Sunday, August 17, 2008

Kouchner and the Dalai Lama

After announcing that he would meet the Dalai Lama, Bernard Kouchner now says he won't. His reason: his schedule has been turned topsy-turvy by the Georgia crisis. No doubt. But he neglects to say that the Georgia crisis has pointed up a small problem of principle. If Russia is an international villain for encouraging the breakaway South Ossetians to break away, then on what grounds does France presume to encourage the Dalai Lama? Is South Ossetia "internationally recognized" as a part of Georgia, despite the wishes of the vast majority of its inhabitants, as we keep reading in the press? Then Tibet, like it or not, is in the same situation. It is perhaps this difficulty of principle, more than any scheduling difficulties, that makes it particularly dicey to meet with the Dalai Lama at this time. Will Rama Yade still keep her appointment? If so, it will be another indication that French foreign policymakers believe they can calibrate precise degrees of support and opposition by dispatching officials of different rank. French officials may believe this is clever, but other adjectives come to mind, such as "hypocritical" or "asinine."