Through the prism of history, it’s the “quiet diplomacy” of the Bush administration that will stand out

I see that NSC advisor Stephen Hadley doesn’t think much of a boycott of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics: It would be a “cop-out” for countries to skip the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics as a way of protesting China’s crackdown in Tibet, President Bush’s national security adviser said Sunday. The kind of ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

I see that NSC advisor Stephen Hadley doesn't think much of a boycott of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics: It would be a "cop-out" for countries to skip the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics as a way of protesting China's crackdown in Tibet, President Bush's national security adviser said Sunday. The kind of "quiet diplomacy" that the U.S. is practicing is a better way to send a message to China's leaders, Stephen Hadley said. President Bush has given no indication he will skip the event. "I don't view the Olympics as a political event," Bush said this past week. "I view it as a sporting event." The White House has not yet said whether he will attend the opening ceremony on Aug. 8. "This issue [of the boycott] is in some sense a bit of a red herring," Hadley said in a broadcast interview. "I think unfortunately a lot of countries say, 'Well, if we say that we are not going to the opening ceremonies we check the box on Tibet.' That's a cop-out. "If other countries are concerned about that, they ought to do what we are doing through quiet diplomacy, send a message clearly to the Chinese that this is an opportunity with the whole world watching, to show that they take into account and are determined to treat their citizens with dignity and respect. They would put pressure on the Chinese authorities quietly to meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama and use this as an opportunity help resolve that situation," Hadley said.Hadley goes even further in the New York Times' version of the story: "[Hadley] suggested that the recent public protests, particularly in the chaotic Olympic torch processions, would only backfire." Three thoughts on this: 1) Is Hadley seriously suggesting that the Tibet issue was going to crop up in "quiet diplomacy" in the absence of public protests? I suspect that, absent the news coverage, the only way it would have surfaced would have been in a completely pro forma way, with the inevitable "go away sonny, you're bothering me" reply from Beijing. 2) When, exactly, has the modern Olympics not been a political event? 3) Six months from now, will a reporter please remember to ask Hadley,"Hey, all that quiet diplomacy you've conducted with China on the Tibet issue, how did that pan out?"

I see that NSC advisor Stephen Hadley doesn’t think much of a boycott of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics:

It would be a “cop-out” for countries to skip the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics as a way of protesting China’s crackdown in Tibet, President Bush’s national security adviser said Sunday. The kind of “quiet diplomacy” that the U.S. is practicing is a better way to send a message to China’s leaders, Stephen Hadley said. President Bush has given no indication he will skip the event. “I don’t view the Olympics as a political event,” Bush said this past week. “I view it as a sporting event.” The White House has not yet said whether he will attend the opening ceremony on Aug. 8. “This issue [of the boycott] is in some sense a bit of a red herring,” Hadley said in a broadcast interview. “I think unfortunately a lot of countries say, ‘Well, if we say that we are not going to the opening ceremonies we check the box on Tibet.’ That’s a cop-out. “If other countries are concerned about that, they ought to do what we are doing through quiet diplomacy, send a message clearly to the Chinese that this is an opportunity with the whole world watching, to show that they take into account and are determined to treat their citizens with dignity and respect. They would put pressure on the Chinese authorities quietly to meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama and use this as an opportunity help resolve that situation,” Hadley said.

Hadley goes even further in the New York Times’ version of the story: “[Hadley] suggested that the recent public protests, particularly in the chaotic Olympic torch processions, would only backfire.” Three thoughts on this:

1) Is Hadley seriously suggesting that the Tibet issue was going to crop up in “quiet diplomacy” in the absence of public protests? I suspect that, absent the news coverage, the only way it would have surfaced would have been in a completely pro forma way, with the inevitable “go away sonny, you’re bothering me” reply from Beijing. 2) When, exactly, has the modern Olympics not been a political event? 3) Six months from now, will a reporter please remember to ask Hadley,”Hey, all that quiet diplomacy you’ve conducted with China on the Tibet issue, how did that pan out?”

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

More from Foreign Policy

Newspapers in Tehran feature on their front page news about the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, signed in Beijing the previous day, on March, 11 2023.
Newspapers in Tehran feature on their front page news about the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, signed in Beijing the previous day, on March, 11 2023.

Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America

The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.

Austin and Gallant stand at podiums side by side next to each others' national flags.
Austin and Gallant stand at podiums side by side next to each others' national flags.

The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense

If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.

Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the Moscow Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden during an event marking Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the Moscow Kremlin Wall in the Alexander Garden during an event marking Defender of the Fatherland Day in Moscow.

Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War

Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.

An Iranian man holds a newspaper reporting the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, in Tehran on March 11.
An Iranian man holds a newspaper reporting the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, in Tehran on March 11.

How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests

And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.