Adam G. Bridge

The Law of Nationbuilding

Fall 2005













The Tibetan occupation and accompanying diaspora have dragged on for over 50 years, but I assert conditions are not yet ripe for an insurgency.  The facts are surely ominous enough: the Tibetan Automous Region of China ( the “TAR”) has become, in effect, a totalitarian police state;  the refugee population has steadily grown to over 110,000 worldwide; and the United Nations has passed numerous human rights resolutions condemming China for its policies in Tibet.  So what separates the Tibetan resistance movement from those taking place elsewhere around the globe?  Why are there no suicide bombings in Lhasa – the capital city?

            The differences begin with Tibet’s unique history.  Any student of Tibetan history quickly learns, to his chagrin, that Tibetans were living in the functional equivalent of the dark ages until well into the Twentieth Century.  As a result, Tibetan nationalism is a relatively new phenonemon.  Tibetans have a long history of being fiercely independent people.  But this independent streak has historically extended to domestic relations as well.  Even today, when one meets an older Tibetan refugee, she will identify herself first with the region in Tibet from which she is from, and only second as Tibetan.  The first portion of this paper will try to explain why a Tibetan national identify failed to take hold for so long and why, without a strong historical sense of unity, a modern Tibetan insurgency is unlikely.  

            The second portion of this paper is devoted to the first Tibetan insurgency, a failed campaign that lasted approximately fifteen years following China’s invasion of Tibet.  This section will discuss the CIA’s secret war in Tibet, and how this on again, off again relationship ultimately ended in the death of thousands of Tibetan resistance fighters.  As I hope to make clear, there are important lessons to be learned from the first insurgency as today’s refugees begin to contemplate a second campaign.

            The next part is dedicated to the Tibetan diaspora, the Dalai Lama’s leadership, and his efforts to create a Tibetan nation in exile.  The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been committed to non-violent resistance from the beginning of the Chinese occupation.  His  Holiness’ strong leadership and peaceful philosophy have been essential to the refugees’ basic survival over the last fifty years, and his success in forming a government-in-exile and various social service programs has helped preserve Tibetan culture in exile.  But some argue his efforts have been misplaced and perhaps have even cost Tibetans their indepedence.  Toward the end of this section, I will discuss some of the rifts developing within the exile community.

            The final portion of this paper will draw on the preceding ones, together with some fundamental principles of insurgency, in the hope of showing why a second Tibetan insurgency is unlikely.  To this end, I hope to show that not all insurgencies are created equal; that the majority of Tibetans are still committed to non-violent resistance; and that dissidents in exile are still in the formative stages of a second insurgency.

























Tibet is scarcely mentioned in the seminal literature on nationalism.  In fact, it is generally ignored altogether.  There seem to be several contributing factors.  For one, it is impossible to study or understand modern Tibetan national phenomena without delving into the labrynths of Tibetan Buddhism and Sino-Tibetan relations – both formidable subjects in their own right.  Second, important aspects of Tibetan history are easily manipulated and have the potential to cut both ways, depending on a scholar’s political persuasion.  Third, Tibet was never part of a European empire, so there is no Tibetan parallel for the by-products of colonialism that are essential to many theories of Asian nationalism.  Finally, compared with other regions of Asia, there are relatively few scholars of Tibetan Studies.

            Therefore, I will largely ignore otherwise well-accepted theories and definitions that purport to explain Asian nationalism.  Benedict Anderson’s “imagined communities” thesis, for example, applies particularly well to the Southeast Asian experience, but falls short when applied to Tibet.  According to Anderson, nationalism in Asia is largely the byproduct of colonialism, which tends to produce a class of educated elites, who in turn seek modernizing reforms and eventually independence in “Western” terms.[i]  Because Tibet maintained its independence and acted largely as a buffer state throughout the colonial era and World War II, there is more to Tibetan nationalism and identity than some crude reflection of European models.

            For purposes of this discussion, I will borrow Max Weber’s definition of a nation: “a community of sentiment…which would normally tend to produce a state of its own.”[ii]  By this definition, Tibet is a nation.  Of course, the present world order clearly demonstrates that not all “communities of sentiment” are capable of establishing independent states of their own.  But Tibetans nevertheless persist to have national aspirations, leading one to conclude that “it is mistaken to assume that because nationalism is a worldwide phenomena [sic], it must be universal in form.”[iii] 

            For various reasons, Tibet was not compelled to develop at the pace, nor in the style of its neighbors.  Tibetan society enjoyed unparalleled isolation until well into the Twentieth Century, and as a result, it took on its own unique social and political institutions.  Therefore, there are uniquely homegrown elements to Tibetan nationalism, and after several decades in diaspora, nationalist sentiment continues to evolve due to the pressures of exile.  The following section will attempt to explain some of the historical origins of Tibetan nationalism. 



            A.        Early Tibet and its Historical Place in Central and Inner Asia


            Tibetans have long-relished the isolation and independence that follows from a rugged steppe and mountain life.  The relative poverty of Tibet’s environment forced a significant portion of the population into pastoral nomadism, with those in oasis areas practicing either irrigated or unirrigated agriculture.[iv]  Tibet’s patchwork of nomadic and agricultural settlements was a major impediment to political unity.  Regional alliances became the norm early on, and only after the long and slow development of a central presence, either in Tibet, Mongolia or China, “could the political requisites of unification be worked out in a majority of the constituent areas and from there imposed on others.”[v] 

            But these periods were rare in Tibet’s history and Tibetan society has a longstanding tendency toward fission.  The separatist spirit is best exemplified by the nomads of eastern Tibet (Khampas) who have a long history of resisting both Tibetan and Chinese attempts to disrupt their autonomy.[vi]  Therefore, when discussing Tibetan society from a historical perspective, it is important to keep in mind that for most of Tibet’s history, “[its] people have rarely lived under a single authority and hence have had little sense of being ruled by a single authority.”[vii]  Although Lhasa eventually became the center of gravity of the entire country, Tibetans living outside the central government’s limited sphere of influence have traditionally felt only the slightest pull.

            It is also important to note Tibet’s geographical location in the heart of Central Asia.  The so-called Silk Road, with its converging lines of cultural, economic, and social intercourse throughout Asia, made Tibet “a meeting ground of influences drawn remotely from a number of geographical regions and differing societies.”[viii]  During periods of strength, the central Tibetan government in Lhasa sent representatives to other parts of Asia in search of things lacking on the high plateau.  Importing Buddhism from Nepal and India, and the development of a Tibetan script by Kashmiri scholars, are just two noteworthy examples.  But for most of Tibet’s history, the Himalayas on the west and the lesser mountain ranges to the east served as geographical moderators, tempering the effect of  historical events and technological developments taking place in neighboring countries.[ix] 

            B.         Emergence of a Buddhist State


            The Mongols were the first power, domestic or foreign, to achieve lasting influence over all of Tibet after the Tibetan Empire of the Seventh through Ninth centuries – an empire that stretched from Lhasa to Beijing.  As the Mongols approached from the north at the beginning of the Thirteenth century, no religious or lay power had emerged as dominant enough to assert control over the entire plateau.[x]  Through Mongol patronage, religious leaders gained the political foothold necessary to transform Tibet into a Buddhist state.

            The patron-priest relationship (cho-yon) between Mongolia and Tibet originated between Tibet’s Sakya Pandita, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism’s Sakya sect, and Prince Godan, the ruler of Mongolia.[xi]  The relationship continued into the following generation when Kublai Khan (the grandson of Ghenghis Khan) brought the Mongol Empire to its zenith, moved his capital to present day Beijing, and became the first emperor of China’s Yuan Dynasty.  Although scholars disagree about the specifics of the patron-priest dyad, David Snellgrove and Hugh Richardson offer a reasonable description: “the ruler of Tibet in the person of the predominant grand lama was regarded as the priest of the emperor, who in turn acted as patron and protector.”[xii] 

            The patron-priest relationship between Mongolia and Tibet transformed Tibetan politics forever.  In order to preserve the country’s autonomy and placate Mongolia (and eventually China), Tibet’s religious leaders implemented a system known in Tibetan as cho-srid zung-brel, meaning “religion and politics combined.”  The essence of the relationship has been described as follows:

The secular and spiritual were regarded as equal in importance; the secular ruler was required to guarantee peace to his subjects so they might devote themselves to religion.  As the secular and spiritual realms were equal, so were the rulers of each.  The head of state and the head of religion were equally necessary for the ultimate salvation of humanity.  Without peace provided by the secular ruler, humanity would have no opportunity to seek religion; without the leader of religion, there would be no path to salvation.[xiii]


In terms of local political organization, “villages [were] grouped according to a political federation system in which four to seven villages, with a sacred mountain and a monastery for education and religious gathering, comprised a federation.”[xiv]  Over time, this feudal system came to define Tibetan society, with lay Tibetans paying rent and homage to a local monastery or aristocrat (or both), and from there money and respect circulated upwards through the feudal hierarchy. 

            According to some scholars, Tibet’s patron-priest relationship with the Mongols and subsequent Chinese dynasties marks the beginning of a Tibetan collective identity and political consciousness.  At the very least, “monastic Buddhism probably served to unite, in a community of religion and outlook, social groups isolated territorally, and keep them in touch with each other through the ministrations of a church…”[xv]  However, regionalism flourished in Tibet even under Mongol and Chinese patronage, making it unlikely that Tibetans conceived of themselves as a single social or political unit.  As a result, feudal Tibet probably resembled Ernest Gellner’s description of agrarian societies generally:

The great majority of its citizens [were] agricultural producers, living in inward-turned communities, and they [were] dominated by a minority whose chief distinguishing attributes [were] the management of violence, the maintenance of order, and the control of the offical wisdom of the society.[xvi]


Although Tibet remained dependent on foreign patronage to maintain its autonomy througout its history,  there was no real disadvantage in being the dependent state until the Communists came to power in China; rather, “political dependency was usually advantageous…and posed no threat to either the internal political autonomy or cultural identity.”[xvii]  The realities of being a dependent, Buddhist state did not become apparent to Tibetan leaders until the “Great Game” converged on Central Asia in the Nineteenth Century.

C.        The First “Independent” Tibet

            During most of the imperial era, Tibet served as a buffer state between Russia to the north, British India to the south and west, and China’s Ch’ing Dynasty to the east.  Despite its relative weakness compared with the relative super-powers of the time, Tibet remained outside their spheres of influence, and Tibetan society has been aptly described as “inward turned.”[xviii]

That is not to suggest that Tibet did not arouse interest and speculation during this era.  To the contrary, Tibet’s famed isolationism and religious fervor engendered a great deal of curiosity about the land and its people, particularly when letters to the Dalai Lama went unanswered and would-be travelers to Tibet were turned away before reaching Lhasa.  During most of the colonial era, however, Tibet’s isolationism was respected.  But as the Ch’ing Dynasty started to lose its influence over frontier areas like Tibet, Russia and Britain made efforts to contact the Tibetans.

            After a series of back breaking treaties with various foreign powers, China completely lost its influence over Tibetan affairs.  One of Britain’s chief demands was the establishment of Anglo-Tibetan relations, both to secure India’s northern border and to facilitate trade in the region.  Under the Chefoo Convention of 1874, England was given the exclusive right to explore Tibet.[xix]  However, the British eventually discovered that at times of weakness, China had no authority to negotiate treaties on the Tibetans’ behalf.  When a British army expedition was sent from India to Tibet and ordered to reach Lhasa, by force if necessary, in 1903, the British encourtered stiff resistance, even though the Chinese had guaranteed them safe passage.  After skirmishes in which Tibetans were “shot down like partridges,”[xx] the British eventually became the first Europeans to reach Lhasa, although it took them the better part of a year to cross the plateau.    

            If Tibet’s independence was ambiguous before establishment of Anglo-Tibetan relations, the Lhasa Convention of 1904 muddied the waters even further.  By negotiating with Tibetan leaders directly, the British government implicity recognized the right of Tibet’s leaders to form bilateral agreements independent of China, which in turn confirmed the independent status of Tibet.[xxi]  Tibetan historians often harken back to this agreement as evidence of their independence from China.

            Unfortunately, the Lhasa Convention was not well-received in the international community, particularly in China.  To further its own interests in China, Britain agreed that China would continue to have some relation to Tibet, giving rise to the vague term “suzerainty,” which is defined as “a sovereign or state having supremecy over another state which possesses its own ruler or government but cannot act as an independent power.”[xxii]  India had experience with this concept because of its relations with Bhutan and Sikkim, but the concept was entirely lost on the Tibetans. 

            The Chinese seized upon the concept of “suzerainty” and interpreted it to mean they retained sovereignty over Tibet, a wholly different concept.  The Communists would eventually use the vagueness of suzerainty to justify incorporating Tibet into China.  At the same time, the international community would refuse to accept Tibet’s declarations of independence based on its understanding of China’s so-called suzerainty over Tibet. 

            But between the collapse of China’s Ch’ing Dynasty and the Communists’ rise to power, Tibetans enjoyed a period of genuine autonomy and freedom during which it tried to establish an international presence.  With the formation of the Chinese Republic in 1912, Tibet was totally free of Chinese influence for the first time since the Eighteenth Century.  The Thirteenth Dalai Lama tried to capitalize on this opportunity and initiated several modernizing reforms designed to free Tibet from its dependence of foreign patronage.  One such project – the creation of a modern army – illustrates some of the many obstacles that blocked Tibet’s modernization.

            Raising and supporting an army is expensive, especially if a country is starting from scratch.  Under its feudal economy, Tibet had very few sources of revenue.  When the Thirteenth Dalai Lama tried to raise the money needed for an army through taxes, Tibet’s monastic communities revolted.  The monastic estates had never paid taxes, and they resisted reform because it threatened to infringe on their traditional autonomy and control.  Modernization threatened to disrupt the balance of power in Tibet’s theocracy, so they “undermine[d] whenever and wherever they could the Dalai Lama’s intention to further modernize and strengthen Tibet’s army.”[xxiii]

            Wealthy aristocrats fought alongside the monastic communities to protect their traditional positions of power as well, and the combined effect of the religious and secular communities working against reform proved fatal.  As McCarthy notes, “[t]hose responsible for Tibet remained in near total disagreement and turmoil, thereby weakening Tibet to the point that the government began to border on helplessness.”[xxiv]  For example, to express his disapproval over the Dalai Lama’s efforts to modernize Tibet, the Panchen Lama, the second most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism, fled first to Mongolia and eventually to China, where he was greeted warmly by the Chinese.[xxv]

            With the Panchen Lama in China, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s plan to modernize and unite Tibet failed.  During this time, Tibet adopted many of the symobols commonly identified with a modern nation, e.g., a national anthem, a flag, postage stamps, national currency.  Some of these symbols live on in the exile community today.  But those symbols were not enough to overcome Tibet’s lack of political and social cohesion and its ill-defined status in the international community.  For example, with the Panchen Lama in exile, China was in a position to sow discord and rivalry between the two most revered leaders in Tibet and thereby possessed a tool with which to accomplish what it ultimatey wanted – the subjugation of Tibet.  And with British acceptance of Chinese suzerainty, the British unwittingly frustrated Tibet’s bid for independence and secured China’s claims over Tibet, even though China had to wait until after World War II and the rise of the Communists to ultimately realize its goal of absorbing Tibet into China. 



D.        World War II and Communist China

            For most of World War II, Tibet successfully maintained its neutrality and autonomy.  However, once Japan breached the Burma Road, the allies lost their only overland supply route from South Asia to China.[xxvi]  In order to get supplies into China, the United States convinced the Tibetans to permit ground transport of non-military supplies across its territory.  Curiosly, while China was losing major swaths of territory to Japanese invasion, they were more concerned with strengthening their position in Tibet than repelling Japanese invaders.  As Smith observes:

The Chinese attempted to use the war supplies transport plan to improve their position in Tibet; they announced they would dispatch agents to supervise the transport of suppliess all along the Tibetan trade routes.  The Tibetans refused to allow this, even threatening to use force to prevent the entry of Chinese officials in Tibet.[xxvii]  


Because China insisted on maintaining a presence along the overland route across Tibet, the Tibetans eventually halted all transport to China.  The Allies did not engage Tibet any further during the war, except for getting a Tibetan promise to “assist in rescuing any Allied pilots and crewmen downed in Tibet.”[xxviii]  In the grand scheme, China sqaundered the Allies’ attempts to help them in their war against Japan, and Tibet maintained her neutrality during World War II.  The one important consequence for the Tibetans, however, was that “Tibet established relations with the United States and Tibet’s de facto independence and its desire for independence de jure were made known to the outside world.”[xxix]

In a bitter piece of irony, because Tibet refused to aid China during its war with Japan, the war dragged on, eventually devolving into an internal struggle between the Nationalists and the Communists.  While the rest of the world world recovered from the after-effects of World War II, the Communists were able to wrest control of the government, centralize and consolidate control, and once again focus on Tibet.  Within days after of establishing their government in Beijing, the Communists announced their intentions to “liberate [their] compatriots in Tibet.”[xxx]

E.         China’s Invastion of Tibet and the 17-Point Agreement


            Once the Chinese expressed their unequivocal intention to “liberate” Tibet, Tibetans appealed desperately for an international intervention, but none was forthcoming.  The Tibetans appealed to three countries in particular – India, England, and the United States – but each refused to intervene.  The United States was largely preoccupied with the Cold War, and England no longer had any direct interest in the region after India achieved independence in 1947.  Because Tibet had resisted establishing bilateral relations with other influential nations, India was left as Tibet’s lone possible defender at the United Nations.

            Unfortunately, leaving Tibet’s fate in the hands of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru eventually led him to ponder whether Tibet was worth defending.  After all, Nehru “had as his primary objective establishing India as the head of the non-aligned nations in order to mediate between East-West, Cold War rivals whenever international conflict loomed or was in progress.”[xxxi]  Adopting the Tibetan cause at the United Nations would have frustrated this goal and irrritated Communist China, which was something India desperately wanted to avoid.  As a result, “on November 24 the UN General Committee…unanimously voted to postpone consideration of the Tibetan appeal based on the assertion of India’s ambassador that Beijing’s latest note pointed toward a peaceful settlement.”[xxxii]

            After repeated assurances that the Chinese had only peaceful intentions vis-à-vis Tibet, the international community essentially abandoned the issue.  Of course, China had already sent more than 80,000 troops into Tibet against a Tibetan army that consisted of a handful of ancient guns, the Dalai Lama’s personal guard, and various bands of armed monks and farmers.[xxxiii]  Obviously the Tibetans never had a chance, and the Chinese reached Lhasa with ease.

            Having achieved military victory without any serious criticism from the international community, China set to work getting Tibetans to submit politically.  A Tibetan delegation was sent to Beijing in 1951 to see what terms could be reached.  Of course, whenever the Tibetans disagreed with a Chinese proposal, “the Chinese pointed out that the issue could be resolved peacefully, through the negotiation process, or the Chinese could resolve it forefully using their troops in Tibet.”[xxxiv]  The agreement reached in Beijing has come to be known as the 17-Point Agreement, which the current Dalai Lama describes as follows:

Ultimately, the Chinese drafted a revised agreement, with seventeen articles.  This was presented as an ultimatum.  Our delegates were not allowed to make any alterations or suggestions.  They were insulted and abused and threatened with personal violence, and with further military action against the people of Tibet, and they were not allowed to refer to me or my government for further instructions.[xxxv]


At first blush, the 17-Point Agreement is unobjectionable since it stressed that Tibet’s political and religious life would remain largely unchanged and under Tibetan control.  The Chinese also promised not to institute socialist reform in Tibet unless the Tibetans called for change, and the actual implementation of reform was to be done by Tibetans themselves.  And finally, the Chinese army promised not to pillage Tibet or become a burden on its fragile economy.[xxxvi] 

            The Dalai Lama was hesistant to adopt the 17-Point Agreement because he considered it coerced and he knew it would foreclose any chance for an independent Tibet.  At the same time, he had to do what he could for his people, and without an agreement, Tibetans faced the imminent threat of an even more overwhelming Chinese invasion. Furthermore, there were no assurances that the international community would support his decision to reject the agreement.  Faced with this dilemna, the Tibetans accepted the 17-Point Agreement and Tibet officially became a part of China.   More importantly, however, “Tibet’s formal acceptance of the agreement, and thus of Chinese authority over Tibet, essentially eliminated Tibet’s claim of independent statehood within international law.”[xxxvii]

China operated within the confines of the 17-Point Agreement for a short time, but the occupation proved too traumatic for most Tibetans and quickly gave rise to widespread social unrest.  During the early occupation, Tibetans retained some control over internal politics and they were free to practice Buddhism.  As one author observes, however, “[e]conomic development, industrial production, even the introduction of money, required fundamental changes in a society that had used barter as a primary form of exchange.”[xxxviii]

Tibetans resisted most reforms because they were not designed to benefit Tibetans as they were originally designed to do.  Land reform, for example, was a huge failure.  On paper, land reform was part of the democratization process – taking land from its feudal, pre-Communist holders and redistributing it to “the people.”  In practice, however, “redistribution of land meant that the best Tibetan land was distributed to the Chinese while the poorer plots were allocated to the Tibetans.”[xxxix]  Additionally, many of the major Tibetan land holders were monastaries, so when their land was seized by the Chinese, they saw their traditional sources of revenue, and survival, disappear.

            In a zealous attempt to consolidate their new holdings, the Chinese Communists instituted other noteworthy reforms designed to help Tibet make its own “Great Leap Forward.”  Many of these reforms involved ideas wholly foreign to Tibet.  For example, to help Tibetans realize the inherent inequality of their feudal society, the Chinese created previously unknown class divisions.  The deliberate establishment of these class divisions quickly turned Tibetan against Tibetan and sowed internal social tension where there was none previously.  And at the “high tide” of socialist transformation, the Chinese abolished the concept of personal property.  For the first time, “Tibetans were forced to work land that was not their own, and to give most of the resulting crop yield to the Chinese while maintaining barely enough to keep them alive.”[xl]    As upsetting as these reforms must have been, it was a relatively small action taken by the Chinese that finally proved too much for the Tibetans to bear:

The serious mistake by the Chinese [was] the decision to collect the weapons from the tribals and from the rural monasteries.  This act was resented far more by the Tibetans than the increased taxes and seizing of private property by the Chinese.[xli]


               By taking away his gun, the Tibetan man was stripped of an important symbol of his manhood.  Practically speaking, without a weapon, the Tibetan nomad could no longer provide food and security for his family.  The idea of working on a collective farm was likewise intolerable to most free-spirited Tibetan nomads.  As McCarthy writes, the Chinese went too far and too fast: “the haughty Chinese did not understand that the Tibetans, especially the proud and independent and fiercely loyal tribal groups, were not going to become slaves to the invaders.”[xlii]  And so the seeds of Tibet’s first insurgency were sown.





















            Armed Tibetan resistance against the Chinese occupation began in earnest in 1956, three years before the Dalai Lama went into exile in India.  In the insurgency’s earliest stages, the guerillas took advantage of their speed, anonymity, and knowledge of the terrain.  The Tibetans would come seemingly out of nowhere, outrun and massacre a small Chinese garrison on horseback, and then flee before reinforcements arrived.  To counter the Tibetans’ early successes, the Chinese implemented a brutal policy of overwhelming retaliation:

The Chinese [used] artillery and bomber aircraft, not only against the guerillas when they could find them, but also against the villages and monasteries whose people they suspected, rightly or wrongly, of having helped them.[xliii] 


            These brutal reprisals no doubt produced more Tibetans willing to fight in the insurgency, but the first guerillas were fighting more “for the defense of their locality, their monasteris, and their lamas,” than for a shared sense of Tibetan nationalism.[xliv]  With each guerilla group working toward its own ends, the Chinese became annoyed, but their hold over Tibet was never in serious jeopardy. 

            After several years of local resistance, guerilla leaders realized they had to organize a national resistance movement.  This was made possible when the United States finally decided to enter the fray as part of its Cold War strategy.


            In 1955 President Eisenhower authorized the CIA to develop underground, resistance, and guerilla groups around the world, with the aim of stopping the spread of “international commnism.”[xlv]  A few years later, when it became known that Tibetans were resisting the Chinese occupation, Eisenhower decided he would do something to frustrate China’s incorporation of Tibet into China.  For the next fifteen years, the Tibetan resistance movement had an on again, off again relationship with the United States.

            On the ground in Tibet, guerilla leaders tried desperately to coordinate a national resistance movement.  In central Tibet, a group called Chushi Gongdruk (Tibetan for four rivers, six ranges) emerged, and the leaders of this organization tried to form alliances with the guerillas  already fighting in eastern Tibet.  The group, however, faced serious impediments to the formation of a truly national resistance movement.  For one, the group had little or no influence among the tribal leaders in eastern Tibet.  Second, the chieftans perceived Chushi Gongdruk as a modernizing organization, and thus as a threat to their traditional hegemony over the area.  And third, the Tibetans in the east had been resisting the Chinese for some time – in fact, for centuries before the formal occupation, so Chushi Gangdruk was perceived as socially and militarily inferior.[xlvi]

            The United States waited for a formal request from the Dalai Lama to begin operations in Tibet, but none was forthcoming.  The Dalai Lama, of course, was committed to non-violence, and he could not openly sanction killing, even of those who occupied his country.  Therefore, once the Americans saw a national resistance movement taking shape in Tibet, they decided to support Chushi Gangdruk as much as possible, with or without the Dalai Lama’s blessing.[xlvii]

            Operation ST. CIRCUS, as it came to be known, was essentially a two-pronged mission.  The first was supplying arms to Tibetan guerilla fighters in Tibet and eventually Nepal.  The second prong was training a small contingent of Tibetan fighters in modern guerilla warfare outside Tibet so they would be better prepared to fight the Chinese.

            Operations begain in 1957 when a small group of Tibetans was “exfiltrated from India and flown to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to Saipan, where they were trained by a few selected CIA officers for four and half months.”[xlviii]  In Saipan, the Tibetans were trained in sabotage techniques, demolition, and code-and-cipher work for radio operators.[xlix]  This last aspect of their training was particularly important because prior to the guerillas’ training, there had been no means of direct communication between Tibet and the United States.

            Despite the CIA’s decision to aid the Tibetans, they also wanted to maintain plausible deniability, and they went to great lengths to do so.  For example, before the guerillas were dropped back into Tibet their clothes and equipment were carefully searched to dispose of any markings that may have identified them with the United States, and the unmarked planes were flown by Polish and Czech expatriotes.[l]  Luckily, two of these flights were successful, at which point the Tibetans started requesting guns and ammunition.  The United States flew several successful missions to Tibet, and after the United States government approved more funding for the mission, the Tibetan resistance movement started to take hold.  As Grunfeld writes:

Strangely, most of the Chinese, especially their military officers and party officials in Lhasa, did not seem to believe that the Tibetans would actually undertake armed resistance, or that if they did, they were certain the Tibetans could not combat the Chinese might beyond a very few days at the most.[li]  


Once the Chinese figured out the Tibetans had coordinated a national resistance movement, the Chinese committed their superior technology and airpower to wiping out the insurgency.  Given Tibet’s geography, the insurgents had nowhere to hide as they traveled across the wide open plateau.  Their easy defeat was exacerbated by the fact that guerillas traveled in large groups with their families and animals instead of traveling clandestinely.  Even after repeated instruction from CIA officers to disperse and travel in small groups, the Tibetans would not comply because, as one author observes, “it was their way of life.”[lii]  As a result, the guerillas were slaughtered by the hundreds and the national resistance movement quickly lost momentum.

The first insurgency received an additional blow when the Dalai Lama entered exile in 1959.  Thousands of Tibetans quickly followed, especially those in central and western Tibet.  With the departure of the Dalai Lama and his formal repudiation of the 17-Point Agreement, the Chinese cracked down on the insurgency with increased vigor.  They immediately dissolved the Tibetan government and declared martial law.  Any attempts at resistence “were met with massive retaliation, the intent of which was to terrorize the populace into submission.”[liii] 

The Dalai Lama’s flight into exile also coincided with China’s “Cultural Revolution,” so the timing could not have been worse.  No Tibetan, not even Buddhist monks, were immune from the “democratization process.”  All Tibetans were assigned to “study groups,” which Smith describes as follows:

The study groups broke the bonds of trust within traditional groups such as family and peer groups because pressures to reveal any deviation were so intense that even trusted individuals were forced to inform on others; the usual security within such groups was thus destroyed.[liv]


For those Tibetans who did not submit to milder forms of “re-education” and propoganda, forced labor camps were created.  The Tibetans were used as labor to build railroads, cut down Tibetan timber, and work on hydroelectric plants, all the while being subjected to constant political indoctrination.  As Smith writes, “resistance resulted only in death from execution, torture, overwork or starvation.”[lv]

As a result of the Chinese crackdown, many insurgents followed the Dalai Lama into exile.  In 1959, the guerillas moved their operations to Mustang, a small state within Nepal but outside the kingdom’s sphere of influence.  The guerillas in Nepal essentially became the paramilitary wing of the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile, based in northern India. Early operations from Mustang were highly successful – in fact, too successful.  Word quickly spread that a large resistance movement was gathering in Mustang, and before long, there were over 2,000 men encamped and ready to fight.  The secrecy of the operations – and the CIA’s involvement – was fatally compromised.  Washington quickly cut ties with the insurgents in exile, and this on again, off again relationship continued until 1965, when the United States, now preoccupied with the Vietnam War, decided to end operations in Tibet.


Difficulties both within  and outside Tibet contributed to the failure of the first insurgency.  Internally, China’s overwhelming military might presented the largest problem.   By the time the first insurgency reached its zenith, there were over 200,000 Chinese troops inside Tibet.  Thus, by shear numbers, the Chinese made it clear that they were in Tibet to stay.  Tibetan guerillas underestiminated China’s interests in and commitment to the region, and they should have adapted their strategies to maximize their coercive effect.

And herein lies the second major internal problem with the first insurgency.  Instead of fighting as they had been taught by the CIA, the first Tibetan guerillas fought as Tibetan warriors had done since time immemorial – that is, in large concentrations, together with their families and animals, out on the open plateau.  Consequently, Chinese aircraft were able to easily identify pockets of Tibetan resistance, and the PLA troops on the ground could concentrate their forces there.  And yet, even in the heat of battle, after realizing they were outmanned and outgunned, most Tibetan guerillas abandoned what the CIA had taught them about scattering in the mountainsides and concentrated on saving their families and animals instead.  The guerillas were thus slaughtered in large numbers – together with their families and animals – because they chose to engage in pitched battles with Chinese soldiers. 

Among external factors, perhaps the most prominent is the limited number of arms and ammunition made availabe to the Tibetans by the CIA.  With less than half the Tibetan guerillas adequately armed and trained, and only a handful of airdrops over a span of fifteen years, it is impressive Tibetans managed any resistance at all.  The delays in getting arms to the Tibetans can be blamed on the American military beaucracy in place at the time.  According to Barton, “there were so many steps that had to be acomplished in order to carry out even the smallest action regarding Tibet that nothing was done rapidly.”[lvi]

Of course, delivering a steady stream of supplies to Tibetan guerillas inside Tibet was probably a hopeless expectation from the beginning.  Geography, limited air capabilities, and the CIA’s commitment to plausible deniability in the region, among other things, prevented the CIA from developing a well-trained, well-equipped cadre of Tibetan fighters.  But instead of being honest with the Tibetans about its intentions and capabilities in the region, the CIA consistently led the Tibetans to believe the United States was committed to the insurgent cause and that supplies were “on the way.”

As a result, the first insurgency probably lasted much longer than it should have.  The insurgents were put at a considerable disadvantage once the Dalai Lama entered exile because they had to move their operations outside Tibet.  While they trained and awaited supplies, the Chinese consolidated their control over the country and secured the border regions.  Also, since the CIA maintained no leadership presence in Nepal (besides the Tibetans they had trained), control over the insugrents’ acitivites was “tenuous at best.”[lvii]

Without effective leadership, the resistance movement lacked cohesiveness, and once again Tibetans’ regional and ideological differences emerged.  As Knaus writes:

They had not asked Lhasa’s permission or endorsement when they begain their revolt against the Chinese.  By this time most of them had been making their own operational decisions for almost a decade as a matter of survival.  Their natural inclination toward unilateral action was compounded by the fact that the Tibetans had more immediate objectives not shared by their partners…They had little interest in delaying their actions to serve some future or remote objective.[lviii]


The resistance movement lacked leadership because of another key external factor that ultimately contribued to its demise: the geo-politics of the period.  The United States was never genuinely committed to ending the Chinese occupation.  The CIA was merely conducting an experiment to to see what the Tibetans could do in the short-term to harrass China and stop the spread of global communism.  If Tibet was an estabished, independent country at the time of the invasion, perhaps the United States would have taken a more active role, as they did in Vietnam.  The fact remains, however, that Tibetan delegates were not recognized by the United Nations; by all appearances, the country was led by a young monk living in exile in the mountains of northern India; and China appeared to exercise some vague historical suzerainty over the region. 


            I have gone to some length to show how Tibet’s unique social and political history precluded the development of a truly national consciousness until the start of the Chinese occupation.  This was fatal to Tibet’s first insurgency, and it promises to play havoc with a second one as well.  The next section will discuss the Dalai Lama’s efforts to recreate the Tibetan nation in exile, and how his efforts have affected the viability of a second insurgency.


















The Tibetan diaspora began in earnest in 1959 with the Dalai Lama’s flight into exile.   After him came a mass exodus of Tibetan refugees that has steadily grown to over 110,000 worldwide.  The diaspora has brought together refugees from all provinces and social strata of traditional Tibetan society.  Together in exile, regional animosities steadily gave way (at least temporarily) to the greater commonality of being Tibetan refugees.  The Dalai Lama, as the foremost Tibetan refugee, came to represent all Tibetans, as well as the unique socio-political traditions of old Tibet.

In exile, the Dalai Lama soon established a formal government-in-exile, despite pressure from India and the  United States to maintain a low profile.  As the Dalai Lama himself writes, “[w]e decided that, although we would borrow the attributes of the modern world, we would retain our own good traits, which are appreciated even by the outsiders.”[lix]  The most important of these modernizing reforms was an experiment in democracy.  By establishing a representative government-in-exile, the Dalai Lama sought to bring the Tibetan government out of antiquity and into conformity with international norms.  He also wanted to give Tibetan refugees a chance to accustom themselves to the rigors of democracy, in the hope that the exile governnment might lay the essential groundwork for an ultimately democratic Tibet, free from Chinese occupation.

Beyond democracy, the exile government also demonstrated a strong commitment to fostering a nationalistic, pan-Tibetan identity in exile.  With India’s generosity, Tibetans set up handicraft and agricultural cooperatives in northern and southern India.  These cooperatives put refugees to work, lessened the financial strain on the exile government, and most importantly, kept Tibetans together.  The governnment-in-exile also instituted a system of secular, standardized education.  In old Tibet, only the very rich or those pursuing the monastic life received even a basic education.  As a result, nearly 90% of Tibetan refugees were illiterate.

A Buddhist education may have turned out great philosophers and religious figures, but it did not produce nearly enough self-sufficient, politically savvy individuals, much less a cadre of Tibetan patriots.  The notions most commonly associated with nationalism – e.g., self-determination – have no place within a traditional Buddhist education.  In fact, any emphasis on individuality is pure anathema.  Older generations of Tibetan refugees had memories of Tibet to help them resist assimilation in exile.  Younger generations of Tibetan refugees, particularly those born outside Tibet, needed a Tibetan education to equip them with the tools needed to carry on Tibet’s struggle in exile. 

Education and political reform are just two noteworthy examples of the Dalai Lama’s efforts to both preserve and completely overhaul Tibetan society.  Outside Tibet, Tibetan culture was destined for serious challenges.  Without a strong and united exile community, many Tibetans likely would have abandoned their distinctive way of life, as well as the institutions and patterns of social interaction which had been molded over thousands of years.  In exile, it was hoped that preserving and recreating many of these institutions (with a few modernizing reforms) would help preserve the Tibetan way of life.

Soon enough, however, the unity impelled by Tibet’s national sorrow gave way to the pressures of exile.  Familes split up and regional animosities began to reassert themselves.  Ironically, trying to preserve Tibetan culture meant that the more divisive elements also survived.  As a result, after nearly fifty years of exile, there is growing tension in the exile community and diverging forms of Tibetan nationalism are beginning to develop.






It is safe to say the Tibetan diaspora is proving longer than many of its original architects anticipated.  The government-in-exile has evolved from an experiment in democracy to a semi-permanent institution, and negotations with China are at an impasse.  When the Dalai Lama entered exile, he modeled Tibetan resistance after the Gandhian principle of ahimsa, or peaceful non-cooperation.  Non-violence is also the course dictated by Buddhist principles.  There is a growing sense within some circles, however, that the Dalai Lama’s non-violent plan has run its course, and to no great avail.  But to understand and appreciate those critiques, one must first understand the Dalai Lama’s basic approach.

Tibetan Buddhism induces one to take a longer view of cause and effect, based on so-called  karmic cycles.  From the Tibetan Buddhist perspective, the current occupation is the product of “bad karma” accumulated over the years leading up to the Chinese invasion.  Highly revered Tibetan leaders argue, among other things, that Tibet somehow merited its own subjugation by “hoarding the Dharma.”  As Buddhists, the theory goes, the Tibetan people should have worked toward the enlightenment of all sentient beings.  Instead, Tibetans chose isolationism, and as a result they did not fulfill their spiritual duty to proselytize the Dharma and help others.

Luckily karma is not a static concept; each committed act is said to carry with it some karmic weight, good or bad.  As the Dalai Lama puts it, “one’s life situation in the present depends upon one’s actions and motivations in the past…and one’s future is thus capable of being molded through engaging in salutary actions with a pure motivation.”[lx]  When applied to the refugees’ current plight, Tibetan Buddhism offers a (theoretical) guarantee of success through peaceful means.  By engaging in a just and non-violent struggle, the Tibetans amass huge amounts of “good karma.”  At the same time, each day the Chinese unjustly occupy Tibet they build up a debt of “bad karma” that ultimately must be repaid.  The Buddhist view holds that the karmic balances will eventually tip once again in the Tibetans’ favor, and their struggle will come to a just and peaceful end. 

This simplistic summation of the Buddhist view is not meant to suggest that the Dalai Lama has lost touch with facts on the ground.  To the contrary, the Dalai Lama seems all too aware that it will take time, and compromise, to achieve a peaceful solution:

The Tibetan people have expressed already that they do not want to remain under Chinese domination and that they want independence as it is their right.  They want a separate country.  At the same time, the Chinse have already occupied Tibet and it is very difficult for them to leave.  Therefore, under these circumstances, it would be worthwhile to think of some middle path.[lxi] 


After a few decades of exile, and realizing that complete Tibetan independence was probably unachievable, the Dalai Lama changed course and offered the Chinese his “Five-Point Peace Proposal” aimed at bringing them back to the negotiating table.  The Dalai Lama’s “middle path” amounts, in effect, to extensive Tibetan autonomy within the People’s Republic of China, turning Tibet into a “zone of peace.” 

The Dalai Lama has also shown tremendous foresight by trying to distance himself from the political process.  The Dalai Lama understands that he is not just a religious and political figure, he is an institution.[lxii]  To the Tibetan people, he is a living god, a Bhodisattva who chose to forego his own nirvana in favor of helping others achieve the same.  For a legitimate, democratic government to take hold in exile, there needs to be separation between church and state.  Tibet’s future depends in no small part on the exile government’s ability to achieve stability irrespective of the presence of the Dalai Lama, who is now seventy years old.  

The Dalai Lama understands his own mortality, and not just on some profound metaphysical level.  He wants the government-in-exile, and the peaceful resistance movement, to continue after his death.  To achieve this, the Dalai Lama has proposed several interesting reforms, including making the Dalai Lama an elected position or limiting the scope of his power to strictly religious affairs.  None of these ideas have taken hold, and the inevitable loss of the Dalai Lama promises to deal the Tibetan resistance movement its greatest challenge thus far. 


            The Dalai Lama’s commitment to democracy and non-violence has won him the respect of his own people and millions of others around the world.  His efforts have undoubtedly raised awareness of the Tibetan issue internationally, and his leadership provides hope and reassurance to many Tibetans.  But after nearly fifty years of exile, the novelty of a democratic government-in-exile has lost its charm for many Tibetans, and there is a growing contingent of Tibetan refugees that are frustrated with the Dalai Lama’s “high road” of resistance.  They are hesitatant to resign their fate to a passive, non-violent movement.  If the seeds of a second Tibetan insurgency are going to be sown anywhere, it is among this small but growing segment of the diaspora community.

It has been particularly difficult for many Tibetans to accept  and get involved in the democratic process.  The institutions of representaive democracy are in place, as evidenced by “a quota system according to which there are equal number of representatives from the three principle regions of Tibet, as well as representatives from each of the five major religious sects, a few representatives from South Asia and a few nominated members.”[lxiii]  But inclusiveness does not guarantee participation.  There are still many Tibetan refugees – particulary those exiled in Southern India – for whom democracy remains an abstract and foreign concept.

It is not difficult to understand why.  Traditionally, government positions were reserved for powerful aristocrats and clergymen.  There were no campaigns or elections, only benevolent or despotic rulers.  For traditional Tibetans that look to powerful leaders like the Dalai Lama for leadership and expect humility from their peers, the electoral system has been difficult to accept.  It is therefore not surprising to find a certain level of aversion among Tibetans to people declaring themselves candidates, and by extension, to democracy itself.

            The younger generation of refugees has been more amenable to the democratic process, but they have also grown increasingly impatient with the Dalai Lama’s policies.  As one young secular leader describes the diaspora community, “not everyone in our small political world is simple-minded or obsequious.”[lxiv]  Younger Tibetans are far less consumed with religion, and they have grown increasingly critical of its employment in social and political functions. Ironically, these refugees display the very nationalistic traits the government-in-exile has sought to cultivate since the diaspora began. 

            And these young activists are slowly becoming more radical.  One such refugee, Tenzin Tsundue, has become famous in India for his publicity stunts whenever an important Chinese leader visits India. In January 2002, Tsundue scaled 14 floors of scaffolding attached to a Mumbai five-star hotel while Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji was inside.  As Indian policemen threatened to crush him under a service elevator, he tied a 20-foot banner inscribed with the words "Free Tibet: China, Get Out" to the scaffolding. As the Prime Minister watched, Tsundue unfurled the Tibetan flag and shouted pro-Tibet slogans before policemen captured him.[lxv]   The Dalai Lama and others condem this type of behavior because they see it as counter-productive.  Tsundue and others continue with their protests nonetheless, seeing it as the only way to remind China that Tibetans have not given up the fight for independence.

These young refugees are probably more prone to radicalism because they have few  or no memories of Tibet.  Thus, while their parents might have identified themselves first with a particular region and and only second as Tibetan, young refugees are less likely to do so.  Second and third generation refugees are also less dependent on the government-in-exile and its social service programs.  The exile community has been described as a “welfare state within a state – one which additionally has national aspirations.”[lxvi]  This might be true for the government-in-exile itelf, which depends on foreign patronage of its programs for survival, but the dynamics are changing.  In today’s refugee society, “power and wealth are no longer the exclusive franchise of the clergy, but may now be acquired by any lay Tibetan individual.”[lxvii]  As more lay Tibetans acquire wealth and influence in exile, diverse opinions about the best course of action to take vis-à-vis the occupation are sure to follow.

In sum, many young Tibetans see the Dalai Lama’s attempts to placate China and achieve “genuine autonomy” as a waste of time.  As one Tibetan described the situation, “I want to go back to Tibet, but not on my knees.” [lxviii]   Only time will tell whether this new minority of dissenters can be fully incorporated into the peaceful, democratic movement already taking place in exile, or whether these Tibetans will choose alternative, and possibly more violent, methods of expressing their nationalist aspirations.  


            No one denies that human rights conditions within occupied Tibet are deplorable.  And if people accept, as they must, that exiled Tibetans are growing increasingly critical of the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” approach to Sino-Tibetan relations, a second insurgency seems inevitable.  As Jessica Stern reminds us, “[t]he growing availability of powerful weapons, porous borders, and the communications revolution make it possible for smaller and smaller groups to wreak havoc almost anywhere on the globe.”[lxix]  But in the Tibetans’ case, “almost anywhere” seem to be the key words.  For various reasons, the Dalai Lama is dead-on when he says there is something fundamentally different between the Tibetan resistance movement and those taking place elsewhere in the world.   This section will try to explain some of those differences.

            The first few sections of this paper have tried to show that Tibet’s unique social and political history precluded the development of Tibetan national aspirations until well into the Twentieth Century.  Of all the factors weighing against a second Tibetan insurgency, this one is perhaps the most problematic.  A successful insurgency needs broad support from a distinct national community because it is fundamentally a political undertaking.[lxx]  Tibetans only began to think of themselves as a nation in the modern sense once they started to share a common enemy.  In exile, Tibetans have tried to rewrite their history in modern terms, stressing the independence of Tibet and the unity of all Tibetans since time immemorial, but Tibetan nationalism is undeniably a modern, post-occupation phenomenon.   

            In exile, nationalism has taken hold, but it is unclear what direction Tibetans will take it.  If Colonel Thomas Hammes is correct that “a society conducts warfare based on the type of social structure and benefits it holds dear,”[lxxi] Tibetans in exile are at an important crossroads.  On the one hand, Tibetans might choose to stay on the “high road” of resistance dictated by the Dalai Lama.  If so, the issue will probably remain on the fringe of geo-politics for the indefinite future and China will tighten its already firm grip over the country.  On the other hand, once the Dalai Lama is gone, the diaspora community might start employing more violent forms of resistance.

            Either way, it will not be easy for a second insurgency to take hold given the lessons from the first insurgency  and the successes of the government-in-exile.  The leaders of the diaspora community have carefully cultivated an image of Tibetans as religiously devout, non-violent people.  Indeed, this image has been pivotal to its success in raising millions of dollars from foreign governments and private investors over the last fifty years.  Tibetan Buddhism has become an international commodity, with teachings by the Dalai Lama and other important religious leaders all over the globe.  And the United States and other major government investors can justify spending money on the Tibetan diaspora precisely because of this image.  Unlike sending money to a Palestinian aid organization, for example, governments and private donors can rest assured that their money is not being used to purchase weapons or kill civilians in a terrorist campaign.  Thus, Tibetans will have difficulty mounting a second insurgency without sacrificing major sources of funding for the government-in-exile and its various social service projects.

            A second insurgency is more likely to take hold if the diaspora community can secure alternate sources of funding.  To do so, potential insurgents must take advantage of the internal funding networks already in place.  And herein lies a second major impediment: with almost 90% of Tibetan refugees living in the developing world, most Tibetans are still very poor.  The government-in-exile does not even dare to tax these refugees more than $2 per year.[lxxii]  Thus, while many Tibetans might be sympathetic to a second insurgency, it will take a lot of Indian and Nepali rupees to fund a viable insurgency – money most Tibetans simply do not have.  And with foreign investment contingent upon the refugees’ peaceful image, this leaves very few fundraising options.

            Another major impediment to a second insurgency is China.  The problems with China are three-fold.  First, China has an authoritarian regime that is not easily coerced, and they are constantly worried about their ability to enforce their rule.  Chinese leaders fear that if domestic uprisings are not immediately suppressed, the government will lose its legitimacy.[lxxiii]  The brutal crackdowns on protest in Tibet, Xinjiang, Tianammen Square, and just recently in Dangzhou attest to that.  Insurgencies tend to succeed where the target state is either relatively weak (e.g. the Balkans) or a democracy (e.g., Israel, Sri Lanka).[lxxiv]  China is neither.  Thus, while Palestinian insurgents and Tamil Tigers can rest assured that Israel and Sri Lanka will be somewhat restrained in their response to armed insurgency, Tibetans already know that China’s response will be brutal in the extreme.

The second problem with waging an insurgency in occupied Tibet is that the Chinese understand insurgency better than perhaps anyone else.  After all, the Communists are in power today because they developed and refined many of the tactics commonly associated with modern guerilla warfare.  The Communists fought for over twenty-seven years before they achieved victory over the Nationalists.[lxxv]  And over the course of that fight, Mao wrote his famous Yui Chi Chan, the seminal manual for mounting a successful insurgency.  The Chinese are intimately aware that Tibetan refugees are in the first planning stages of Phase I, where “insurgents concentrate primarily on building political strength.”[lxxvi] 

            And herein lies the third problem with China. The Chinese are intent on keeping the Tibetan resistance in Phase I, and they have the influence on the Asian subcontinent to do so.  China’s political influence over Nepal, Bhutan, and even India has grown enormously since the Tibetan occupation began.  In 2003, for example, eighteen Tibetan refugees were detained in Nepal and eventually deported back to Tibet following an intervention by Chinese embassy officials in Kathmandu.[lxxvii]  This sets a dangerous precedent because over 2000 Tibetan refugees enter exile via Nepal every year.

But China’s reach hardly stops there.  Despite numerous human rights resolutions passed at the United Nations condemming Chinese policies in Tibet, China receives less and less direct criticism as it becomes a major geo-political player.  For a second insurgency to take hold, the United States, India, and others nations will have to change their attitudes towards China and firmly get behind the idea of Tibetan independence.  The first insurgency failed, in part, because no foreign government was willing to face China head-on.  Today there is some hope in this regard.  India, for instance, would probably like to exact some revenge for its humiliating defeat during the Sino-Indian Border War of 1962.  And Tibetans already living in India – many of whom are enlisted in India’s Special Frontier Force – could be used to spearhead such an operation.  But India has yet to show any interest in such a campaign; China has become an ally in America’s “war on terror”; and the United States desperately needs China if it hopes to disarm North Korea.  In sum, a shift in geo-politics seems unlikely in the short-term, and if the Tibetan resistance movement is unable to find a strategic partner, a second insurgency should not be attempted because it is destined to fail.












            Tibetans are beginning to talk about a second insurgency, but they are far from mounting an assertive campaign.  I have tried to outline some of the major obstacles to such a movement, but it would not come as a surprise to me to see an escalation of violent protests among the diaspora community in the near future.  But that is hardly an insurgency.  At some point, Tibetan refugees will have to ask themselves whether their country is worth fighting for (again), and whether the obstacles I have mentioned, and the overwhelming odds of defeat, can be overcome. 

            At this point, however, conditions are not yet ripe for a second insurgency.  Nationalism took too long to take hold in Tibet, and the diaspora community is now divided between those espousing pacifism and those contemplating guerilla tactics.  Meanwhile, China continues to populate Tibet with millions of  Han Chinese, and very soon Tibetans  will be a minority in their own country.  If Tibetans intend to pick up arms, they must do so soon, before it is too late.













[ii] Max Weber, The Nation, in THE NATION, 25 (John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith, eds. 1994). 



[v] Id. at 217.

[vi] Id. at 510.

[vii] Id.

[viii] Id. at 208. 




[xii] Id. 

[xiii] Smith, supra note XI, at 95.


[xv] LATTIMORE, supra note IV, at 224. 


[xvii] Smith, supra note XI, at 149.

[xviii] Id. 



[xxi] Id.

[xxii] WEBSTER’S NEW WORLD COLLEGE DICTIONARY 1443 (4th. ed. 2000)

[xxiii] McCarthy, supra note XX, at 33.

[xxiv] Id. at 35.


[xxvi] Id. at 24.

[xxvii] Smith, supra note XI, at 243.  

[xxviii] McCarthy, supra note XX, at 43

[xxix] Smith, supra at note XI, at 245-46.

[xxx] McCarthy, supra at note XX, at 47.

[xxxi] Barton, supra at note XXV, at 28.

[xxxii] Id.

[xxxiii] Id. at 29. 

[xxxiv] Id. at 30.

[xxxv] Smith, supra note XI, at 296.

[xxxvi] Id. at 297-300.

[xxxvii] Id. at 322.

[xxxviii] J. PRADOS, PRESIDENT’S SECRET WARS 151 (1986).

[xxxix] Barton, supra at note XXV, at 37.

[xl] Id.

[xli] McCarthy, supra at note XX, at 100.

[xlii] Id. at 102. 

[xliii] Smith, supra note XI, at 421.

[xliv] Id.

[xlv] Barton, supra note XXV, at 40. 

[xlvi] Id. at 42.

[xlvii] Id.

[xlviii] McCarthy, supra note XX, at 240.

[xlix] Barton, supra note XXV, at 43.

[l] Id.


[lii] Barton, supra note XXV, at 45.

[liii] Id. at 53.

[liv] Smith, supra note XI, at 476.

[lv] Id. at 487.

[lvi] Barton, supra note XXV, at 62.

[lvii] Id. at 72.

[lviii] J.K. KNAUS, ORPHANS OF THE COLD WAR 278 (1999).

[lix] His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, Unititled Speech, in THE POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY OF HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA: SELECTED SPEECHES AND WRITINGS 269 (A.A. Shiromany, ed. 1998).

[lx] His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, Spiritual Contribution to Social Progress, The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 29, 1981, at 87.

[lxi] His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, supra note LIX, at 245.

[lxii] The Tibetan people believe the current Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of his predecessor, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama.  Successors are not picked, nor are they elected.  There is a long and intricate ritual of “finding” incarnate senior lamas all over Tibet – not just Dalai Lamas.  The Chinese have been interfering with this process since time immemorial, and they continue to do so today.  See, e.g., the story of the current Panchen Lama, widely regarded as the youngest political prisoner in the world. 

[lxiii] Grunfeld, supra note LI, at 282.


[lxv] Pankaj Mishra, The Restless Children of the Dalai Lama, N.Y. Times, Dec. 18, 2005 (online edition)


[lxvii] Id. at 99.

[lxviii] Mishra, supra note LXV.



[lxxi] Id. at 12.

[lxxii] Financial Statement from 2002-2003 (2003), http://

[lxxiii] Barton, supra note XXV, at 142.


[lxxv] Hammes, supra note LXX, at 14.

[lxxvi] Id. at 52.

[lxxvii] Tashi Tsering, Tibetan Refugees in Nepal Face Imminent Deportation to Tibet, May 29, 2003, http:/