Shadow Government

How the Dalai Lama earned his prize

By Daniel Blumenthal The symmetry is almost perfect. The week that President Obama breaks with 18 years of precedence and snubs the Dalai Lama (the man Jon Stewart called the international prince of peace) while he is in Washington, D.C., Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps an even greater coincidence is that the Dalai ...

By Daniel Blumenthal

The symmetry is almost perfect. The week that President Obama breaks with 18 years of precedence and snubs the Dalai Lama (the man Jon Stewart called the international prince of peace) while he is in Washington, D.C., Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps an even greater coincidence is that the Dalai Lama was the prize’s recipient 20 years ago, in 1989. The Norwegian Nobel Committee’s presentation of that year’s prize is worth quoting:

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to H.H. The Dalai Lama, first and foremost for his consistent resistance to the use of violence in his people’s struggle to regain their liberty….

This policy of nonviolence is all the more remarkable when it is considered in relation to the sufferings inflicted on the Tibetan people during the occupation of their country. The Dalai Lama’s response has been to propose a peaceful solution which would go a long way to satisfying Chinese interests. It would be difficult to cite any historical example of a minority’s struggle to secure its rights, in which a more conciliatory attitude to the adversary has been adopted than in the case of the Dalai Lama.

The Nobel Committee’s presentation speech went on to describe the Dalai Lama’s continued policy of nonviolent resistance even in the face of violent suppression by the Chinese of a peaceful protest by Tibetans.

The committee noted that the Dalai Lama had been a generous and patient negotiator. He abandoned claims of Tibetan independence and conceded China’s authority over defense and foreign policy in the region as well. He asked only for "elementary human rights" and "a halt to Chinese immigration to Tibet."

"This [Chinese immigration] has proceeded," said the committee, "on such a scale that there is a risk of the Tibetans becoming a minority in their own country."

As part of its reassurance policy (defended here by New Yorker writer Evan Osnos) the Obama administration seems to want to eliminate any Chinese-defined obstacles to a good Sino-American relationship. Personally, I am skeptical that this approach will maintain peace, prosperity, and the growing freedom in Asia over the long term. If I am correct, the current snubbing of a former Nobel Peace Prize winner by the current one will have sacrificed our principles without securing our interests.

Daniel Blumenthal is the director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

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