Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Boycott Olympics? U.S. can't afford it

Senator Hillary Clinton has urged President Bush to boycott opening ceremonies at the upcoming Beijing Olympics as a way of expressing American discontent with China's policies towards Tibet and Darfur.

This is not (yet) a demand that American athletes boycott the games. (American athletes did boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That's back when we were supporting Osama bin Laden.)

But America has not been particularly assertive about the genocide in Darfur -- we've clucked and fretted with little apparent effect. That's not a knock on American policy: Given America's other commitments around the world, that may be the best we can do. With all due respect (and admiration) for Mr. Spielberg's personal decision to remove himself from preparation of the Opening Ceremonies because of Chinese policy in Sudan, even if we did not have Iraq and Afghanistan to worry about, clucking and fretting might still be the most that America should do about Darfur.

And Tibet is not Afghanistan. China overran Tibet -- but that was in 1951. While some Tibetan activists and sympathizers yearn for full independence, a degree of autonomy and an end to suppression of Tibetan culture may be the most that can be hoped for. China has been willing to grant some degree of autonomy for regions that benefit China economically. In this instance, the economic benefit would be indirect -- but real, given the diplomatic boost China would receive from such a move.

Frankly -- and unfortunately -- the United States government must be careful not to unnecessarily provoke China. We should still be able to beat China in a conventional war -- God forbid it should ever come to that -- but we've built up China's manufacturing capacity even as we've stripped our own in our pursuit of the most cost-effective consumer goods and largest corporate profits. There's as much truth as humor in this cartoon:

(Tank McNamara cartoon obtained from Yahoo! Comics. Click to enlarge.)

1 comment:

Dave said...

I read or heard yesterday that an American President has never gone to the opening ceremony of any Olympics held in another country. If Bush goes, he'd be breaking precedent, for whatever that's worth.