Whenever I see a "Free Tibet" bumper sticker on the back of a car, I just want to gag. Actually, I want to pull the driver out of her car and demand that she find Tibet on a world map. Five bucks say she can't. Five more bucks say she can't name one Tibetan city besides Lhasa.
So what is this all about? Free Tibet is a favorite left-liberal cause. Hollywood types love to triangulate between Cuba, Tibet and Palestine. Pretty senseless, really. One is one of the planet's last totalitarian communist regimes, one is under the armed occupation of another communist regime, and one freely elects a terrorist organization to govern.
But without a doubt, Tibet is a cause celebre of the activist types. For the life of me, I can't quite figure this one out. If you're truly interested in liberating people from an oppressive regime, why not look at the billion Han Chinese first?
Unbeknownst to most of the Free Tibet rabble rousers, Communist China has traditionally treated Tibet with kid gloves (comparatively speaking, of course). Since the invasion of Tibet in 1950, there may have been hundreds killed and hundreds jailed in over a half century on the Roof of the World. Communists frequently murder and incarcerate that many in China proper, in a single day.
The Beijing Olympics, with the world-wide torch relay, have become a convenient target for the Free Tibet movement, even before the riot/protest in mid-March. After the crackdown, Tibet will be a hot topic throughout the Olympics, foreshadowed by a potential boycott of the Games.
A boycott of any sort will serve only to enrage the Chinese -- more than just the communist rulers, but the ordinary Chinese within and outside of China. A groundswell of anger over Tibet will not only fail to improve the situation in Tibet, but embolden the Chinese government to treat the dissident Tibetans harshly. Indeed, it's been rightly speculated that the Beijing regime is under far greater domestic pressure in its dealings with Tibet.
That's why it would be foolish for President Bush to snub the Chinese at the Olympics. The Beijing regime needs an excuse to lighten up on Tibet and Bush's presence will provide that cover. Of course, while he's there, he'd need to do more -- for example, standing up for the dissidents, jailed journalists and a cornucopia of political prisoners.
But this is where the carrot should carry the day, not the stick. No matter how boisterous and in-your-face the Free Tibet crowd gets around the world, their protests will be pointless except to potentially strengthen the Chinese government. By boycotting the Olympics over Tibet (or even more senselessly, Darfur), the Free Tibet circus may only unwittingly entrench the position of the communists among the Chinese citizens.
The point, which obviously escapes the frenzied leftist Tibet-mongers, is that in order to truly help the Tibetans, they need to help the Chinese do away with their government first. Without a Free China, there will never be a Free Tibet.