Boycotting the Olympics (Because it Worked So Well for Jimmy Carter)
Erick Erickson and the gang at Red State join forces with Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi to implore President Bush to boycott the Beijing Olympic opening ceremonies.
We know some on the right who tend to view the world mostly in economic terms will disagree with us. Yes, we recognize that China is a large trading partner. We recognize how much of our debt they hold. We also recognize the arguments of some that if the President were to go, the media would be inclined to shed the spotlight on China’s abuses.
None of these arguments contradict the fact that our President, who has spent eight years liberating parts of the world from tyranny, should not give the seal of approval on China’s behavior — approval his presence at the Olympics would most certainly give to the Chinese people.
Steve Benen offers the counter-argument, which he directs at Hillary Clinton:
America and the world have a serious brewing problem with Iran and an ongoing challenge with North Korea. China has secured strategic footholds in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and is spreading its influence in the Caucuses. China is not a natural ally of Russia – in fact, quite the reverse – and yet bumbling American policy seems to be throwing them together in common circumstances in ways that should not be happening.
Hillary Clinton or any President needs to avoid the temptation to pander to the American public when crises with the key global powers emerge. They need to demonstrate an awareness of our core interests with China and what we most want from China in the arena of international affairs.
Nukes should be at the top of that list – and then there should be a cascading set of second and third and fourth and fifth priorities with a state like China. A new or revised economic arrangement with China would be second on my list – and then perhaps a serious commitment to climate change in third or fourth place. Human rights should be on the list — but make the pursuit of Chinese subscription to a higher human rights bar a serious effort characterized by consultations, encouragement, deal-making that involves incentives and yes, disincentives. But Clinton gave no sense of a fuller, serious game plan on the human rights front.
Jimmy Carter’s boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics was one of the more embarrassing moments of his presidency. It devastated the American athletes who’d dedicated their lives training for their shot at the Games and resulted in a counter-boycott of the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. And it did nothing to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan, it’s ostensible goal.
It’s simply inconceivable that poking a stick in Beijing’s eye will cause them to suddenly become a Jeffersonian democracy, free Tibet, or, indeed, do anything that we want them to do.
China’s domestic human rights record is abysmal, to be sure, but it’s much better than it was a generation ago. They’ve gradually implemented market reforms which, naturally, required loosening the reins a bit. We’re far better off, then, if our goal is to make life better for the average Chinese, to continue to engage them as trading partners and as a regional great power, using the carrots of access to the world market and participation in major international regimes like WTO rather than the dull sticks of childish publicity stunts.