Boycotting the Qatar-hosted 2022 World Cup is the right and moral thing to do, for myriad reasons.
If you’ve been following this site for awhile, you may recall my piece in January urging you to boycott the Winter Olympics being held in Beijing. In the end, that was an easy choice for me, despite my love for the event itself; China is a brutal totalitarian dictatorship which is committing genocide and actively seeks to destroy the American-led world order. Missing out on some hockey and skiing was a small sacrifice compared to the suffering of those persecuted by the CCP regime.
As with the Winter Olympics, I love the World Cup, the globe’s most important and prestigious soccer tournament, and enjoy watching it every 4 years. I have fond memories of watching my favorite teams – Italy and France – win the tournament in 1998 and 2006, and was very happy to see Les Bleus take the title during my bachelor party in 2018. But I won’t be tuning in this year.
The 2022 World Cup is starting today in the Middle Eastern host nation of Qatar. This year’s version of the quadrennial tournament is an outlier in many ways, not least of which is that it is being held in November, whereas the Cup is traditionally awarded in July. The other reasons, however, are far more disturbing – Qatar is a corrupt, autocratic, discriminatory regime which has no reason to host such a major international sporting event. To be sure, Qatar is no China, but it is still deserving of the boycott treatment. Here’s why.
To the list of all the genocides of the last hundred plus years – Armenia, the Ukrainian famine, the Holocaust, Cambodia, and Rwanda – another entry should be added: the genocide of the Chinese Uighurs.
According to legitimate international researchers and tribunals, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is currently committing cultural and physical genocide against the Uighur Muslim population in Xinjiang province. This population, both ethnically and religiously a minority, has been surveilled by the Chinese government, placed into ‘re-education camps,’ and forcibly sterilized. These deeds fall directly under Article II of the United Nations Convention on Genocide: China is both “causing serious bodily or mental harm” and “imposing measures intended to prevent births” within the Uighur population, “with intent to destroy” it. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese government is denying all claims of atrocities. To their credit, many Western governments, including the United States, have properly labeled these abuses as genocide. Now they must act accordingly.
Unlike the genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, and more recently in Iraq against the Yazidis, the perpetrator, China, is a nuclear power that cannot be deterred through military intervention. Yet, there are several ways that the United States can impose significant costs on Beijing and make it harder for China to continue committing these crimes against humanity.
The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are starting; Americans who care about human rights or geopolitics should join me in skipping them.
The 1936 Berlin Olympic Games live in infamy as a terrible example of how a genocidal authoritarian regime can use international media and sport to serve as propagandists for its evil cause. Despite our appropriate modern appraisal of the Nazi Olympics, the Games were a clear success at the time and greatly legitimized the Hitler regime in the eyes of the wider world. Newspapers around the world largely covered the events as though they occurred in a free nation, only occasionally touching on authoritarian Nazi policies in between race results and medal tables. Some papers even promoted the ceremonial aspects of the Games – obvious and direct Nazi propaganda – with wide-eyed admiration. There were those brave few who pushed boycotts of the Berlin Games for the very abuses we see today as blatantly immoral, but their pleas mostly fell on deaf ears. We must not make that same mistake again.
Prioritizing domestic audiences in foreign policy speaks of a strategy doomed to failure.
“Politics stops at the water’s edge.” This statement – on the necessity of presenting a united front with respect to key national interests – was the accepted wisdom in American foreign policy for quite a long time. There have always been dissenters and partisan infighting in America’s approach to foreign affairs, but for the most part domestic political debates have been subordinated to important international considerations when determining foreign policy. Recently, that seems to have shifted a full 180 degrees; now domestic political concerns and debates drive foreign policy, even at the expense of broad-based American interests globally. Domestic movements and debates have been internationalized and global events and geopolitics are now being viewed almost entirely through the lens of internal American issues. Gone is the single-issue organization or lobby, now replaced with groups who universalize their missions under the theory that all politics is intersectional and intrinsically linked. That’s why, for instance, we see groups ostensibly dedicated to raising awareness of police brutality against African-Americans also making strong declarations on entirely unrelated issues like the Israel-Palestinian conflict. As a result of this universalizing approach, the Biden administration has put the concerns of domestic lobbies ahead of real national interests time and time again. Nothing has made that clearer than three events which have unfolded over the past week.