Well, bully for your, Senator Webb, that you got the Burmese Bad Boys to release the American contender for this year’s Darwin Awards for you to bring back to the States. No, really — nice work. However, I think it would have been much more statesman-like if you’d left him in Burma and instead secured the release of Aung San Suu Kyi — you know, the smart one, the fearless leader of a pro-democracy movement whose plight we’ve been oddly indifferent about while the Burmese junta has abused her for decades? While she’s still stuck going nowhere (and with her, any hopes of progress in Myanmar is stuck in house arrest), the heavies in Rangoon (or Naypyidaw, their new paranoid capital city a million miles from nowhere) can now parade around and tell the world all about the goodwill they showed by releasing an American Idiot.
Oh, but you got to meet Mrs. Suu Kyi (which is more than can be said for UN big kahuna Ki-Moon, who was flipped the bird by General Shwe and his frat buddies so thoroughly that Ki-Moon was worse off for even trying). A visit. How nice. How civil. A chance to present her, no doubt, with some well-intentioned platitudes about how the American government is doing “everything it can” to secure her release. Did you at least bring her chocolates? You’ll excuse me if I remain unimpressed. Not that I expect you to necessarily secure her release singlehandedly while Thailand, Singapore and others are propping up the regime by feverishly investing in Myanmar. But what with your buddy Bill Clinton getting the two journalists released from North Korea and now your stunt on behalf of Mr. Yettaw, the message appears to be classic American individualism writ large: while self-apppointed superheroes can work wonders for Americans in trouble, all we really have to offer those who have been trying (without much help from us) for decades to help millions of their fellow citizens by promoting human rights and democracy is to show up at their tea party and shake their hand, offer our condolensces, and then go back home.
Or, to put it more bluntly: no matter how stupid you are, if you’re American, we’ll send in the Marines (just one, in the case of Webb and Yettaw, or an entire brigade if you happen to be detained near a strategic oil reserve) to save your sorry ass. But even if you’re the Nobel-prize winning pro-democracy leader of the opposition to a the poster child of corrupt and homicidal regimes, and you’ve been stuck in jail for decades, it’s going to be lip service and little else. Hey, it’s a consistent strategy, I suppose, but it’s not one that really inspires much awe in the world, nor one that will do much to restore the US to its former position as the “leader” of the free world.