March 13, 2009

The Tibet Uprising That Wasn't

Wednesday past (March 11) was the 50th anniversary of the 1959 uprising in Tibet that brought Chinese troops into Lhasa and led to the flight of the Dalai Lama, his court, and several thousand of his supporters and elites to India. The anniversary was marked by small demonstrations in European and American cities ranging from one thousand or so in London and New York to a couple dozen in Western capitals such as Canberra and Washington. Tibet was under a Beijing enforced clampdown so we were told by a relentless barrage of media stories during the preceding week.

The question is really why does the West want confrontation over Tibet? At the western end of the vast Tibetan Plateau lies Afghanistan where the USA occupies the land and drops bombs on civilians in the latest effort to bring the people up from the 13th Century to the present. Yet Chinese rationalizations for doing just the same thing - some might argue with a certain degree of success and without aerial bombardment - are roundly criticized as ‘genocide.’ Washington has no plans to vacate the western end of the Tibetan Plateau. In fact, Obama has made a ramp up of American forces there his priority.

The Tibetan Plateau is the largest and highest land area on Earth. That is its strategic value. It would be the only land area above water if the world were to flood as in “End Times” scenarios. The area is the source of seven of the world’s greatest rivers, the water supply for billions. Every military strategist from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz knew the importance of holding the high ground. But the USA and China need to cooperate not confront each other in this region unless the 21st Century be dominated by a new “Great Game” that could destroy both nations.

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