April 03, 2008

What should the U.S. do?

Nicholas Kristof:

So what do we do? A boycott of the Olympic Games themselves is a nonstarter. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has raised the possibility of a boycott of the opening ceremony, and that is plausible.

The best answer is: Postpone the decision until the last minute so as to extort every last ounce of good behavior possible out of the Chinese government — on Darfur as well as Tibet. But at the end of the day, if there have been no further abuses, President Bush should attend — for staying away would only inflame Chinese nationalism and make Beijing more obdurate.

If President Bush attends the ceremonies, however, he should balance that with a day trip to a Tibetan area. Such a visit would underscore American concern, even if the Chinese trot out fake monks to express fake contentment with fake freedom.

President Bush and other Western leaders should also continue to consult with the Dalai Lama, even though this infuriates Beijing. The Dalai Lama is the last, best hope for reaching an agreement that would resolve the dispute over Tibet forever. He accepts autonomy, rather than independence, and he has the moral authority to persuade Tibetans to accept a deal.

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