PRESIDENT OBAMA'S inaugural address made the world's tyrants a proposition. "We will extend a hand," Mr. Obama said, "if you are willing to unclench your fist." It now appears that Burma could be one of the first test cases for this approach. For decades, a small group of military officers has ruled the multiethnic Southeast Asian nation, crushing all political opposition and exploiting vast natural resources for personal enrichment. Aung San Suu Kyi, the winner of a free election in 1990 -- and still the embodiment of the Burmese people's democratic dreams -- languishes under government-imposed house arrest. There are more than 2,000 political prisoners. In response, the United States has maintained economic sanctions against Burma since the late 1990s; Congress toughened them last year, with the strong support of then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.).