citizens, but offer air crew and other professionals training for disaster contingencies.91

For decades, aviation advisory assistance under the rubric of foreign internal defense (FID) has been provided to friendly governments to strengthen infrastructure from the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) 6th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Not only tactics, but other important topics such as professionalism are taught while developing fixed- and rotary-wing capacity through air traffic control, medical, and other supportive functional areas. Burma has been heavily criticized for air strikes against rebels in the Shan state. Its air force may benefit from IMET or other professional training for which the officer vetting process could serve to increase ethnic inclusiveness. A novel proposal in the Pentagon, Aviation Enterprise Development (AED), seeks to assist emerging nations such as Burma to develop aviation resources that support a host of capacity development ends.92 AED transcends FID by recognizing the mutually supportive relationship of partner nations’ civil and military aviation systems, and seeks to assist modernizing total aviation systems to enhance both security and economic/capacity development.   

Such initiatives “to help shape the global air domain” can advance our strategic interests in the region.93  Key competitors, including China and Russia, understand the significance of these opportunities and actively pursue similar lines of engagement.94 Most recently, Burma procured three Yak-130 fighter jets from Russia, which can be equipped with air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, free fall and precision-guided bombs, and rockets.95 Identifying ways for the USG to build relationships through advancement of aviation safety, standardization, and professional development can also help to balance international influence on Burma’s budding democracy. 

Summary: Modern Burma, Medicine, and the Military

Burma is currently afloat in a sea of political change as the new government, led by State Minister Aung San Suu Kyi and President Htin Kyaw, begins navigating the country toward meaningful democratic reform. Since becoming Burma’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi has stated, “Our policies and principles are to ensure national reconciliation, internal peace, the rule of law, amendments to the constitution and keeping the democratic system dynamic.”96 While lauding the recent release of political prisoners, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has further called upon Burma to eliminate discriminatory policies and practices against its ethnic minorities.97 Calibrated engagement through medical military exchanges can provide the Burmese military a path toward contemporary, professional reform.98

November 2011, Secretary of State Clinton published “American’s Pacific Century” in Foreign Policy, noting the mutual reliance between the US and the Asia-Pacific region and asserted the need to increase investment significantly and make credible strategic commitments there.99 Burma clearly needs investment and commitment to ameliorate suffering, stabilize ethnic conflict, balance external geopolitical pressures, and provide the government increased legitimacy as it begins to adopt more democratic practices.100 While most of the world viewed cyclone Nargis as a humanitarian disaster, the 2008 Burmese government primarily perceived a security threat.101 It was both. As Burmese scholar Thant Myint-U has observed, “Security, development, and human rights are interlinked.”102 Health capacity building by the Burmese government can complement security efforts and benefit from partnership with US military and USAID.103 Former UN fellow Dr. Morten Peterson believes such engagement could “sow the seeds of development and democratization.”104 At this critical juncture, the International Crisis Group advocates taking “whatever opportunity is presented to encourage whatever progress is possible.”105 Professor Jeff Kingston proposes three specific capacities which would provide the greatest benefit: technical assistance; officer training programs; and health development.106

Allowing professional military organizations to help foster health infrastructure remodeling would address all three while respecting Asian preferences for low-profile engagement and Burmese customs.107 In Burmese culture, the concept of Loke-Aah-Pay values participation in community projects as generating Buddhist merit and goodwill. The NGO network in Burma, which mobilized in response to Cyclone Nargis, can help Burma’s new administration to identify and better meet the needs of its citizens. Clear-eyed security sector reform and development will require balanced, inclusive recruiting and vetting for disadvantaged ethnic parties that is locally-tailored to meet the unique needs of Burma’s diverse society. If realized however, such efforts could lend legitimacy and take government off the traditional Burmese list of “five evils.”

From a US perspective, integration of medical and aviation development projects through agents such as USAID, IHS, SOF/AED, and DIMO in addition to NGOs and private organizations represent a whole-of-government, even whole-of-nation, approach advocated by the current National Security Strategy, capable of enhancing the treble synergistic goals of “diplomacy, development, and defense.” Such efforts could be sequenced after or concurrent with ethnically inclusive IMET English language training and participation in regional multinational humanitarian and disaster relief exercises. DoD guidance on joint and interagency activities stresses the “intent to enhance… legitimacy and gain multinational cooperation… developing partner nation capabilities.”108 To achieve the above in the nation ranked first in conflict-years since the end of WWII109 would be an accomplishment requiring focus and dedication, with potential to improve the lives of millions.

Thant Myint-U paints the last pages of Where India Meets China: Burma and the New Crossroads in Asia with a Burma bereft of balancing US influence in which the long-term goals of Naypidaw as well as those of New Delhi and Beijing are ultimately frustrated, and conflicts over resources and development intensify.110 He then counterpoises “another, happier scenario, one which sees real progress in Burma coupled with a quick end to Western sanctions. Development is more balanced, environmental destruction is minimized… reducing poverty wins international support...”111 Democratic reform appears to be underway but is tenuous, and sanctions are fading.112 Restoration of military ties, through unique capabilities such as Special Forces, International Health Specialists, and the aviation community would foster professional reform and better meet the desperate health needs of the Burmese civilian populace. Ultimately this would facilitate Thant Myint-U’s latter vision, and be in his words “a game-changer for all Asia.”113 It is hard to imagine a better investment for America’s Pacific century.


The authors wish to thank the following individuals for their contributions to this article: COL (Ret) Timothy Heinemann, USA; Col (Ret) Mylène Huynh, USAF; Lt Col Michael Bucher, USAF, Air Attaché, US Embassy, Rangoon; Lt Col Peter Garretson, HQ USAF/A3O-QX; Maj Adrian Galang, PACAF/A-5; Maj Justine Cromer, SAF/IA, Pentagon; SrA S. Min Kyaw, USAF; AB Yu Tun, USAF, Dr. Miemie Byrd, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, USPACOM


The content of this publication is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), the Department of Defense (DoD), or the Departments of the Army, Navy or Air Force. Mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

End Notes 

1 Rudyard Kipling, Letters from the East (Lovell Company, 1898).

2 Thant Myint-U, Where China Meets India:  Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011).

3 David Steinberg, Burma/Myanmar:  What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.    

7 Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and The Future of American Power (New York: Random House, 2010).

8 Jayshree Bajoria, Understanding Myanmar (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2012).

9 Ian Holliday, Burma Redux (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).

10 Ibid.

11 David Steinberg, Burma/Myanmar:  What Everyone Needs to Know.

12 Ibid.

13 Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and The Future of American Power.

14 David Steinberg, Burma/Myanmar:  What Everyone Needs to Know.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.

17 Jeff Kingston, "Burma's Despair," Critical Asian Studies, 40(2008),43.

, f tonDespairpecial Operationsinking Costs of War, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).ributions from Special Operations

18 Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and The Future of American Power.

19 Jeff Kingston, "Burma's Despair,"43.

20 International Crisis Group, Reform in Myanmar: One Year On, Jakarta/Brussels: 11 April 2012, <>

21 Ibid.

22 Wai Moe and Richard C. Paddock, “Aung San Suu Kyi Moves Closer to Leading Myanmar,” The New York Times, April 5, 2016, <>

23 International Crisis Group, Reform in Myanmar: One Year On.

24 Vikram Singh, “Oversight of U.S. Policy Toward Burma,” 4 Dec 2013, <>

25 U.S. Department of State, “Relations With Burma,” 18 Dec 2015, <>

26 Ibid.

27 Hannah Beech, “Aung San Suu Kyi says she’ll be ‘above the President’ if her party wins Burma’s elections,” Time, 5 Nov 2015, <>

28 Telegraph Reporters, “Aung San Suu Kyi’s school friend sworn in as Myanmar President,” The Telegraph, 30 March 2016, <>

29 Jonah Fisher, “Aung San Suu Kyi to run Myanmar for foreign ministry,” BBC News, 22 March 2016, <>

30 Wai Moe and Richard C. Paddock, “Aung San Suu Kyi Moves Closer to Leading Myanmar.”

31 Ibid.

32 Jimmy Nusbuga, “Burma frees more than 100 political prisoners” Metro News, 9 April 2016, <>

33 Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China, 2014, 24 April 2014.

34 Ibid.

35 David Steinberg, Burma/Myanmar: What Everyone Needs to Know.

36 Ibid.

37 Ibid.

38 International Crisis Group, Reform in Myanmar: One Year On.

39 Ibid.

40 David Steinberg, Burma/Myanmar:  What Everyone Needs to Know.

41 Morten Pedersen, "Promoting Human Rights in Burma:  A Critique of Western Sanctions Policy," Contemporary Southeast Asia, 30(2008),485-487.

42 Jeff Kingston, "Burma's Despair," Critical Asian Studies

43 Medecins Sans Frontieres, A Preventable Fate:  The Failure of ART scale-up in Myanmar; MSF Report, 2008.

44 Editor, "Burma: health and transition," Lancet, 23(2012),2313.

45 UNAIDS, The GAP Report, 2014, <>

46 Reliefweb, “HIV/TB Program WFP Myanmar,” 2016, <>

47 David Steinberg, Burma/Myanmar:  What Everyone Needs to Know.

48 Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and The Future of American Power.

49 UNAIDS, The GAP Report, 2014.

50 Reliefweb, “HIV/TB Program WFP Myanmar.”

51 Editor, "Burma: health and transition," 2313.

52 Jeff Kingston, "Burma's Despair," 43.

53 David Steinberg, Burma/Myanmar:  What Everyone Needs to Know.

54 Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and The Future of American Power.

55 M. Bucher, Personal communication, 2013.

56 Ian Holliday, Burma Redux.

57 George Yeo, "Myanmar and ASEAN: Finding Common Ground," International Herald Tribune, October 11, 2007. <>

58 Jeff Kingston, "Burma's Despair," Critical Asian Studies,43.

59 David Steinberg, Burma/Myanmar:  What Everyone Needs to Know.

60 George Yeo, "Myanmar and ASEAN: Finding Common Ground."

61 Jeff Kingston, "Burma's Despair," Critical Asian Studies.

62 Ibid.

63 Ibid.

64 Ibid.

65 Ibid.

66 Ibid.

67 Ibid.

68 Anonymous, "Obama hails Myanmar's remarkable progress," Foreign Affairs, 92(2013),77.

69 David Steinberg, Burma/Myanmar:  What Everyone Needs to Know.

70 Thant Myint-U, Where China Meets India:  Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia.

71 David Steinberg, Burma/Myanmar:  What Everyone Needs to Know.

72 Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and The Future of American Power.

73 International Crisis Group, Reform in Myanmar: One Year On.

74 Ibid.

75  Jeff Kingston, "Burma's Despair," Critical Asian Studies.

76 Ibid.

77 Ibid.

78 Kipgen, "US-Burma Relation: From Isolation to Engagement," Fair Observer, 6 May 2012. <>

79 International Crisis Group, Reform in Myanmar: One Year On.

80 Ibid.

81 Rosa Brooks, "The Pivot to Africa," Foreign Policy, 16 Aug 2012. <>

82 Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and The Future of American Power.

83 Tim Heinemann, Personal communication, Nov 2012.

84 Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and The Future of American.

85 Medecins Sans Frontieres, A Preventable Fate:  The Failure of ART scale-up in Myanmar.

86  Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and The Future of American.

87 Linda Robinson, "The Future of Special Operations," Foreign Affairs, 91(2012),110-22.

88 William H. McRaven,  Spec Ops: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1996).

89 John Thetford, telephone conversation with Mr. John Thetford of DIMO. In: Chambers JA, ed. San Antonio, 2012.

90 Sherrie Dyer-Bracher, "Healthcare in the rain forest," African Press and News, 29 March 2012. <>

91 Ibid.

92 P. Garretson, Personal Communication. Washington, D.C. 2013.        

93 Mort Rolleston, Lt Col Peter Garretson, “A Vision for Global Aviation Enterprise Development,” The DISAM Journal of International Security Cooperation Management, 2014, <>

94 Ibid.

95 Prashanth Parameswaran, “Russia May Deliver New Fighter Jets to Myanmar By End of 2016,” The Diplomat, 27 April 2016, <>

96 The Associated Press, “Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Vows to Amend Junta-Era Constitution,” The New York Times, 18 April 2016, <>

97 United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, “BURMA: USCIRF Urges Government to End Religious Freedom Abuses,” 16 April 2016, <>

98 Ibid.

99  Hillary Clinton, "America's Pacific Century," Foreign Policy, 11 Oct 2011. <>

100 David Steinberg, Burma/Myanmar:  What Everyone Needs to Know.

101 Robert D. Kaplan, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and The Future of American Power.

102 Ian Holliday, Burma Redux.

103 Ibid.

104  Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China, 2014.

105 International Crisis Group, Reform in Myanmar: One Year On.

106 Ibid.

107 Ian Holliday, Burma Redux.

108 Defense UDo, "Joint Publication 5-0," Joint Operation Planning, Washington, D.C., 2011. <>

109 Human Security Report Project, Human Security Report 2009/2010: The Causes of Peace and the Shrinking Costs of War, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

110 Thant Myint-U, Where China Meets India:  Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia.

111 Ibid.

112 Jeff Kingston, "Burma's Despair," Critical Asian Studies.

113 Thant Myint-U, Where China Meets India:  Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia.


About the Author(s)

A distinguished graduate of Air Force ROTC at Auburn University, Col (Dr.) Chambers was awarded the Doctor of Medicine as well as Master of Public Health & Tropical Medicine degrees from Tulane University in 1996.  After internship, he served two years at the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Florida supporting its foreign internal defense mission. He then served in the Joint Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, NC for four years.  Col Chambers is board-certified in both general surgery as well as plastic & reconstructive surgery.  After completing a hand and microsurgery fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, he served three years as a reconstructive surgeon at the San Antonio Military Medical Center where he frequently deployed in support of global health engagement missions, including three to China.  Proficient in Spanish, Portuguese, and French, he has traveled to over 50 nations.  He currently directs the Air Force International Health Specialist Program at the Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, VA.  Col Chambers has authored three books on surgical care and over twenty articles and chapters on trauma care, tropical medicine, and global health engagement.  Decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Air Medal, and the Aerial Achievement Medal.

Lt Col Kasi M. Chu, MPH, MD is associated with HQ Pacific Air Forces (HQ PACAF), Office of the Command Surgeon, Global Health Engagements branch.  She is a fellow of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.  She board-certified in Preventive Medicine and Pediatrics.

Maj Chelsea B. Payne, MPH, MD is an International Health Specialist in the United States Air Force. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Medicine. Maj Payne is currently completing a second residency in Preventive Medicine at the Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, MD.

Lt Col Catherine R. Platt is a healthcare provider in the United States Air Force.