One eternal problem of U.S. interventionism is that the logistics of it all necessitate playing kissy-face with dictators. Since Barack Obama campaigned on, and is delivering on, a promise to intensify U.S. military action in Central Asia, this is leading to predictable presidential footsie with regimes hostile to American values. From today's New York Times:
Many opposition politicians and independent journalists have been arrested, prosecuted, attacked and even killed over the last year as the Kyrgyz president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has consolidated control in advance of elections on Thursday, which he is all but certain to win.
"This is how the authorities rule in Kyrgyzstan," said [beaten Bakiyev opponent Emilbek] Kaptagaev, 52. "They use criminal methods to keep power."
The United States has remained largely silent in response to this wave of violence, apparently wary of jeopardizing the status of its sprawling air base, on the outskirts of this capital, which supports the mission in Afghanistan. Indeed, the Obama administration has sought to woo the Kyrgyz president since he said in February that he would close the Manas base.
In June, President Obama sent a letter to Mr. Bakiyev praising his role in Afghanistan and the campaign against terrorism. Mr. Bakiyev allowed the base to stay, after the United States agreed to pay higher rent and other minor changes.
The lack of criticism of Mr. Bakiyev underscores how the Obama administration has emphasized pragmatic concerns over human rights in dealings with autocratic leaders in Central Asia. Under pressure in Afghanistan, the administration has feared alienating nearby countries whose support is increasingly important.
This is one of many reasons why Central Europe's anti-communist generation is worried about the new president.