Last week I blogged Burmese dissidents' fears that the Obama Administration was preparing to cozy up with Burma's dictators. This week begins with a White House announcement that is sure to anger Tibetan exiles, friends of Tibet, and other critics of the Chinese government's record on human rights. WaPo reports:
In an attempt to gain favor with China, the United States pressured Tibetan representatives to postpone a meeting between the Dalai Lama and President Obama until after Obama's summit with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, scheduled for next month, according to diplomats, government officials and other sources familiar with the talks.Same old story: sensible intentions, inept execution. I agreed with the spirit behind the recent White House moves on Burma, but I thought the execution was extremely sloppy. The Deputy Secretary of State came out in agreement with this assessment. Similarly, I think it's good that Obama wants to improve relations with China, but I believe this must not be done in such a way as to give the appearance that the US has compromised its principles, or kow-towed.
For the first time since 1991, the Tibetan spiritual leader will visit Washington this week and not meet with the president. Since 1991, he has been here 10 times. Most times the meetings have been "drop-in" visits at the White House. The last time he was here, in 2007, however, George W. Bush became the first sitting president to meet with him publicly, at a ceremony at the Capitol in which he awarded the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress's highest civilian award.
The U.S. decision to postpone the meeting appears to be part of a strategy to improve ties with China that also includes soft-pedaling criticism of China's human rights and financial policies as well as backing efforts to elevate China's position in international institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund. Obama administration officials have termed the new policy "strategic reassurance," which entails the U.S. government taking steps to convince China that it is not out to contain the emerging Asian power.
This was another political miscalculation on the part of Obama. The president is bound to pay a political price for it. A narrative is beginning to develop that Obama is unprincipled, and only interested in appeasing powerful people, be they bankers, insurance company executives, or the Chinese.