It is, of course, daft for President Obama to put off a meeting with the Dalai Lama simply because he thinks there is a small chance that doing so will yield some kind of good diplomatic fruit with the Chinese when the President meets with Hu Jintao. But it is also daft for the President’s apologists to make themselves look silly in their efforts to make excuses for the Obama Administration’s behavior towards the Dalai Lama. And as Michael Goldfarb points out, the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos is making himself look silly.
Why Osnos thinks that the Chinese leadership can be persuaded to act against its own interests is anyone’s guess. Why Osnos thinks that the Chinese leadership “has far less maneuverability on Tibet than it does on Iran or North Korea,” is equally puzzling, given that–as Goldfarb writes–”China is a dictatorship — the party tells its people how many children they’re allowed to have, it doesn’t need the public’s consent before changing course on Tibet policy. They will not fall in an election next year if they fail to take a tough line with a few unarmed monks living in the Himalayas.” I noted that we now have clear markers for whether we get anything from the Chinese in next month’s meeting between the two presidents. If we do not, or if the Chinese quo is not worth the quid we gave up for it, we will have reason to rue the fact that we did not play the realpolitik game with China as assiduously as we could have played it, and as assiduously as the Chinese–the denials of Evan Osnos notwithstanding–are playing it with us.