10 April, 2008

Obama on the Olympics

Sort of -- at least, on US policy with China:

And in our policy towards China, we have not been consistent enough and tough enough and pushing them to deal with Tibet properly, but also their continued support of Sudan, a country that has been engaging in genocide against the peoples of Darfur.

We have to take a stronger stance. We have to take a stronger stance and it's got to be more consistent over time. Let me make one last point about China: It's very hard to tell your banker that he's wrong, all right? And if we are running huge deficits and big national debts and we're borrowing money constantly from China, that gives us less leverage. It give us less leverage to talk about human rights, it also is giving us less leverage to talk about the uneven trading relationship that we have with China.

Now, for some reason the MSNBC article finds this evasive. But I think he's just making the point that we have to ask ourselves what effect a boycott of the Olympics is going to have. Is it going to shame them into leaving Tibet? Probably not. Is it going to complicate our relationship with the world's rising power -- a power that we are very closely tied to at the moment? That seems certain. In that context, I don't see what good a boycott will do except assuage our guilty conscience. And I think its quite likely that pissing off the Chinese over the Olympics will actually reduce our ability to nudge them (since I think that's all we'll be able to do at this point anyway) towards better policies after the Olympics, when we have a president who will actually be able to mobilize our allies to nudge them. Or am I underestimating the pressure that the specter of a ruined Olympics will put on the bigwigs in Beijing?

1 comment:

Eremita said...

For my part, I wouldn't NOT support a boycott of the Olympics, but neither would I suggest it as a very good "start" to an American protest of Chinese policies. I mean, what is the boycott of a one-time event (even one that generates this much money and is so internationally publicized), when we compare it to all the things we have NOT done with our economic policies and international relations? American willingness to boycott the Olympics (or, let's face it, willingness to TALK about boycotting the Olympics) is pretty sad considering the other much more direct ways we can use our current strength for the sake of human rights.

That said, if a boycott was a real political possibility or if a multi-national boycott and protest were likely, I wouldn't condemn our participation. The reason a country wants to host the Olympics is for the economic surge it provides, not really because of the feeling of international unity - even if that's what we non-paying spectators think about it. I think we are therefore very much within our rights to treat our participation in the Olympics as economic leverage should we see fit. This is to say nothing, however, of the obviously wiser plan to deny the host privilege to offending countries in the first place, and to say nothing of the question of what kind of difference a boycott would make (something I do not feel qualified to answer).