October 5, 2009

No time for the Dalai Lama

Who remembers how, on the last January 17th, the Dalai Lama greeted the outgoing President of the U.S., George W Bush? He chose these words: “I love President George W Bush.” Leaving the audience stunned—he was delivering the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture in New Delhi—the Tibetan spiritual leader recalled how he and the then US President instantly struck a chord in their first meeting. Of course he was well aware that in his most recent visit to Washington, in 2007, George W Bush was the first American president to meet him in public in a ceremony on Capitol Hill.

But times have changed, and much water has flowed under the bridge since then. In fact, now His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet, who is in Washington these days after a long tour through North America, for the first time since 1991 won’t be welcomed by the U.S. President. Why? Because the White House has preferred not to have Barack Obama meet him now in order not to damage relations between China and the U.S. ahead of Obama’s visit to China in November.

Well, this is precisely what is called “realpolitik” in international affairs. And yet, in my humble opinion, at this stage two questions, at least, arise spontaneously: “Is this the America that the Founding Fathers would have wanted?” And “Is this the America that Obama wants?” Or, more pragmatically, along with Frank Wolf, a Republican member of Congress involved in the fight for human rights, we might ask ourselves, “What would a Buddhist monk or Buddhist nun in Drapchi prison think when he heard that President Obama, the president of the United States, is not going to meet with the Dalai Lama?” In China, Wolf added, “It’s against the law to even have a picture of the Dalai Lama. I can almost hear the words of the Chinese guards saying to them that nobody cares about you in the United States.” Of course, this is an exaggeration, but..


  1. It's unfashionably, if not criminal to say 'I love George W. Bush', in this inconsistent day and age. The Dalai Lama would have gained more international and financial support for his real cause by throwing a shoe at the ex-President. But he is right to recognise a man who at least has the courage of his convictions.

    One sometimes wonders if Obama has as much of this quality as one would hope.
    Opting for compromises in world affairs is fine if the results are truly positive and one's principles aren't sacrificed or trampled upon. But when compromising becomes too much of a habit one can end up having nothing left to defend.

    As far as George W. Bush and Tony Blair are concerned, time, history and the Iraqis themselves would be the best judges of the folly or wisdom of their decision. Nothing and no one else qualifies.

    Afghanistan doesn't enter into the argument. It always was an obligation, and so in fact was the defence of the Iraqi democracy, but one wouldn't have thought so by the lack of commitment of other 'democracies' after the Iraqi elections and the back lash of al-Qaida and its insurgent henchmen. It goes without saying, same enemy, same war. Throwing shoes about won't change history or facts.

  2. No doubt I've made mistakes in trying to translate this article from 'Le Figaro', but if it's reasonably comprehensible for your Italian readers, it might add a bit of support to my last comment.


  3. Interesting reading, Mirino. Thanks for sharing!

  4. China is the next world power..hell yeah keep them happy Obama!