This article examines U.S. policy toward Tibet from the end of the 1940s to the end of the 1980s, especially the 1950s and 1960s. U.S. policy during this period operated on two levels. At the strategic level, the United States consistently supported China's claim of sovereignty over Tibet. But at the tactical level, U.S. policy varied a great deal over time, ranging from the provision of military and financial aid to Tibetan guerrilla forces in the 1950s and 1960s to the almost complete lack of official attention to Tibet in the 1970s and early 1980s. The article explains why the U.S. government has never accepted Tibet's claim to independence and why the question of Tibet, after falling into obscurity in the 1970s, reemerged on the U.S. agenda in the mid- to late 1980s. The article highlights the cynicism that has often characterized tactical shifts in U.S. policy.

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