January 1, 2014

Regarding the Dec. 30 editorial “Burma’s choice”:

Burma, called Myanmar by most of the world, is in the early stages of a hugely challenging triple transition: from civil war to peace, from authoritarian rule to a democratic political system and from a largely closed economy to a mostly open economy. The Post gave the impression that the success of these transitions depends entirely on the outcome of the political transition, which, in turn, depends on amending the existing constitution before the holding of national elections, scheduled for the end of 2015.

A constitution is just a piece of paper. Myanmar’s 1947 and 1974 constitutions were not respected for very long, and there are few reasons to believe that its 2008 constitution will be. It’s clear both that all three transitions will have to be successful for life in Myanmar to be better for most people five years from now than it was before the transitions began in 2011 and that success with the three transitions will take at least five more years.

This is not to say that amending the constitution is unimportant. But Americans should stand back and give the people of Myanmar time to find the shortest path to success, without imposing on them some fairyland concepts of how to build a just and prosperous society in a country with a troubled history.

Lex Rieffel, Washington

The writer is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.