From the Chinese Revolution of 1911 until after the Second World War, Tibet enjoyed de facto independence from China. When China invaded Tibet in 1950, some in Washington saw support for the Himalayan nation's self-determination as a legitimate challenge to resurgent world communism.
Orphans of the Cold War is the inside story of America's clandestine support of Tibetan resistance, written by a 44-year veteran of the CIA who helped organize the training of Tibetan agents in Colorado and their deployment on the high Tibetan plateau. America's military aid to Tibet was much more substantial than generally realized, with airdrops of supplies into the interior and the maintenance of 2,000 guerrillas in Mustang, Nepal, throughout the '60s. John Knaus's description of these daring operations is contextualized by excellent analysis of the diplomacy of the period, especially at the UN. This is a colorful adventure story, supported by unique photographs of the "Roof of the World," with a cast of characters that includes presidents, ambassadors, Tibetan herdsmen, and the Dalai Lama. It is also a heartbreaking story of courage operating against ultimately impossible odds.
By 1974, after rapprochement with China, America ended its paramilitary support of Tibet. The Dalai Lama sees this as positive: before, American support was largely a cold-war tactic, but now, he says, "the help and support we receive from the United States is truly out of sympathy and human compassion." --John Stevenson
From Publishers Weekly
Knaus brings a dose of realpolitik and detailed history to the often romanticized subject of Tibet. A former CIA officer and a friend of the Dalai Lama's family for 40 years, Knaus became involved with the CIA's clandestine operation to support Tibetan self-determination in 1958 and watched it sputter, flourish and fizzle under Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. At a CIA-staffed training base in Colorado, Tibetan resistance fighters learned guerrilla warfare, and the CIA air-dropped those Tibetan men, arms and equipment into Tibet. By 1959, large pockets of central Tibet came under rebel control. But most Tibetans were unwilling or unable to adopt guerrilla tactics, and the CIA, according to Knaus (who retired from the agency in 1995 and is now a Harvard East Asian scholar), greatly underestimated China's willingness to decimate the Tibetan resistance. By 1974, having opened diplomatic relations with China, Washington cut off support for Tibetan paramilitary and political programs. Although the Dalai Lama accused the U.S. of sacrificing Tibet to the exigencies of Cold War geopolitics, Knaus portrays Western politicians, operatives and diplomats often motivated by altruism or idealism. Nevertheless, as the title implies, this remarkable book demonstrates that the Tibetans have been triply "orphaned": by the U.S., which never delivered on its promise of sustained support; by India, which gave sanctuary to the Tibetan government-in-exile but pursued an equivocal policy designed to placate China; and by the UN, where support for Tibetan autonomy faded as China's star rose. This thorough diplomatic and political history is vital to an understanding of the tragedy of modern Tibet. 53 pages of b&w photos.
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