The Washington Post's Anne Applebaum takes down a list of standard excuses for "going along to get along" at the Beijing Olympics. Highlights:
"The Olympics are a force for good." Not always! The 1936 Olympics, held in Nazi Germany, were an astonishing propaganda coup for Hitler. It's true that the star performance of Jesse Owens, the black American track-and-field great, did shoot some holes in the Nazi theory of Aryan racial superiority. But Hitler still got what he wanted out of the Games. With the help of American newspapers such as the New York Times, which opined that the Games put Germany "back in the family of nations again," he convinced many Germans, and many foreigners, to accept Nazism as "normal."…
"A boycott doesn't solve anything." Well, doesn't it? Some boycotts do help solve some things. The boycott of South Africa by international competitions was probably the single most effective weapon the international community ever deployed against the apartheid state. ("They didn't mind about the business sanctions," a South African friend once told me, "but they minded—they really, really minded—about the cricket.") The boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics helped undermine Soviet propaganda about the invasion of Afghanistan and helped unify the Western world against it.
Her powerful kicker:
No one involved in the preparations for this year's Olympics really believes that this is "only about the athletes," or that the Beijing Games will be an innocent display of sporting prowess, or that they bear no relation to Chinese politics. I don't see why the rest of us should believe those things, either.
More on the upcoming Games here.