Spotlight on Geopolitics

Last week’s 70-minute reception of the Dalai Lama by President Obama has greatly increased the tensions between the US and China, apparently putting Hu Jintao’s planned trip to Washington in April in doubt.

Whilst it is hard to gauge what US policymakers hope to gain from supporting Dalai Lama, one thing is clear : God has been enlisted as a major asset in the US’s quest for global leadership.

The only time the Church or religion had been successfully used against the enemies of the US was during the Cold War. During Jimmy Carter’s administration, countries like Romania were forced to give neo-protestant sects religious freedoms not enjoyed by the country’s Orthodox Church. During the 1980’s, CIA and the Catholic Church joined forces to cause the downfall of Poland’s shaky communist regime. Such efforts were successful because Soviet-style communists persecuted historical Christian churches in their bloc, thus gravely affecting the cultural identity of entire nations.

China, although led by communists, has never been Christian but Confucian. Trying to use the same recipes that worked against the Soviets shows the short-sightedness of Washington policymaking circles, which is sure to backfire. Chinese academics in Europe claim that the brand of Tibetan Buddhism which spreads within China’s urban areas promotes a Kama Sutra-type lifestyle among the young, affecting traditional family values (source: El Pais). If we add to that the US’s promotion and support of the Falun Gong sect, we can better understand why the Chinese perceive such activities as hostile and anti-Chinese. In truth, in the long run the Tibetans stand to benefit more from being part of China, in terms of infrastructure, education and economic opportunities, than from building a religious state under Indian-US influence…

Under the leadership of Ms. Rice at the State Department, the US neo-protestant sects and religions – Jehova’s witnesses, the Mormons, Baptists or the Adventist Church – were encouraged to intensify their expansion in Hungary, Romania or Bulgaria, greatly upsetting the religious leadership of these countries. During the 2004 and 2008-9 elections in Romania, for example, the voters attracted by such denominations, mainly Gypsies from Western Romania, helped elect a newly-minted Christian Democrat, very pro-Bush and pro-US party to power.

Another very well-known example of using religion as a means of neutralising one’s political enemies comes from Israel. During the 1980’s, Tel Aviv policymakers and secret services encouraged the spread of Islam in Gaza in the hope of counteracting the PLO’s Moscow-trained leader Yasser Arafat. This, however, ultimately led to the creation of Hamas, with disastruous consequences for Israel’s security.

Using religion to undermine or influence other countries is morally and politically wrong, and the Obama administration should abandon it for good. As history proves, encouraging militant religious movements could lead to more trouble than it’s worth.

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