Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tibet

The Philippines and the American Empire of Liberty

If you want to know the secret of American power, look no farther than the Philippines. 

The U.S. once had a sprawling infrastructure of military bases there including a massive naval facility at Subic Bay and a massive air force base at Clark Air Base. But with the end of the Cold War and with nationalism rising in the Philippines–a country that was an American colony for a half-century–the U.S. agreed to pull up stakes in 1992. 

Now, President Obama is visiting the Philippines on Monday to sign a new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that will allow the U.S. Armed Forces regular access to Philippine military bases. This is not the same thing as getting permanent bases again–something prohibited by the Philippine constitution–but it is the next best thing, because it allows the U.S. to pre-position supplies and equipment in the Philippines.

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If you want to know the secret of American power, look no farther than the Philippines. 

The U.S. once had a sprawling infrastructure of military bases there including a massive naval facility at Subic Bay and a massive air force base at Clark Air Base. But with the end of the Cold War and with nationalism rising in the Philippines–a country that was an American colony for a half-century–the U.S. agreed to pull up stakes in 1992. 

Now, President Obama is visiting the Philippines on Monday to sign a new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that will allow the U.S. Armed Forces regular access to Philippine military bases. This is not the same thing as getting permanent bases again–something prohibited by the Philippine constitution–but it is the next best thing, because it allows the U.S. to pre-position supplies and equipment in the Philippines.

This demonstrates, in different ways, why America is an empire of liberty–not an empire of coercion. It’s true that we have a military presence around the world, with more bases in foreign territories than any other power by far. But we never–except for rare and short instances at the conclusion of wars–impose bases by force. Even countries that were once conquered by the United States–as the Philippines was at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War–eventually win the right to kick us out if they so desire. 

But countries that exercise their privilege to proclaim “Yankee, go home” often find themselves regretting their nationalist impulse. Certainly many Iraqis must by now regret the departure of U.S. forces, which has allowed violence to surge back to 2008 levels and sectarian strife to get worse and worse. And many Filipinos are equally sorry they kicked out the U.S. now that they see a far bigger threat looming on the horizon: China, which is using its navy to assert its claim over a tiny island in the South China Sea also claimed by the Philippines.

China is not an empire of liberty–it is the old-fashioned kind of territorial empire that imposes its diktat by force on Tibet and Xingjiang, among others, and threatens to do the same with Taiwan and various islands in the South China Sea. Chinese aggression is scaring its neighbors–just as Russian aggression is now doing in Eastern Europe. In both cases the threatened countries are looking to America for protection because they know we are the No. 1 champion of freedom in the world.

Those who predict the demise of American power ignore this obvious reality–namely, that America remains powerful because of a silent referendum on the part of most of the world. However much others may enjoy engaging in anti-American rhetoric, when the chips are down, they know they can count on the United States to keep them free.

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End the Human Rights Parody at Geneva

The United Nations obsession with demonizing Israel was once again on display this week in Geneva where the world body’s Human Rights Council voted to investigate the impact of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Palestinians. This so-called fact-finding mission is yet another UN kangaroo court that is set up to demonize the Jewish state and to allow the Palestinians to vent their intolerance for Jews in the guise of displaying their victim status. Since the Council has already made it clear that it considers that Jews have no right to live anywhere in the territories and that Israeli policies that make Jewish communities there possible are illegal (an assertion that is palpably false even if it has become a mantra of international diplomacy), the mission is really an indictment rather than an investigation.

The Obama administration deserves credit for the fact that the United States was the only one of the 47 members of the Council to vote against the resolution, which was one of five anti-Israel measures passed in Geneva this week. But this latest proof of the institution’s moral bankruptcy requires a stronger response than the rhetorical shrug of the shoulders that it generated that from Washington. The Council, which prior to this latest session had already devoted 39 out of the 91 actions it has taken since it was reconstituted in 2006 to denunciations of democratic Israel, is a parody of a human rights organization. At a time when the group is either paying mere lip service or flat out ignoring real human rights tragedies, the decision to devote the UN’s resources to another platform for hatred against Israel makes it imperative that the United States withdraw immediately from the Council.

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The United Nations obsession with demonizing Israel was once again on display this week in Geneva where the world body’s Human Rights Council voted to investigate the impact of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Palestinians. This so-called fact-finding mission is yet another UN kangaroo court that is set up to demonize the Jewish state and to allow the Palestinians to vent their intolerance for Jews in the guise of displaying their victim status. Since the Council has already made it clear that it considers that Jews have no right to live anywhere in the territories and that Israeli policies that make Jewish communities there possible are illegal (an assertion that is palpably false even if it has become a mantra of international diplomacy), the mission is really an indictment rather than an investigation.

The Obama administration deserves credit for the fact that the United States was the only one of the 47 members of the Council to vote against the resolution, which was one of five anti-Israel measures passed in Geneva this week. But this latest proof of the institution’s moral bankruptcy requires a stronger response than the rhetorical shrug of the shoulders that it generated that from Washington. The Council, which prior to this latest session had already devoted 39 out of the 91 actions it has taken since it was reconstituted in 2006 to denunciations of democratic Israel, is a parody of a human rights organization. At a time when the group is either paying mere lip service or flat out ignoring real human rights tragedies, the decision to devote the UN’s resources to another platform for hatred against Israel makes it imperative that the United States withdraw immediately from the Council.

Of course, given the Obama administration’s blind faith in the value of the UN, that isn’t going to happen. But as this week’s spectacle in Geneva — which included the reception at the Council of a representative of the Hamas terrorist organization — the argument that the United States can moderate the vicious anti-Zionism that runs throughout the world body’s institutions is not credible.

Israel has rightly said that it will not cooperate with the Council inquisition. Some that will say that such a policy only exacerbates the UN’s bias. But the reason the Council, which is stacked with member states where human rights barely exist, gets away with its prejudicial policies is because the West tolerates such behavior.

When the Council, which replaced a previous UN entity that the United States helped pulls the plug on, was brought into being in 2006, advocates for participation said that the new group would not be a platform for anti-Israel incitement as was its predecessor. But those hopes were quickly dashed.

There are those who welcome this double standard by which Israel is scrutinized more harshly than tyrannical regimes because it somehow demonstrates respect for the state’s values. This is nonsensical on two counts.

First, the refusal of the UN to play the same judgmental role in countries like Syria, which is awash in the blood of protesters slain by the Assad regime; or China, where the New York Times drew attention today to the ongoing human rights tragedy in Tibet, where the occupying Chinese have not only repressed dissent but are now engaging in a form of cultural genocide in which the country’s language is being expunged from schools; is itself evidence of racist condescension.

Second, it should be understood clearly that any system of thought by which one people or one nation is treated differently than others is a form of prejudice. In the case of Israel, the singling out for condemnation of the one Jewish state in the world on trumped up charges is evidence of anti-Semitism, not high regard.

The longer the United States continues to play along with this charade of concern for human rights, the less chance there will be of ever cleansing the UN of its anti-Semitic character.

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America Is Powerful, After All

The headlines claim that China was “scared to death of Nancy Pelosi,” but the real story is far more important:

China was “scared to death” over a visit by US Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is outspoken on human rights, and rejected her request to visit Tibet, according to files leaked Monday.

A top diplomat at the US embassy in Beijing said he asked Chin to consider letting Pelosi go to Tibet during her May 2009 visit to China, according to a cable obtained by whistleblower site WikiLeaks.

Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei responded that China could not arrange the trip due to Pelosi’s “tight schedule,” according to the cable reprinted by Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

The Chinese ambassador in Kazakhstan was blunter, telling his US counterpart over an expansive dinner that Beijing was “fearful” over Pelosi’s visit.

The Chinese were not, in fact, fearful of Pelosi. They were fearful of American ideals. This speaks to the enduring power of American condemnation. Onlookers are quick to dismiss the official naming and shaming of human rights abusers as a toothless substitute for “real” policy. That’s because they’ve come to underestimate the damage a little truth and justice can wreak on an abusive, secretive regime. This is why dissidents always push American leaders to talk about human rights abroad. They’ve lived under these regimes and have a feel for their fears and weaknesses. It’s only in free countries that we view public criticism of leaders as a form of impotence.

It’s no small thing to note that in an age when both threats and conciliations get us nowhere, a public embrace of our foundational ideals still sends a potent message. We talk about extending an outstretched hand to theocrats and the theocrats laugh. We talk about crippling sanctions and they laugh harder. To others, we offer aid in exchange for promises of an anti-terrorism crackdown; they collect and then ignore us. For others, we strain our alliances and make demands on our friends; we end up stymied. Still, to others we offer obsequious compromises and fresh starts; they smile kindly and make their own plans.  But we now know the one time in recent memory we had a regime “scared to death” was when it thought we’d mention the sanctity of human rights. Doubtless, this lesson in the fusion of ideals and interests will be lost on the great non-ideological, pragmatic leaders of our time.

The headlines claim that China was “scared to death of Nancy Pelosi,” but the real story is far more important:

China was “scared to death” over a visit by US Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is outspoken on human rights, and rejected her request to visit Tibet, according to files leaked Monday.

A top diplomat at the US embassy in Beijing said he asked Chin to consider letting Pelosi go to Tibet during her May 2009 visit to China, according to a cable obtained by whistleblower site WikiLeaks.

Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei responded that China could not arrange the trip due to Pelosi’s “tight schedule,” according to the cable reprinted by Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

The Chinese ambassador in Kazakhstan was blunter, telling his US counterpart over an expansive dinner that Beijing was “fearful” over Pelosi’s visit.

The Chinese were not, in fact, fearful of Pelosi. They were fearful of American ideals. This speaks to the enduring power of American condemnation. Onlookers are quick to dismiss the official naming and shaming of human rights abusers as a toothless substitute for “real” policy. That’s because they’ve come to underestimate the damage a little truth and justice can wreak on an abusive, secretive regime. This is why dissidents always push American leaders to talk about human rights abroad. They’ve lived under these regimes and have a feel for their fears and weaknesses. It’s only in free countries that we view public criticism of leaders as a form of impotence.

It’s no small thing to note that in an age when both threats and conciliations get us nowhere, a public embrace of our foundational ideals still sends a potent message. We talk about extending an outstretched hand to theocrats and the theocrats laugh. We talk about crippling sanctions and they laugh harder. To others, we offer aid in exchange for promises of an anti-terrorism crackdown; they collect and then ignore us. For others, we strain our alliances and make demands on our friends; we end up stymied. Still, to others we offer obsequious compromises and fresh starts; they smile kindly and make their own plans.  But we now know the one time in recent memory we had a regime “scared to death” was when it thought we’d mention the sanctity of human rights. Doubtless, this lesson in the fusion of ideals and interests will be lost on the great non-ideological, pragmatic leaders of our time.

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Obama’s Meeting with the Dalai Lama: Welcome but Late

Barack Obama did the right thing and met with the Dalai Lama today. The White House issued a statement after the private meeting, in which the president appropriately backed the preservation of Tibet’s “unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China.” While it broke no new ground, this is what we expect the leader of what we once called the “free world” to do: to use the moral and physical power of his office to stand with oppressed people like those in the captive nation of Tibet.

Predictably, the meeting has produced a great deal of huffing and puffing from the Chinese, who regard any criticism of their imperial reign in Tibet as a mortal offense. But those who fear that embracing the Dalai Lama will set in motion an international crisis are either alarmists or apologists for Beijing. Among the latter category are those who have been speaking in defense of China’s rule in Tibet and leaving out such minor nasty details as the brutal oppression of its native people and cultural genocide. An excellent example comes from Newsweek, which published a piece yesterday by their Beijing correspondent, Isaac Stone Fish, claiming China “has been good to Tibet.” Stone isn’t exactly an old China hand, as his Facebook page describes him as a recent graduate of Columbia University. But while young in years, the piece shows that he is apparently very wise in the ways of sucking up to the government of the country that he is covering.

But such distasteful flummery aside, it’s now worth asking ourselves whether the Obama administration might not be in a stronger position vis-à-vis China had it not spent its first year foolishly pursuing appeasement of Beijing. As Obama’s November trip to China proved, the Chinese (much like their friends in Iran) saw the president’s obsequious attitude as an expression of weakness and acted accordingly. Had the president started off his term by staking out the moral high ground on Tibet and making it clear that the United States wouldn’t abandon Taiwan, then minimal gestures like meeting with the Dalai Lama and selling arms to Taipei wouldn’t be cause for a crisis. Nor would the speculation about the impact of monetary issues and the amount of our debt to China be used as justification for our silence on human rights. Having come in to office solely obsessed with doing everything differently than George W. Bush, Obama is learning the hard way that his foolish belief in engagement and the power of his own personality is no substitute for hardheaded policy and principles.

Barack Obama did the right thing and met with the Dalai Lama today. The White House issued a statement after the private meeting, in which the president appropriately backed the preservation of Tibet’s “unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China.” While it broke no new ground, this is what we expect the leader of what we once called the “free world” to do: to use the moral and physical power of his office to stand with oppressed people like those in the captive nation of Tibet.

Predictably, the meeting has produced a great deal of huffing and puffing from the Chinese, who regard any criticism of their imperial reign in Tibet as a mortal offense. But those who fear that embracing the Dalai Lama will set in motion an international crisis are either alarmists or apologists for Beijing. Among the latter category are those who have been speaking in defense of China’s rule in Tibet and leaving out such minor nasty details as the brutal oppression of its native people and cultural genocide. An excellent example comes from Newsweek, which published a piece yesterday by their Beijing correspondent, Isaac Stone Fish, claiming China “has been good to Tibet.” Stone isn’t exactly an old China hand, as his Facebook page describes him as a recent graduate of Columbia University. But while young in years, the piece shows that he is apparently very wise in the ways of sucking up to the government of the country that he is covering.

But such distasteful flummery aside, it’s now worth asking ourselves whether the Obama administration might not be in a stronger position vis-à-vis China had it not spent its first year foolishly pursuing appeasement of Beijing. As Obama’s November trip to China proved, the Chinese (much like their friends in Iran) saw the president’s obsequious attitude as an expression of weakness and acted accordingly. Had the president started off his term by staking out the moral high ground on Tibet and making it clear that the United States wouldn’t abandon Taiwan, then minimal gestures like meeting with the Dalai Lama and selling arms to Taipei wouldn’t be cause for a crisis. Nor would the speculation about the impact of monetary issues and the amount of our debt to China be used as justification for our silence on human rights. Having come in to office solely obsessed with doing everything differently than George W. Bush, Obama is learning the hard way that his foolish belief in engagement and the power of his own personality is no substitute for hardheaded policy and principles.

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Re: Can the Chinese Bluff Obama Out of Meeting the Dalai Lama?

Jonathan, in your post you write, “America’s record on Chinese human rights has been spotty at best in the last generation. Bill Clinton met the Dalai Lama, but only informally. Similarly, George W. Bush only met privately with him.”

Actually, that’s not right, as this October 17, 2007 story (and accompanying picture) demonstrate. In the words of the Associated Press:

President Bush, raising Beijing’s ire, presented the Dalai Lama on Wednesday with the U.S. Congress’ highest civilian honor and urged Chinese leaders to welcome the monk to Beijing.

The exiled spiritual head of Tibet’s Buddhists by his side, Bush praised a man he called a “universal symbol of peace and tolerance, a shepherd of the faithful and a keeper of the flame for his people.”

“Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away,” Bush said at the U.S. Capitol building, where he personally handed the Dalai Lama the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.

The story continues:

China reviles the 72-year-old monk as a Tibetan separatist and vehemently protested the elaborate public ceremony. But at a news conference earlier in the day, Bush said he did not think his attendance at the ceremony would damage U.S. relations with China.

“I support religious freedom; he supports religious freedom. … I want to honor this man,” Bush told reporters at the White House. “I have consistently told the Chinese that religious freedom is in their nation’s interest.”

Whatever complaints one may have about George W. Bush, not standing up for human rights ought not to be one of them.

Jonathan, in your post you write, “America’s record on Chinese human rights has been spotty at best in the last generation. Bill Clinton met the Dalai Lama, but only informally. Similarly, George W. Bush only met privately with him.”

Actually, that’s not right, as this October 17, 2007 story (and accompanying picture) demonstrate. In the words of the Associated Press:

President Bush, raising Beijing’s ire, presented the Dalai Lama on Wednesday with the U.S. Congress’ highest civilian honor and urged Chinese leaders to welcome the monk to Beijing.

The exiled spiritual head of Tibet’s Buddhists by his side, Bush praised a man he called a “universal symbol of peace and tolerance, a shepherd of the faithful and a keeper of the flame for his people.”

“Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away,” Bush said at the U.S. Capitol building, where he personally handed the Dalai Lama the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.

The story continues:

China reviles the 72-year-old monk as a Tibetan separatist and vehemently protested the elaborate public ceremony. But at a news conference earlier in the day, Bush said he did not think his attendance at the ceremony would damage U.S. relations with China.

“I support religious freedom; he supports religious freedom. … I want to honor this man,” Bush told reporters at the White House. “I have consistently told the Chinese that religious freedom is in their nation’s interest.”

Whatever complaints one may have about George W. Bush, not standing up for human rights ought not to be one of them.

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Can the Chinese Bluff Obama out of Meeting the Dalai Lama?

The first year of the Obama presidency has been long on appeasement and apologies and very short on principled foreign-policy stands. This hasn’t done either Obama or the country any good, but the president now has the opportunity to change course with respect to one casualty to his previous genuflections: by finally meeting with the Dalai Llama, he can send China and the world the message that human rights do mean something to the United States in the age of Obama.

When the Dalai Lama visited the United States in the fall, Obama declined to meet with him because, as the White House explained, he didn’t want to antagonize the Chinese right before his November Asia trip. But now that his trip — during which Beijing humiliated the president anyway — is behind him, surely the time is ripe for Obama to send China a signal that its abuses in Tibet and elsewhere are a matter of serious concern. However, the Chinese are warning Obama that a meeting with the exiled Tibetan leader would damage relations with the United States. A Communist party official announced today in Beijing — which rejects all calls for more autonomy for the oppressed people of Tibet — that there will be “consequences” if the Dalai Lama is given an official meeting.

America’s record on Chinese human rights has been spotty at best in the last generation. Bill Clinton met the Dalai Lama, but only informally.  Similarly, George W. Bush only met privately with him. And despite occasional lip service paid by American leaders against China’s abuses of human rights and its jailing of democracy advocates, the animating spirit of U.S. policy toward China has been one of indifference to the plight of those Chinese yearning for freedom. Despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent condemnation of China’s attempt to escalate the muzzling of Google as well as cyber attacks on dissidents, Beijing has believed all along that this administration is a paper tiger. And as Beijing showed in November, its contempt for Obama, who foolishly hoped that appeasement might yield Chinese cooperation in stopping Iran’s nuclear program, is boundless. The Chinese believe, as do many Americans, that the size of America’s debt to China and the essential character of this administration mean they have nothing to fear from Washington.

The White House says Obama will meet with the Dalai Lama.  But it doesn’t say when. Last week’s State of the Union speech demonstrated again that when challenged by domestic critics, Obama’s instincts always tell him to stick to his plans, no matter how ill-considered they might be. But until now, his response to threats from governments like the Islamist regime in Iran, China, and Russia has been to back down. The question is whether he can find the courage to stand up and do the right thing, even on a mere symbolic point like meeting with a widely revered advocate of peace. An official meeting, something that neither President Bush nor President Clinton dared to do, would be the appropriate response to Beijing’s threats. It would also be a necessary signal that, despite every other recent indication, Washington hasn’t forgotten its moral obligation to speak up for millions of Chinese locked in the laogai — the Chinese gulag.

The first year of the Obama presidency has been long on appeasement and apologies and very short on principled foreign-policy stands. This hasn’t done either Obama or the country any good, but the president now has the opportunity to change course with respect to one casualty to his previous genuflections: by finally meeting with the Dalai Llama, he can send China and the world the message that human rights do mean something to the United States in the age of Obama.

When the Dalai Lama visited the United States in the fall, Obama declined to meet with him because, as the White House explained, he didn’t want to antagonize the Chinese right before his November Asia trip. But now that his trip — during which Beijing humiliated the president anyway — is behind him, surely the time is ripe for Obama to send China a signal that its abuses in Tibet and elsewhere are a matter of serious concern. However, the Chinese are warning Obama that a meeting with the exiled Tibetan leader would damage relations with the United States. A Communist party official announced today in Beijing — which rejects all calls for more autonomy for the oppressed people of Tibet — that there will be “consequences” if the Dalai Lama is given an official meeting.

America’s record on Chinese human rights has been spotty at best in the last generation. Bill Clinton met the Dalai Lama, but only informally.  Similarly, George W. Bush only met privately with him. And despite occasional lip service paid by American leaders against China’s abuses of human rights and its jailing of democracy advocates, the animating spirit of U.S. policy toward China has been one of indifference to the plight of those Chinese yearning for freedom. Despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent condemnation of China’s attempt to escalate the muzzling of Google as well as cyber attacks on dissidents, Beijing has believed all along that this administration is a paper tiger. And as Beijing showed in November, its contempt for Obama, who foolishly hoped that appeasement might yield Chinese cooperation in stopping Iran’s nuclear program, is boundless. The Chinese believe, as do many Americans, that the size of America’s debt to China and the essential character of this administration mean they have nothing to fear from Washington.

The White House says Obama will meet with the Dalai Lama.  But it doesn’t say when. Last week’s State of the Union speech demonstrated again that when challenged by domestic critics, Obama’s instincts always tell him to stick to his plans, no matter how ill-considered they might be. But until now, his response to threats from governments like the Islamist regime in Iran, China, and Russia has been to back down. The question is whether he can find the courage to stand up and do the right thing, even on a mere symbolic point like meeting with a widely revered advocate of peace. An official meeting, something that neither President Bush nor President Clinton dared to do, would be the appropriate response to Beijing’s threats. It would also be a necessary signal that, despite every other recent indication, Washington hasn’t forgotten its moral obligation to speak up for millions of Chinese locked in the laogai — the Chinese gulag.

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Obama’s Iran Deadline Gets Thrown Down the Memory Hole

For those optimists who still think the magic of Barack Obama’s diplomacy will create an international coalition that will force Iran to come to its senses and cease its development of nuclear weapons, January 1st was supposed to be an important date. The new year was the deadline for Iran to respond to a year’s worth of diplomatic overtures and begin backing down from the nuclear ledge onto which the Islamist regime had crawled.

Of course, the start of 2010 was not the first deadline Obama had given the Iranians. Back in July, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates promised the Israelis that the United States had given Iran until the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in September to respond to American overtures, a sentiment that was echoed by the G-8 countries that month. That deadline came and went without Iranian action. But it was followed by statements from President Obama, according to which he was now giving Tehran until the end of December to begin serious nuclear talks or face the threat of crippling sanctions to be imposed by a broad international coalition, including the governments of Russia and China. Thus, the turn of the calendar page would, Obama apologists told us, mark a turning point that would demonstrate that the administration really understood the dangers a nuclear Iran would pose to the West and to Israel.

But a full week has gone by since they dropped the ball in Times Square and nothing has  happened that ought to give the mullahs in Tehran any reason to worry. In fact, the first few days of January have brought some good news to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad and great discouragement to those who rightly worry about the threat their rogue regime represents.

First, the administration’s  hope that China would supply the diplomatic leverage for tough sanctions on Iran in 2010 was dealt another body blow. On Jan. 5, Ambassador Zhang Yesui, Beijing’s UN ambassador, plainly stated his nation’s lack of interest in such sanctions. After Obama’s disastrous trip to China in November, the administration had bragged that China’s support for sanctions was in the bag. It was clear then that they were lying but the latest Chinese pronouncement on the issue removes any doubt about the failure of Obama’s overtures. Thus, the president’s refusal to meet with the Dalai Llama and the downgrading of American support for the cause of human rights in China and Tibet achieved nothing much, just as Obama’s betrayal of America’s missile-defense promises to Poland and the Czech Republic did not persuade Russia to support the U.S. position on Iran. Obama’s appeasement campaign managed to undermine important American interests without doing anything to put more pressure on Iran.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged this failure earlier this week when she admitted that the administration’s efforts to “engage” Iran had not succeeded. As for the deadline her boss had given before sanctions she herself had said would be “crippling,” well, that’s another thing. Much like the administration’s reaction to the war being waged on the West by Islamist terrorists, which consists of a policy of trying to avoid using the word “terror” while never mentioning the connection between such terrorists and Islam, Clinton now appears to want to throw the word “deadline” down the memory hole. “Now, we’ve avoided using the term ‘deadline’ ourselves,” said Secretary Clinton. “That’s not a term that we have used, because we want to keep the door to dialogue open.”

In other words, the Iranians have called Obama’s bluff and discovered, to no one’s particular surprise, that he won’t back up his tough rhetoric with any real action. We are no closer to the sort of tough sanctions that would bring Iran’s economy to its knees and its leaders to heel than we were a year ago before Obama’s international charm and apology offensive began. And there is no reason to believe that either Obama or Clinton have a clue about how to alter this disturbing situation. Their feckless devotion to diplomacy for its own sake has resulted in a stronger position for Iran’s extremist leaders, who must be now congratulating themselves on their ability to defy America with impunity. The clock continues to tick down to the moment when an Iranian bomb becomes a reality and the only thing the Obama administration seems capable of doing in response to this frightening development is to continue to spin their failures and redefine a new era of Western appeasement.

For those optimists who still think the magic of Barack Obama’s diplomacy will create an international coalition that will force Iran to come to its senses and cease its development of nuclear weapons, January 1st was supposed to be an important date. The new year was the deadline for Iran to respond to a year’s worth of diplomatic overtures and begin backing down from the nuclear ledge onto which the Islamist regime had crawled.

Of course, the start of 2010 was not the first deadline Obama had given the Iranians. Back in July, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates promised the Israelis that the United States had given Iran until the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in September to respond to American overtures, a sentiment that was echoed by the G-8 countries that month. That deadline came and went without Iranian action. But it was followed by statements from President Obama, according to which he was now giving Tehran until the end of December to begin serious nuclear talks or face the threat of crippling sanctions to be imposed by a broad international coalition, including the governments of Russia and China. Thus, the turn of the calendar page would, Obama apologists told us, mark a turning point that would demonstrate that the administration really understood the dangers a nuclear Iran would pose to the West and to Israel.

But a full week has gone by since they dropped the ball in Times Square and nothing has  happened that ought to give the mullahs in Tehran any reason to worry. In fact, the first few days of January have brought some good news to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad and great discouragement to those who rightly worry about the threat their rogue regime represents.

First, the administration’s  hope that China would supply the diplomatic leverage for tough sanctions on Iran in 2010 was dealt another body blow. On Jan. 5, Ambassador Zhang Yesui, Beijing’s UN ambassador, plainly stated his nation’s lack of interest in such sanctions. After Obama’s disastrous trip to China in November, the administration had bragged that China’s support for sanctions was in the bag. It was clear then that they were lying but the latest Chinese pronouncement on the issue removes any doubt about the failure of Obama’s overtures. Thus, the president’s refusal to meet with the Dalai Llama and the downgrading of American support for the cause of human rights in China and Tibet achieved nothing much, just as Obama’s betrayal of America’s missile-defense promises to Poland and the Czech Republic did not persuade Russia to support the U.S. position on Iran. Obama’s appeasement campaign managed to undermine important American interests without doing anything to put more pressure on Iran.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged this failure earlier this week when she admitted that the administration’s efforts to “engage” Iran had not succeeded. As for the deadline her boss had given before sanctions she herself had said would be “crippling,” well, that’s another thing. Much like the administration’s reaction to the war being waged on the West by Islamist terrorists, which consists of a policy of trying to avoid using the word “terror” while never mentioning the connection between such terrorists and Islam, Clinton now appears to want to throw the word “deadline” down the memory hole. “Now, we’ve avoided using the term ‘deadline’ ourselves,” said Secretary Clinton. “That’s not a term that we have used, because we want to keep the door to dialogue open.”

In other words, the Iranians have called Obama’s bluff and discovered, to no one’s particular surprise, that he won’t back up his tough rhetoric with any real action. We are no closer to the sort of tough sanctions that would bring Iran’s economy to its knees and its leaders to heel than we were a year ago before Obama’s international charm and apology offensive began. And there is no reason to believe that either Obama or Clinton have a clue about how to alter this disturbing situation. Their feckless devotion to diplomacy for its own sake has resulted in a stronger position for Iran’s extremist leaders, who must be now congratulating themselves on their ability to defy America with impunity. The clock continues to tick down to the moment when an Iranian bomb becomes a reality and the only thing the Obama administration seems capable of doing in response to this frightening development is to continue to spin their failures and redefine a new era of Western appeasement.

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Havel Unplugged

Vaclav Havel, in a intriguing interview, explains why “small compromises” on human rights have a dangerously cumulative effect:

We know this from our modern history. When [French Prime Minister Edouard] Daladier returned from the [1938] Munich conference, the whole nation was applauding him for saving the peace. He made a miniscule compromise in the interest of peace. But it was the beginning of a chain of evil that subsequently brought about many millions of deaths. We can’t just say, “This is just a small compromise that can be overlooked. First we will go to China and then perhaps talk with the Dalai Lama.” It all looks practical, pragmatic, logical, but it is necessary to think about whether it is not the first small compromise that can be the beginning of that long chain that is no good. In this case perhaps it will not be, but it was the first thing that came to my mind.

Havel then shares an anecdote that comes at a timely juncture. At West Point and again in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Obama waxed lyrical about human rights. But in practice he has consistently shoved human rights off his agenda, going as far as defunding Iranian democracy protesters and objecting to support for new media for Iranian dissidents. This as he engages despotic regimes without any sign of progress in their treatment of their own people. Havel argues, “Politics, it means, every day making some compromises, and to choose between one evil and another evil, and to decide which is bigger and which is smaller.” He recounts:

Two days after I was elected president, I invited the Dalai Lama to visit. I was the first head of the state who invited him in this way, directly. And everybody was saying that it was a terribly dangerous act and issued their disapproving statements and expressions. But it was a ritual matter. Later, the Chinese deputy prime minister and the foreign minister came for a visit and brought me a pile of books about the Dalai Lama and some governmental documents about what good care they have taken of Tibet, and so on. They were propagandist, fabricated books, but he felt the need to explain something to me.

I had a press conference with this minister of foreign affairs. And he said, “It was wonderful, meeting, because we were speaking openly. Mr. Havel gave me his opinion, and I explained the opinion of our government. I gave him this book, and he thanked me for it.”

This was unbelievable! Why did they feel the need to explain their point of view to the leader of such a small nation? Because they respect it when someone is standing his ground, when someone is not afraid of them. When someone soils his pants prematurely, then they do not respect you more for it.

Well, that’s one way of putting it. The question is an apt one for the Obami: what have they gained from pushing human rights off the agenda and what evidence do we have that this has produced benefits for America or for those living under the boot of thugocracies? It seems we might earn respect — restore America’s standing in the world, as the Obami like to say — by standing up to Iran, China, Russia, and the rest rather than saving pretty words for West Point cadets and Norwegian elites who are less in need of a lecture than the despots to whom Obama has strained to ingratiate himself.

Vaclav Havel, in a intriguing interview, explains why “small compromises” on human rights have a dangerously cumulative effect:

We know this from our modern history. When [French Prime Minister Edouard] Daladier returned from the [1938] Munich conference, the whole nation was applauding him for saving the peace. He made a miniscule compromise in the interest of peace. But it was the beginning of a chain of evil that subsequently brought about many millions of deaths. We can’t just say, “This is just a small compromise that can be overlooked. First we will go to China and then perhaps talk with the Dalai Lama.” It all looks practical, pragmatic, logical, but it is necessary to think about whether it is not the first small compromise that can be the beginning of that long chain that is no good. In this case perhaps it will not be, but it was the first thing that came to my mind.

Havel then shares an anecdote that comes at a timely juncture. At West Point and again in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Obama waxed lyrical about human rights. But in practice he has consistently shoved human rights off his agenda, going as far as defunding Iranian democracy protesters and objecting to support for new media for Iranian dissidents. This as he engages despotic regimes without any sign of progress in their treatment of their own people. Havel argues, “Politics, it means, every day making some compromises, and to choose between one evil and another evil, and to decide which is bigger and which is smaller.” He recounts:

Two days after I was elected president, I invited the Dalai Lama to visit. I was the first head of the state who invited him in this way, directly. And everybody was saying that it was a terribly dangerous act and issued their disapproving statements and expressions. But it was a ritual matter. Later, the Chinese deputy prime minister and the foreign minister came for a visit and brought me a pile of books about the Dalai Lama and some governmental documents about what good care they have taken of Tibet, and so on. They were propagandist, fabricated books, but he felt the need to explain something to me.

I had a press conference with this minister of foreign affairs. And he said, “It was wonderful, meeting, because we were speaking openly. Mr. Havel gave me his opinion, and I explained the opinion of our government. I gave him this book, and he thanked me for it.”

This was unbelievable! Why did they feel the need to explain their point of view to the leader of such a small nation? Because they respect it when someone is standing his ground, when someone is not afraid of them. When someone soils his pants prematurely, then they do not respect you more for it.

Well, that’s one way of putting it. The question is an apt one for the Obami: what have they gained from pushing human rights off the agenda and what evidence do we have that this has produced benefits for America or for those living under the boot of thugocracies? It seems we might earn respect — restore America’s standing in the world, as the Obami like to say — by standing up to Iran, China, Russia, and the rest rather than saving pretty words for West Point cadets and Norwegian elites who are less in need of a lecture than the despots to whom Obama has strained to ingratiate himself.

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Deporting Chinese Students

Last Wednesday, the South Korean government announced that it will deport Chinese citizens found guilty of attacks during the running of the Olympic torch in Seoul last month. “The justice ministry, while fully respecting the friendly ties between South Korea and China, will sternly punish Chinese nationals who committed illegal acts,” a ministry spokesman said. The authorities were specifically looking for four Chinese, including a student suspected of injuring a policeman in a fight in a hotel lobby at the end of the torch relay.

Small South Korea has historically had trouble dealing with large China, yet Seoul’s officials have now found the courage to stand up to Beijing, which had earlier rushed to the defense of the students. So what is the most powerful country in the history of the world doing about its Chinese student problem?

Chinese students in the United States made a series of death threats last month. The most prominent incident involved Grace Wang, a Duke freshman who tried to mediate between twelve pro-Tibet protestors and a crowd of about 500 angry people, mostly Chinese citizens. As a result, her home in China was vandalized, her family there was forced into hiding, and she became the target of death threats in the United States.

Those who made threats against Wang should be found, jailed, and, if foreign nationals, deported. And that goes for all the others who made death threats on American colleges during the last couple months. Universities are vital institutions, and attempts to undermine freedom of expression on campus strike at the heart of our society. There should be zero tolerance for such intolerance. And Washington needs to send a clear message to Beijing, which appears to have orchestrated the “pro-China” demonstrations of students.

It’s bad enough that the Chinese Communist Party represses China’s people. It’s worse when it seeks to repress ours.

Last Wednesday, the South Korean government announced that it will deport Chinese citizens found guilty of attacks during the running of the Olympic torch in Seoul last month. “The justice ministry, while fully respecting the friendly ties between South Korea and China, will sternly punish Chinese nationals who committed illegal acts,” a ministry spokesman said. The authorities were specifically looking for four Chinese, including a student suspected of injuring a policeman in a fight in a hotel lobby at the end of the torch relay.

Small South Korea has historically had trouble dealing with large China, yet Seoul’s officials have now found the courage to stand up to Beijing, which had earlier rushed to the defense of the students. So what is the most powerful country in the history of the world doing about its Chinese student problem?

Chinese students in the United States made a series of death threats last month. The most prominent incident involved Grace Wang, a Duke freshman who tried to mediate between twelve pro-Tibet protestors and a crowd of about 500 angry people, mostly Chinese citizens. As a result, her home in China was vandalized, her family there was forced into hiding, and she became the target of death threats in the United States.

Those who made threats against Wang should be found, jailed, and, if foreign nationals, deported. And that goes for all the others who made death threats on American colleges during the last couple months. Universities are vital institutions, and attempts to undermine freedom of expression on campus strike at the heart of our society. There should be zero tolerance for such intolerance. And Washington needs to send a clear message to Beijing, which appears to have orchestrated the “pro-China” demonstrations of students.

It’s bad enough that the Chinese Communist Party represses China’s people. It’s worse when it seeks to repress ours.

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Politics Of The Olympics

In the substantive debate, aptly argued by Gordon Chang and David Hazony, over whether the U.S. should participate in the Olympics, I find myself searching for a clear middle ground. To my shock, Hillary Clinton steps forward to offer this:

The violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are opportunities for Presidential leadership. These events underscore why I believe the Bush administration has been wrong to downplay human rights in its policy towards China. At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government. I encourage the Chinese to take advantage of this moment as an opportunity to live up to universal human aspirations of respect for human rights and unity, ideals that the Olympic games have come to represent. Americans will stand strong in support of freedom of religious and political expression and human rights. Americans will also stand strong and root for the success of American athletes who have worked hard and earned the right to compete in the Olympic Games of 2008.

This strikes me, aside from the argument’s merits, as just plain smart politics. It shifts the focus off Penn-gate. It sounds a note simultaneously likely to appeal to those on the Right (who like standing up to dictators) and Left (who want more attention to human rights). She was first of the candidates to speak up on this issue and now looks bolder than her opponents. If this is a sign of the post-Penn Hillary, things may be looking up.

In the substantive debate, aptly argued by Gordon Chang and David Hazony, over whether the U.S. should participate in the Olympics, I find myself searching for a clear middle ground. To my shock, Hillary Clinton steps forward to offer this:

The violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are opportunities for Presidential leadership. These events underscore why I believe the Bush administration has been wrong to downplay human rights in its policy towards China. At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government. I encourage the Chinese to take advantage of this moment as an opportunity to live up to universal human aspirations of respect for human rights and unity, ideals that the Olympic games have come to represent. Americans will stand strong in support of freedom of religious and political expression and human rights. Americans will also stand strong and root for the success of American athletes who have worked hard and earned the right to compete in the Olympic Games of 2008.

This strikes me, aside from the argument’s merits, as just plain smart politics. It shifts the focus off Penn-gate. It sounds a note simultaneously likely to appeal to those on the Right (who like standing up to dictators) and Left (who want more attention to human rights). She was first of the candidates to speak up on this issue and now looks bolder than her opponents. If this is a sign of the post-Penn Hillary, things may be looking up.

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Re: Why We Shouldn’t Boycott the 2008 Games

David Hazony, in a well-reasoned posting in this forum, argues that nations should not boycott this year’s Summer Olympics, scheduled to begin in August in Beijing. No one wants to snuff out young athletes’ dreams, as he puts it, but we must remember that they are not the only ones whose fortunes are at stake. Chinese people have been forcibly relocated, illegally incarcerated, and unjustifiably deprived of basic rights so that autocrats can stage a celebration of more than a half century of misrule. They have, in order to put on their extravaganza, reemployed mass-mobilization techniques and reimposed strict social controls, the essential tools of totalitarian governance.

At home, China’s government has implemented a campaign of repression now lasting five years. Abroad, Beijing in this half decade has continued its support for criminal regimes and persisted in other irresponsible policies. Whether we like it or not, participation in the Olympics is giving legitimacy to all the Chinese state has done internally and externally. Moreover, that state is having an extended argument with its people, and by participating in the Olympics we are taking the wrong side.

As China’s Communist Party so often says, the Games should not be “politicized.” Yet the reality is that it has already done so. Beijing made the promotion of Chinese human rights a foundation of its Olympic bid. It will be using its Olympic torch relay, the longest in history, to bolster its claim to restive areas, including Tibet. And Chinese leaders have, without precedent, invited about fifty heads of state to the opening ceremony on August 8 so that they can, at least in China’s eyes, pledge their allegiance to the People’s Republic of China.

Nonetheless, Hazony says we should refuse to boycott the Games so that athletes can conduct a “symbolic debate on the playing field.” I agree that we should not punish the contestants for the gross error made by others of awarding the Olympics to China. But now that this mistake has been made, no world leader should show support for the Chinese Communist Party. The opening ceremony has nothing to do with sport. This year, it will be a mass event with totalitarian overtones. For the sake of the great people of China, no one-no president, prime minister, or athlete-should participate in this glorification of all that is reprehensible and repugnant.

David Hazony, in a well-reasoned posting in this forum, argues that nations should not boycott this year’s Summer Olympics, scheduled to begin in August in Beijing. No one wants to snuff out young athletes’ dreams, as he puts it, but we must remember that they are not the only ones whose fortunes are at stake. Chinese people have been forcibly relocated, illegally incarcerated, and unjustifiably deprived of basic rights so that autocrats can stage a celebration of more than a half century of misrule. They have, in order to put on their extravaganza, reemployed mass-mobilization techniques and reimposed strict social controls, the essential tools of totalitarian governance.

At home, China’s government has implemented a campaign of repression now lasting five years. Abroad, Beijing in this half decade has continued its support for criminal regimes and persisted in other irresponsible policies. Whether we like it or not, participation in the Olympics is giving legitimacy to all the Chinese state has done internally and externally. Moreover, that state is having an extended argument with its people, and by participating in the Olympics we are taking the wrong side.

As China’s Communist Party so often says, the Games should not be “politicized.” Yet the reality is that it has already done so. Beijing made the promotion of Chinese human rights a foundation of its Olympic bid. It will be using its Olympic torch relay, the longest in history, to bolster its claim to restive areas, including Tibet. And Chinese leaders have, without precedent, invited about fifty heads of state to the opening ceremony on August 8 so that they can, at least in China’s eyes, pledge their allegiance to the People’s Republic of China.

Nonetheless, Hazony says we should refuse to boycott the Games so that athletes can conduct a “symbolic debate on the playing field.” I agree that we should not punish the contestants for the gross error made by others of awarding the Olympics to China. But now that this mistake has been made, no world leader should show support for the Chinese Communist Party. The opening ceremony has nothing to do with sport. This year, it will be a mass event with totalitarian overtones. For the sake of the great people of China, no one-no president, prime minister, or athlete-should participate in this glorification of all that is reprehensible and repugnant.

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Bush: AWOL on Human Rights?

With three European leaders–Angela Merkel of Germany, Donald Tusk of Poland, and Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic–having now announced that they will not attend the Beijing Olympic games to protest China’s treatment of Tibet, Washington’s near total silence is increasingly troubling.

Where, in particular is President Bush? He came out swinging In November of last year, when police shot peacefully protesting monks in Burma, Speaking before the United Nations, he condemned that country’s “19-year reign of fear” while calling for economic sanctions and announcing “an expanded visa ban on those responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights, as well as their family members.”

The George Bush who briefly broke his silence about Tibet last Friday at a joint White House press conference was by contrast feeble. According to the New York Times it was his guest, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who laid out the case squarely, calling human rights abuses in Tibet “clear-cut,” adding “We need to be upfront and absolutely straight about what is going on.” Bush said only “[T]hat it [was] in his country’s interest that he sit down, again with representatives of the Dalai Lama–not him, but his representatives.”

Those last five words should be noted. Even as Lhasa burns and reports of atrocities continue to find their way out, the administration still is not urging direct talks with the Dalai Lama himself (as the Europeans and others have done), but rather only with “his representatives.” This careful official evasion manifests a United States unwillingness to contradict directly Beijing’s insistent denunciation of the Tibetan leader. (Most recently official Chinese media reported, contrary to fact, that it was the Dalai Lama who was blocking talks.)

This week Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson will be heading for Beijing, to talk economics. But be reassured: he will mention Tibet: “All senior U.S. officials do raise our concerns with respect to Tibet and this trip will be no different,” he said. Paulson’s understatement, and the President’s avoidance of the issue, are products of the administration’s initial assumption that, after a quick and decisive Chinese crackdown, the March unrest in Tibet would prove no more than a bump on the road to the triumphant Beijing Olympics in August. American interest was therefore to stick with China’s government, even if doing so involved some substantial trimming of American values.

That approach is untenable now, as unrest spreads and world indignation grows. How to respond to Chinese oppression of Tibet has become a defining issue. Angela Merkel and her counterparts have firmly taken the lead in doing the right thing. The new question is, when and how will the putative “leader of the free world” follow?

With three European leaders–Angela Merkel of Germany, Donald Tusk of Poland, and Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic–having now announced that they will not attend the Beijing Olympic games to protest China’s treatment of Tibet, Washington’s near total silence is increasingly troubling.

Where, in particular is President Bush? He came out swinging In November of last year, when police shot peacefully protesting monks in Burma, Speaking before the United Nations, he condemned that country’s “19-year reign of fear” while calling for economic sanctions and announcing “an expanded visa ban on those responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights, as well as their family members.”

The George Bush who briefly broke his silence about Tibet last Friday at a joint White House press conference was by contrast feeble. According to the New York Times it was his guest, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who laid out the case squarely, calling human rights abuses in Tibet “clear-cut,” adding “We need to be upfront and absolutely straight about what is going on.” Bush said only “[T]hat it [was] in his country’s interest that he sit down, again with representatives of the Dalai Lama–not him, but his representatives.”

Those last five words should be noted. Even as Lhasa burns and reports of atrocities continue to find their way out, the administration still is not urging direct talks with the Dalai Lama himself (as the Europeans and others have done), but rather only with “his representatives.” This careful official evasion manifests a United States unwillingness to contradict directly Beijing’s insistent denunciation of the Tibetan leader. (Most recently official Chinese media reported, contrary to fact, that it was the Dalai Lama who was blocking talks.)

This week Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson will be heading for Beijing, to talk economics. But be reassured: he will mention Tibet: “All senior U.S. officials do raise our concerns with respect to Tibet and this trip will be no different,” he said. Paulson’s understatement, and the President’s avoidance of the issue, are products of the administration’s initial assumption that, after a quick and decisive Chinese crackdown, the March unrest in Tibet would prove no more than a bump on the road to the triumphant Beijing Olympics in August. American interest was therefore to stick with China’s government, even if doing so involved some substantial trimming of American values.

That approach is untenable now, as unrest spreads and world indignation grows. How to respond to Chinese oppression of Tibet has become a defining issue. Angela Merkel and her counterparts have firmly taken the lead in doing the right thing. The new question is, when and how will the putative “leader of the free world” follow?

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Ma Wins. Now What?

The New York Times regularly signals changes in the conventional wisdom of our foreign policy elite. Careful reading of its reporting on the election of Ma Ying-jeou as president of Taiwan suggests that the impossiblilities of the policies laid down in the 1970’s are now, gradually, being faced.

To be sure, the Times editorial page joins in the official delight at the overwhelming defeat of the Democratic Progressive Party of the widely vilified President Chen Shuibian, who “spent much of the last eight years baiting Beijing, talking about independence, and seeking international recognition.”

With the departure of Chen, and the election of a president of Chinese ancestry, fluent in English and with a degree from Harvard Law School, the Times sees “a chance for a healthy new start” in Taiwan-China relations. “Mr. Ma has proposed economic opening to China, military confidence building measures, and “a diplomatic framework in which the two sides simply acknowledge each other’s existence.” “The Bush administration” it tells us “is already pressing Beijing to work with Mr. Ma”–this even before he has been inaugurated.

The hopes of both the Times and of Washington are likely to be disappointed. When that happens, they will both face a test.

To begin with, Ma has stated that China must dismantle the thousand-plus missiles with which she currently targets the island. He has also welcomed a visit to his country by the Dalai Lama. That is already enough to enrage Beijing, but only a start.

The truly tricky task, as the newspaper noted two days earlier, will be for Ma “to find a formula that balances Beijing’s position that Taiwan is a breakaway province and Taiwan’s position that it is a sovereign country.”

Finding such a formula will be more than tricky. It will be impossible without the (highly unlikely) amendment of the Chinese constitution, which explicitly claims Taiwan as a province—a fact the Times does not mention.

The result? The “healthy new start” that the Times anticipates will likely lead nowhere. Like every elected president of Taiwan, Ma will have to choose between standing for what his people want and yielding to Beijing. When Ma likely refuses to yield, Beijing will castigate him and call on Washington to do the same—as we always have in the past.

But maybe not this time. The conclusion of the editorial suggests that the blame for failure may now be laid at Beijing’s door.

“China’s authoritarian ways are backfiring in Tibet,” the editorial concludes. “Whatever Beijing’s fantasies about unification, it is not likely to happen soon-and maybe not ever–given Taiwan’s strong commitment to political and economic freedom. China would be better off following Mr. Ma’s lead . . .”

Following Mr. Ma is something that Beijing is unlikely to do. But for Washington, like the Times, to offer steady support to realistic proposals by Taiwan’s democratically-elected government would be a genuinely constructive change.

The New York Times regularly signals changes in the conventional wisdom of our foreign policy elite. Careful reading of its reporting on the election of Ma Ying-jeou as president of Taiwan suggests that the impossiblilities of the policies laid down in the 1970’s are now, gradually, being faced.

To be sure, the Times editorial page joins in the official delight at the overwhelming defeat of the Democratic Progressive Party of the widely vilified President Chen Shuibian, who “spent much of the last eight years baiting Beijing, talking about independence, and seeking international recognition.”

With the departure of Chen, and the election of a president of Chinese ancestry, fluent in English and with a degree from Harvard Law School, the Times sees “a chance for a healthy new start” in Taiwan-China relations. “Mr. Ma has proposed economic opening to China, military confidence building measures, and “a diplomatic framework in which the two sides simply acknowledge each other’s existence.” “The Bush administration” it tells us “is already pressing Beijing to work with Mr. Ma”–this even before he has been inaugurated.

The hopes of both the Times and of Washington are likely to be disappointed. When that happens, they will both face a test.

To begin with, Ma has stated that China must dismantle the thousand-plus missiles with which she currently targets the island. He has also welcomed a visit to his country by the Dalai Lama. That is already enough to enrage Beijing, but only a start.

The truly tricky task, as the newspaper noted two days earlier, will be for Ma “to find a formula that balances Beijing’s position that Taiwan is a breakaway province and Taiwan’s position that it is a sovereign country.”

Finding such a formula will be more than tricky. It will be impossible without the (highly unlikely) amendment of the Chinese constitution, which explicitly claims Taiwan as a province—a fact the Times does not mention.

The result? The “healthy new start” that the Times anticipates will likely lead nowhere. Like every elected president of Taiwan, Ma will have to choose between standing for what his people want and yielding to Beijing. When Ma likely refuses to yield, Beijing will castigate him and call on Washington to do the same—as we always have in the past.

But maybe not this time. The conclusion of the editorial suggests that the blame for failure may now be laid at Beijing’s door.

“China’s authoritarian ways are backfiring in Tibet,” the editorial concludes. “Whatever Beijing’s fantasies about unification, it is not likely to happen soon-and maybe not ever–given Taiwan’s strong commitment to political and economic freedom. China would be better off following Mr. Ma’s lead . . .”

Following Mr. Ma is something that Beijing is unlikely to do. But for Washington, like the Times, to offer steady support to realistic proposals by Taiwan’s democratically-elected government would be a genuinely constructive change.

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The “Other Tibet”

“We are now engaged in a fierce blood-and-fire battle with the Dalai clique, a life-and-death battle between us and the enemy,” said Zhang Qingli, the Communist Party boss in Tibet, in the middle of last week. That sounds a little dramatic, especially because no one thinks the Tibetans can gain independence, much less bring down the one-party state. Nonetheless, the mighty Communist Party is rightly concerned. The Tibetans aren’t the only restive minority group the Chinese rule.

Welcome to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the “other Tibet.” It is three times the size of France, a sixth of China’s landmass, and China’s largest province. This region is inhabited by Turkic Muslims who believe they should govern themselves in an independent state. The Uighurs, by all accounts, hate the Chinese more than the Tibetans do, if that is possible. Throughout history, these Muslims have managed to free themselves periodically from Chinese rule. Now, however, they live in the Autonomous Region, which for more than five decades has been tightly governed from a thousand miles away. In the wake of the Tibetan disturbances, Chinese authorities have tightened surveillance of Uighurs and have stepped up their national campaign against “splittists” of all types. On Saturday, People’s Daily, without evidence, accused the Dalai Lama of colluding with the country’s Muslims to plan attacks.

The People’s Republic of China is a vast multicultural empire. Unfortunately for the so-called Han, the dominant ethnic grouping in the country, most minority “citizens” do not think of themselves as “Chinese” and want no part of Beijing’s rule. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Uighurs, like the Tibetans, have periodically erupted in violence. The last major Muslim revolt occurred in 1997 and was centered in Yining, a remote city near the border with Kazakhstan. The Uighurs, at times, resort to terrorism and violence in large part because Beijing has attempted to control their homeland by importing Han settlers, just as it does in Tibet. The Dalai Lama rightly calls the tactic “cultural genocide.”

In 2002, the Bush administration, at the behest of Beijing, designated the East Turkistan Islamic Movement a terrorist organization. Many dispute the characterization. But, whatever the facts, the United States should not help autocrats suppress ethnically distinct peoples. Due to their abhorrent policies, the Han Chinese will continue to suffer from minority revolts. The United States, however, need not be a part of this continuous dynamic of suppression and insurrection.

“We are now engaged in a fierce blood-and-fire battle with the Dalai clique, a life-and-death battle between us and the enemy,” said Zhang Qingli, the Communist Party boss in Tibet, in the middle of last week. That sounds a little dramatic, especially because no one thinks the Tibetans can gain independence, much less bring down the one-party state. Nonetheless, the mighty Communist Party is rightly concerned. The Tibetans aren’t the only restive minority group the Chinese rule.

Welcome to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the “other Tibet.” It is three times the size of France, a sixth of China’s landmass, and China’s largest province. This region is inhabited by Turkic Muslims who believe they should govern themselves in an independent state. The Uighurs, by all accounts, hate the Chinese more than the Tibetans do, if that is possible. Throughout history, these Muslims have managed to free themselves periodically from Chinese rule. Now, however, they live in the Autonomous Region, which for more than five decades has been tightly governed from a thousand miles away. In the wake of the Tibetan disturbances, Chinese authorities have tightened surveillance of Uighurs and have stepped up their national campaign against “splittists” of all types. On Saturday, People’s Daily, without evidence, accused the Dalai Lama of colluding with the country’s Muslims to plan attacks.

The People’s Republic of China is a vast multicultural empire. Unfortunately for the so-called Han, the dominant ethnic grouping in the country, most minority “citizens” do not think of themselves as “Chinese” and want no part of Beijing’s rule. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Uighurs, like the Tibetans, have periodically erupted in violence. The last major Muslim revolt occurred in 1997 and was centered in Yining, a remote city near the border with Kazakhstan. The Uighurs, at times, resort to terrorism and violence in large part because Beijing has attempted to control their homeland by importing Han settlers, just as it does in Tibet. The Dalai Lama rightly calls the tactic “cultural genocide.”

In 2002, the Bush administration, at the behest of Beijing, designated the East Turkistan Islamic Movement a terrorist organization. Many dispute the characterization. But, whatever the facts, the United States should not help autocrats suppress ethnically distinct peoples. Due to their abhorrent policies, the Han Chinese will continue to suffer from minority revolts. The United States, however, need not be a part of this continuous dynamic of suppression and insurrection.

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China Games

Was the uprising in Tibet predictable? The Times reports today that the Chinese authorities appear to have been caught by surprise. That itself is a surprise, given Beijing’s acute sensitivities about anything that might disrupt the Olympic games scheduled for August.

Arch Puddington, writing in COMMENTARY this past November, surveyed previous Olympics held in unfree countries. The conclusion of his China Games is even more arresting today than it was five months ago:

If the past is any guide, it is the most sinister and shocking features of a dictatorship that are the likeliest to emerge when it hosts the Olympics.

For Germany in 1936 at the Berlin games, it was militarism and anti-Semitism that reared their hideous heads. For the USSR in 1980, it was imperial aggression, with Afghanistan the Kremlin’s most recent victim.

Puddington did not offer any specific predictions about what China might face in 2008. But he speculated that “the Chinese authorities themselves might well be in the dark about what the Olympics finally portend.” This, too, as their handling of the Tibet uprising turns into a fiasco, was a prescient observation.

If the Chinese authorities want to stay abreast of events in their own country, perhaps they should be reading COMMENTARY. Oh, they can’t. It’s locked up behind their Great Firewall.

Was the uprising in Tibet predictable? The Times reports today that the Chinese authorities appear to have been caught by surprise. That itself is a surprise, given Beijing’s acute sensitivities about anything that might disrupt the Olympic games scheduled for August.

Arch Puddington, writing in COMMENTARY this past November, surveyed previous Olympics held in unfree countries. The conclusion of his China Games is even more arresting today than it was five months ago:

If the past is any guide, it is the most sinister and shocking features of a dictatorship that are the likeliest to emerge when it hosts the Olympics.

For Germany in 1936 at the Berlin games, it was militarism and anti-Semitism that reared their hideous heads. For the USSR in 1980, it was imperial aggression, with Afghanistan the Kremlin’s most recent victim.

Puddington did not offer any specific predictions about what China might face in 2008. But he speculated that “the Chinese authorities themselves might well be in the dark about what the Olympics finally portend.” This, too, as their handling of the Tibet uprising turns into a fiasco, was a prescient observation.

If the Chinese authorities want to stay abreast of events in their own country, perhaps they should be reading COMMENTARY. Oh, they can’t. It’s locked up behind their Great Firewall.

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Taiwan, the Next Tibet?

On Saturday, Taiwan’s 17 million voters head to the polls to elect a new president. For most of the campaign, the dominant issue has been the economy. Both Frank Hsieh of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang favor closer business ties with China. Ma, for instance, has promoted a Greater China Common Market. Hsieh has adopted a less integrationist approach.

At one point, it didn’t really matter what Hsieh wanted. His opponent, the charismatic Ma, was ahead by a gigantic margin. Depending on the poll, his lead was ten, twenty, or thirty points. Those big margins, however, existed before the outbreak of the insurgency in Tibet—and Beijing’s harsh crackdown. After the bloodshed, Ma’s almost insurmountable lead has appeared to vanish. Taiwan law prohibits the release of polling data ten days before an election, but private polls by the two parties show a tight race with the Kuomintang candidate slightly ahead.

“I severely condemn the violence used by the Chinese authorities,” Ma said at the beginning of this week. He even suggested the possibility of a boycott of the Olympics. Yet the Tibet issue has clearly helped Hsieh, the standard-bearer of the pro-independence party. “Ma’s one-China market would mean that tomorrow’s Taiwan will be like today’s Tibet,” he said on Sunday. If there is one sentiment that unites the Taiwanese today, it is the desire to maintain their own way of life and freedoms. As Shieh Jhy-wey, the island’s minister of information, said, “We don’t want to have the same fate as Tibet.”

So Beijing, on the verge of getting rid of the Democratic Progressive Party, has once again revived the fortunes of the pro-independence forces on Taiwan. Whoever wins on Saturday will face a Taiwanese electorate increasingly wary of the repressive Chinese state.

On Saturday, Taiwan’s 17 million voters head to the polls to elect a new president. For most of the campaign, the dominant issue has been the economy. Both Frank Hsieh of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang favor closer business ties with China. Ma, for instance, has promoted a Greater China Common Market. Hsieh has adopted a less integrationist approach.

At one point, it didn’t really matter what Hsieh wanted. His opponent, the charismatic Ma, was ahead by a gigantic margin. Depending on the poll, his lead was ten, twenty, or thirty points. Those big margins, however, existed before the outbreak of the insurgency in Tibet—and Beijing’s harsh crackdown. After the bloodshed, Ma’s almost insurmountable lead has appeared to vanish. Taiwan law prohibits the release of polling data ten days before an election, but private polls by the two parties show a tight race with the Kuomintang candidate slightly ahead.

“I severely condemn the violence used by the Chinese authorities,” Ma said at the beginning of this week. He even suggested the possibility of a boycott of the Olympics. Yet the Tibet issue has clearly helped Hsieh, the standard-bearer of the pro-independence party. “Ma’s one-China market would mean that tomorrow’s Taiwan will be like today’s Tibet,” he said on Sunday. If there is one sentiment that unites the Taiwanese today, it is the desire to maintain their own way of life and freedoms. As Shieh Jhy-wey, the island’s minister of information, said, “We don’t want to have the same fate as Tibet.”

So Beijing, on the verge of getting rid of the Democratic Progressive Party, has once again revived the fortunes of the pro-independence forces on Taiwan. Whoever wins on Saturday will face a Taiwanese electorate increasingly wary of the repressive Chinese state.

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“Close the Door and Beat the Dog”

The apposite Chinese saying with respect to the unrest in Tibet is bimen dagou: “close the door and beat the dog.” And with news coverage halted over a vast area of Western China, and endless columns of military vehicles heading in, who can doubt that the dog will be well and thoroughly beaten?

Certainly no one in the official west. The officially-expressed lack of condemnation of the latest installment in China’s decades-long destruction of Tibet is proof that the smart money figures the fix is in. Beijing will crush things without any outsiders having a chance to watch; no one will dare ask tough questions or criticize; things will then get back to “normal,” where China stories are all about trade and the Olympics.

But suppose that quick resolution doesn’t occur? Suppose the dog proves tougher than expected? Suppose stomach-turning video of the beating somehow reaches the outside world? Suppose the problem goes unfixed for days or weeks more, or spreads? Suppose the Chinese leadership itself begins to disagree about what to do? What then? A real crisis may arise, a crisis for which no one is prepared.

That possibility was confirmed on Thursday 20 March, as word came from official Chinese news services that Tibet was not yet under control and that unrest was spreading. Canadian journalists managed to get striking footage of new demonstration through the formidable Chinese news firewall.

Spring has a strange resonance in Chinese history: many trains of events culminating in major shifts have begun in this season. In 1989, it was the death, on April 15, of the former prime minister Hu Yaobang and public dissatisfaction at the Party’s failure to honor him that started the movement victimized in the Tiananmen bloodbath less than three months later. (The date gave the movement its name). June 4 1989  took its place with May 4 1919 (the nationalist demonstrations against the Treaty of Versailles) and May 30 1925 (major pro-labor, anti-Empire protest) among the milestones of regime-shaking popular unrest in China.

Something similar could happen this year. Unless the Chinese government succeeds in crushing the Tibetans cleanly and without publicity, we are likely to see a multiplication of grievances being aired–by ordinary Chinese as well as by subject peoples like the Tibetans and the Muslims of East Turkestan. Workers are already out on strike in Guangdong in the southeast. Plenty of anger is out there: over corruption, injustice, poverty, pollution, dictatorship–more than enough for a conflagration.

Washington is not even considering such a possibility. Instead Secretary Rice is urging the Chinese to “show restraint“, which I take to mean restraint in the numbers killed and brutality employed as order is restored. But suppose order is not restored, and things get worse? Now is not too early to start thinking about whom we support then–and what values we should, as a democracy, espouse.

The apposite Chinese saying with respect to the unrest in Tibet is bimen dagou: “close the door and beat the dog.” And with news coverage halted over a vast area of Western China, and endless columns of military vehicles heading in, who can doubt that the dog will be well and thoroughly beaten?

Certainly no one in the official west. The officially-expressed lack of condemnation of the latest installment in China’s decades-long destruction of Tibet is proof that the smart money figures the fix is in. Beijing will crush things without any outsiders having a chance to watch; no one will dare ask tough questions or criticize; things will then get back to “normal,” where China stories are all about trade and the Olympics.

But suppose that quick resolution doesn’t occur? Suppose the dog proves tougher than expected? Suppose stomach-turning video of the beating somehow reaches the outside world? Suppose the problem goes unfixed for days or weeks more, or spreads? Suppose the Chinese leadership itself begins to disagree about what to do? What then? A real crisis may arise, a crisis for which no one is prepared.

That possibility was confirmed on Thursday 20 March, as word came from official Chinese news services that Tibet was not yet under control and that unrest was spreading. Canadian journalists managed to get striking footage of new demonstration through the formidable Chinese news firewall.

Spring has a strange resonance in Chinese history: many trains of events culminating in major shifts have begun in this season. In 1989, it was the death, on April 15, of the former prime minister Hu Yaobang and public dissatisfaction at the Party’s failure to honor him that started the movement victimized in the Tiananmen bloodbath less than three months later. (The date gave the movement its name). June 4 1989  took its place with May 4 1919 (the nationalist demonstrations against the Treaty of Versailles) and May 30 1925 (major pro-labor, anti-Empire protest) among the milestones of regime-shaking popular unrest in China.

Something similar could happen this year. Unless the Chinese government succeeds in crushing the Tibetans cleanly and without publicity, we are likely to see a multiplication of grievances being aired–by ordinary Chinese as well as by subject peoples like the Tibetans and the Muslims of East Turkestan. Workers are already out on strike in Guangdong in the southeast. Plenty of anger is out there: over corruption, injustice, poverty, pollution, dictatorship–more than enough for a conflagration.

Washington is not even considering such a possibility. Instead Secretary Rice is urging the Chinese to “show restraint“, which I take to mean restraint in the numbers killed and brutality employed as order is restored. But suppose order is not restored, and things get worse? Now is not too early to start thinking about whom we support then–and what values we should, as a democracy, espouse.

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Tibet Aflame

Is Tibet burning? It is, literally and figuratively, especially in Lhasa, the capital of China’s so-called Tibet Autonomous Region. There, hundreds of monks and others fought with police today and have, according to the BBC, succeeded in taking control of the center of the city. Deaths have been reported. The Chinese government has effectively imposed martial law. Nonetheless, Tibetans continue to attack any symbol of the Chinese presence in what they consider their homeland. There are reports of disturbances in other Tibetan parts of China, such as Gansu province.

The Lhasa demonstrations began on Monday to mark the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. The disturbances are the biggest in the Tibetan capital since the pro-independence protests of 1989.

The American response has been uninspiring. “We believe Beijing needs to respect Tibetan culture,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto this morning at a press gaggle aboard Air Force One. “They need to respect multi-ethnicity in their society.” What the Chinese really need to do is immediately end their program of forced assimilation and political repression, what many have called a campaign of “cultural genocide.” Eventually, they need to leave traditional Tibetan lands. It is a tragedy that the Chinese misrule themselves; it is a crime they insist on ruining Tibet.

Predictably, Western governments have been calling on Beijing to have a “dialogue” with the Dalai Lama. Chinese leaders have not done that, despite His Holiness making significant concessions to pave the way for conversations. After years of Beijing’s intransigence on Tibet, the White House should have known that its words would have no effect on Chinese leaders.

Western nations cannot, as a practical matter, stop the Chinese from killing Tibetans in their capital. Yet Americans and others can show revulsion for Beijing’s goals and abhorrence of its tactics by downgrading their contacts with the modern Chinese state—preferably starting this afternoon. The White House should, among other things, cancel the President’s ill-advised trip to the Beijing Olympics this August. Our State Department should reverse Tuesday’s inexplicable decision to drop China from the list of the world’s ten worst human rights abusers. And if President Bush really means what he says about freedom and self-rule, it’s time for him to realize that this is where the rest of his legacy can be made or lost.

Is Tibet burning? It is, literally and figuratively, especially in Lhasa, the capital of China’s so-called Tibet Autonomous Region. There, hundreds of monks and others fought with police today and have, according to the BBC, succeeded in taking control of the center of the city. Deaths have been reported. The Chinese government has effectively imposed martial law. Nonetheless, Tibetans continue to attack any symbol of the Chinese presence in what they consider their homeland. There are reports of disturbances in other Tibetan parts of China, such as Gansu province.

The Lhasa demonstrations began on Monday to mark the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. The disturbances are the biggest in the Tibetan capital since the pro-independence protests of 1989.

The American response has been uninspiring. “We believe Beijing needs to respect Tibetan culture,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto this morning at a press gaggle aboard Air Force One. “They need to respect multi-ethnicity in their society.” What the Chinese really need to do is immediately end their program of forced assimilation and political repression, what many have called a campaign of “cultural genocide.” Eventually, they need to leave traditional Tibetan lands. It is a tragedy that the Chinese misrule themselves; it is a crime they insist on ruining Tibet.

Predictably, Western governments have been calling on Beijing to have a “dialogue” with the Dalai Lama. Chinese leaders have not done that, despite His Holiness making significant concessions to pave the way for conversations. After years of Beijing’s intransigence on Tibet, the White House should have known that its words would have no effect on Chinese leaders.

Western nations cannot, as a practical matter, stop the Chinese from killing Tibetans in their capital. Yet Americans and others can show revulsion for Beijing’s goals and abhorrence of its tactics by downgrading their contacts with the modern Chinese state—preferably starting this afternoon. The White House should, among other things, cancel the President’s ill-advised trip to the Beijing Olympics this August. Our State Department should reverse Tuesday’s inexplicable decision to drop China from the list of the world’s ten worst human rights abusers. And if President Bush really means what he says about freedom and self-rule, it’s time for him to realize that this is where the rest of his legacy can be made or lost.

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China Says Bush Supports Beijing against Activists

On Friday, Liu Guijin, Beijing’s special envoy for Sudan, argued that the attendance of Western leaders at this year’s Summer Olympics means they support China in its ongoing campaign against activist groups. “More and more spokesmen and public figures have decided that politicization of the Olympic Games is not compatible with the Olympic spirit,” he explained.

Are the Olympics a political event? Whether or not they were before, they are now. Beijing and its detractors are engaged in highly public struggles over Darfur, Tibet, human rights, democracy, and a dozen other topics in connection with the Olympic extravaganza. And Liu, in presenting Beijing’s case, has just explicitly politicized the attendance of foreign leaders. President Bush can no longer claim that he is going to the Games merely for the sport. Unfortunately, his host has contradicted him and is using him against the activists.

So the American leader must make a decision: Will he side with Beijing’s autocrats, who, among other things, repress the Chinese people and enable the mass slaughter in Darfur? The world awaits his answer.

On Friday, Liu Guijin, Beijing’s special envoy for Sudan, argued that the attendance of Western leaders at this year’s Summer Olympics means they support China in its ongoing campaign against activist groups. “More and more spokesmen and public figures have decided that politicization of the Olympic Games is not compatible with the Olympic spirit,” he explained.

Are the Olympics a political event? Whether or not they were before, they are now. Beijing and its detractors are engaged in highly public struggles over Darfur, Tibet, human rights, democracy, and a dozen other topics in connection with the Olympic extravaganza. And Liu, in presenting Beijing’s case, has just explicitly politicized the attendance of foreign leaders. President Bush can no longer claim that he is going to the Games merely for the sport. Unfortunately, his host has contradicted him and is using him against the activists.

So the American leader must make a decision: Will he side with Beijing’s autocrats, who, among other things, repress the Chinese people and enable the mass slaughter in Darfur? The world awaits his answer.

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Kosovo, Russia, and China

This morning, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, and 13 other EU members said they will recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty. The territory, under UN administration since 1999, declared independence from Serbia yesterday. The United States was not far behind its European allies. Today, President Bush signaled American acceptance of Kosovo’s statehood in remarks made in Tanzania, and Secretary Rice made it official.

But don’t expect the Spaniards to do so. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said his government would not accept Kosovo’s “unilateral act,” which “does not respect international law.” Apparently Madrid, which has a separatist problem of its own, did not believe the European Union’s foreign ministers, who labeled yesterday’s succession a one-off event.

Spain should indeed be worried about Kosovo’s example. There were slightly more than fifty nations at the end of the Second World War. Since then, decolonization and separatism have increased the number of states to 193, 194, or 195—depending on who is doing the counting. Today, the process of division continues. Kosovo, for example, is the sixth state to be formed from Yugoslavia. So the Russians are right to be concerned about separatist movements in Chechnya and Dagestan and the Chinese with minorities in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia.

Whether we like it or not, separatism will not end with Kosovo’s independence. The Russians said they would seek independence for Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia if others recognize Kosovo. And Taiwan, an island that meets all the definitions of a state, will undoubtedly try to use the West’s recognition of Kosovo to its own advantage.

It is stirring when people declare independence, and we need to back their aspirations and the concept of self-determination. There is no advantage to us in attempting to stand in the way of history—or helping Russia and China, both large multicultural empires created by conquest and held together by oppression, in keeping themselves together. Kosovo is no one-off. Nor should it be.

This morning, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, and 13 other EU members said they will recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty. The territory, under UN administration since 1999, declared independence from Serbia yesterday. The United States was not far behind its European allies. Today, President Bush signaled American acceptance of Kosovo’s statehood in remarks made in Tanzania, and Secretary Rice made it official.

But don’t expect the Spaniards to do so. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said his government would not accept Kosovo’s “unilateral act,” which “does not respect international law.” Apparently Madrid, which has a separatist problem of its own, did not believe the European Union’s foreign ministers, who labeled yesterday’s succession a one-off event.

Spain should indeed be worried about Kosovo’s example. There were slightly more than fifty nations at the end of the Second World War. Since then, decolonization and separatism have increased the number of states to 193, 194, or 195—depending on who is doing the counting. Today, the process of division continues. Kosovo, for example, is the sixth state to be formed from Yugoslavia. So the Russians are right to be concerned about separatist movements in Chechnya and Dagestan and the Chinese with minorities in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Inner Mongolia.

Whether we like it or not, separatism will not end with Kosovo’s independence. The Russians said they would seek independence for Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia if others recognize Kosovo. And Taiwan, an island that meets all the definitions of a state, will undoubtedly try to use the West’s recognition of Kosovo to its own advantage.

It is stirring when people declare independence, and we need to back their aspirations and the concept of self-determination. There is no advantage to us in attempting to stand in the way of history—or helping Russia and China, both large multicultural empires created by conquest and held together by oppression, in keeping themselves together. Kosovo is no one-off. Nor should it be.

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