The Biden administration's diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics is morally just. And it sends a righteous message to China.

Namely, the message that Beijing's human rights practices are abhorrent and unacceptable. This move will embarrass the Chinese Communist Party, which wants nothing more than to champion China in an event that enjoys global television audiences in the billions. President Joe Biden’s move should thus be praised by both sides of the political aisle in the United States. Efforts to confront China's human rights abuses and strategic aggression enjoy broad bipartisan support.

Yet, some critics of China say this is not enough. They argue the U.S. should actually boycott the games in their entirety. What to make of this?

Well, first, it's fair to say that those calling for a full boycott of the Beijing Olympics are doing so for all the right reasons. Xi Jinping's regime is committing genocide against the Uyghurs of Xinjiang province, and its overall human rights practices are abysmal. Put simply, China does not deserve to have the international prestige the Olympics always bestows on the host. The recent concern involving the safety of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who has disappeared after accusing a former senior Communist Party official of sexual assault, was yet another stark reminder we are not dealing with a regime that has any regard for freedom.

So, yes, there is a hell of a lot to be upset about with China.

Yet, those calling for a full boycott that would bar U.S. athletes from competing are wrong. A full boycott would crush U.S. athletes who have relentlessly trained for years for this apex sporting event. Perhaps some of the politicians and pundits calling for a full boycott do not understand the sacrifices that go into making a U.S. Olympic team. Tens of thousands of hours of grind, putting one’s life on hold for an event held just once every four years. Forcing these athletes to miss this opportunity of a lifetime, just to make a political statement, would be wrong. Even, that is, if the intended statement is the right one.

But we should also consider that full Olympic boycotts simply do not work. Does anyone think a full boycott will change the CCP's behavior on human rights? The U.S. boycott of the 1980 summer games in Moscow did absolutely nothing to deter the Soviet Union. Zero. But it caused grave damage to U.S. athletes. It also resulted in a toothless tit for tat by the Soviet Union, which then boycotted the 1984 games in Los Angeles. Let us learn from that mistake.

Finally, a diplomatic boycott is more palatable to U.S. allies and partners in the international community. It sends the proper message and likely will find support from other nations. The Olympics are not the only athletics event where Beijing is now feeling the wrath of the international community. Of note, the World Tennis Association’s recent decision to boycott China-based tour events over Shuai's situation is entirely different than the Olympics. That full boycott is also appropriate: WTA professionals are not being punished to their own athletic detriment. They have plenty of other venues around the globe to compete in their craft. The safety of WTA players means China has to be off-limits at present.

The concept of "Hybrid Conflict" — we are in such a struggle with Beijing across a variety of arenas — argues we should hit China where it hurts. For a change, responsible members of the international community and we are on the offensive. U.S. athletes will go to Beijing, and they will win. U.S. networks will cover the games, and they will make the Chinese uncomfortable with our television coverage and discussion of human rights in China. The absence of U.S. government officials will be noticeable and referenced in foreign media. But our athletes in Beijing will act as our ambassadors, promoting the "shining city on a hill" ideal that defines an America that believes deeply in human rights.

For perhaps the only time I can recall, I agree with Sen. Ted Cruz, who said, "I hope the U.S. athletes go over there and kick some commie asses."

Marc Polymeropoulos is a former CIA senior operations officer. He retired in 2019 after a 26-year career serving in the Near East and South Asia. His book Clarity in Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the CIA was published in June 2021 by Harper Collins. He is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.