Obama, China & Tibet

Some right wing blogs have found a recent Washington Post article that lays out the decision by the Obama administration to not meet with the Dalai Lama during his visit to Washington this week. The justification offered by the administration is basically that they are prioritizing Obama’s November visit to China and have many key issues that they want to discuss then and worry that Obama meeting with the Dalai Lama, as every recent American president has when HHDL is in Washington, would piss off the Chinese government and impede negotiations on other issues.

Moe Lane of RedState writes in response to the question of whether it’d be worse to have the Obama administration shun the Dalai Lama at the request of the Chinese government or of their own volition:

to answer Doug’s confusion as to which is worse; it’d be if this was done unilaterally. If we negotiated to this it’d at least imply that we got a concession in return, which would be something, from a realpolitik point of view.

Welcome to the Obama administration and the frustrations that come with it Moe! The Obama administration, along with key Democratic leaders like Max Baucus and Harry Reid, have defined their negotiation strategy by compromising before even sitting down at the negotiating table, ensuring that we make concessions when none are guaranteed in return from the GOP. I guess it’s unfortunate that some Republicans are now finding that what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander.

Sadly, this decision regarding HHDL’s visit to DC is not the first time the Obama administration put human rights and democracy on the back burner when it comes to China. The WaPo story notes:

Before a visit to China in February, for example, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said advocacy for human rights could not “interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate-change crisis and the security crisis” — a statement that won her much goodwill in Beijing. U.S. Treasury officials have also stopped accusing China of artificially deflating the value of its currency to make its exports more attractive.

There you have it.  Of course the flip side of this is that Obama’s decision regarding this visit by the Dalai Lama isn’t really a change of policy course with regards to US-Sino-Tibetan relations. Clinton already charted that. What is new is that now the right is choosing to make hay about an issue that they’ve been silent on…until it’s possible to take a hit at President Obama on it.

Obama is fundamentally wrong to forestall US action on the Tibetan question. He should meet with the Dalai Lama now and he should do it not at the Capitol or in some lesser room in the White House, but in the Oval Office itself — something no American president has done with the Dalai Lama. Obama will have that opportunity shortly after his visit to China in November and whether or not he takes that important step will be determinative, in my view, of whether this administration will fail  in its responsibility to further the cause of human rights and freedom for Tibet and in China.

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