Monday, March 24, 2008

Free Tibet now?

Maybe this is a good candidate for a YouTube presidential debate question: Should we, both as individuals and the U.S. government, be actively promoting the independence of Tibet from China?

In principle, I am in favor of a free and independent Tibet, but what are the ramifications?

Or, maybe we should be promoting the independence of Tibet regardless of the ramifications.

Or, maybe we should be promoting the principle of the independence of Tibet, but not be specific as to the timing of such a move.

And if Tibet is to be granted independence, why not Taiwan? Granted, Taiwan just held an election in which people voted in favor or closer ties with China, but are there lessons from one to be learned from the other?

In particular, is the core issue in Tibet absolute political independence, or political autonomy, in much the same way that Hong Kong operates? Sure, some people much prefer absolute independence, but what do the majority seek?

And ultimately, whatever the solution is to political independence, the immediate question then becomes what the ongoing relations should be with China.

In principle, "a people" should be independent or at least treated as equal to other ethnic groups with no discrimination. The Kurds are another example, with many in Iraq and many in Turkey. Should the Kurds have their own independent country? In principle, I would say yes. Should we as both individuals and the U.S. government be lobbying to permit the creation of a free and independent Kurdish nation? That gets sticky.

My position is that we should focus on making our principles clear but step cautiously about applying them. Maybe phrase it as speak strongly about your principles but go gently with a strong stick.

The most important thing I would say is that we, as the U.S. government, have to be very careful not to get ahead of the situation. A people will seek their freedom when they are ready. There may be false starts and unrealistic expectations well in advance of a legitimate move to independence. We should always be there to aid fledgling nations once they have firmly established their independence, but be careful not to get involve when questions about independence are still unresolved within a sovereign nation. An exception is where a general agreement arises among multiple nations that independence now is an urgent necessity.

Meanwhile, private citizens and non-governmental organizations are free to lobby for the independence of any region, people, or political entity.

-- Jack Krupansky

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