Because I have been critical of President Obama’s handling of Afghanistan and other foreign policy issues, it is only fair to give credit where it’s due. And the administration does deserve credit for engineering Chinese dissident’s Chen Guangcheng’s flight to safety in the U.S. along with his immediate family.
The administration stumbled initially by conniving in a deal to force Chen to leave sanctuary in the U.S. embassy in Beijing where he had fled after eluding thuggish security forces. But the administration, led in this case by Secretary of State Clinton, was not entirely to blame because it appears that Chen changed his mind about whether he wanted to leave the embassy or not. When he did decide that he wanted to come to the U.S., the administration went to bat for him even though “realpolitik” voices in the administration no doubt urged abandoning him to his fate so as not to disturb bilateral relations. President Obama and Secretary Clinton rightly rejected the siren song of faux realism and not only pressured Beijing to let him go but gave him sanctuary on our shores.
Kudos to the president and his aides for recovering from an early gaffe and doing the right thing. Now the administration must stay closely involved to try to ensure that Chen’s friends and relatives, who aided him in his flight, do not suffer a harsh retribution for their courageous conduct, as seems likely.