Dictatorships and Double Standards: Uzbek-Obama Edition


In the days after the September 11 attacks, as Washington frantically forged alliances with countries willing to contribute to the forthcoming war against the Taliban, The New York Times warned the Bush administration to beware of unsavory Central Asian dictatorships offering support. In an unsigned editorial, The Times expressed concern that "Three of the least appealing leaders [in the region]—in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan—have now become American allies against their southern neighbor Afghanistan."

Similar concerns were voiced around the blogosphere, from both the left and right, and in 2005 Uzbek President Islam Karimov decided it was time to vindicate its critics by massacring hundreds of its citizens in the city of Andijan. The Carnegie Endowment has detail on the uprising here; Human Rights Watch has a detailed account here.

After criticizing the Karimov regime, Uzbekistan booted the American military from the country. As the Wall Street Journal explains, the Bush administration "joined Europe in criticizing Uzbekistan for using excessive force; in response, Mr. Karimov kicked the U.S. off Uzbekistan's Khanabad air base, which in the early years of the war had been the main hub for funneling troops and supplies into Afghanistan."

But now, as the Journal reported on Saturday, the Obama administration is repairing its relationship with the Karimov government in an attempt to reopen vital supply routes to Afghanistan.

As the war in Afghanistan has spread from the south toward Uzbekistan's borders, Uzbekistan increasingly fears the threat from within, notably the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a militant group that is tightly allied with Islamists in Pakistan and Afghanistan and has dedicated itself to Mr. Karimov's overthrow.

Uzbekistan spelled out its effort to patch up relations with the U.S. in a five-page action plan approved by Mr. Karimov on Jan. 11. Besides calling for visits of Mr. Holbrooke and Mrs. Clinton, the plan calls for a visit in the next two months by Pentagon officials to assess the needs of the Uzbek military and determine whether some needs can be filled with U.S. military equipment.

The plan also calls for an Uzbek representative to be appointed to the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., to step up "military and military-technical cooperation" between the governments, and for discussions on countering threats to the transport route to Afghanistan.

Mr. Norland called the plan a "work in progress." and Mr. Karimov's approval of it a "welcome sign of the significance the Uzbek leadership is giving to the relationship with the United States."

Full article here. On Islam Karimov's socialite daughter here, from the irrepressible gossipmongers at The Daily Mail.


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  1. Leftover Valentine’s Chocolate? Use It to Measure the Speed of Light

    Read More http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2…..z0fk0aqfdD

    1. Well, I came out with 900,000 kilometers/second. Apparently, my microwave has a wormhole in it.

  2. So, does this mean Uzbekistan is now a liberal, freedom-loving society?

    Since we’re occupying Afghanistan and have access via Pakistan, what’s the point of this again?

    1. The Coalition needs supply routes for Afghanistan. Pakistan’s security problems make it an unreliable source of supplies. Having an alternative supply route in the north really does help the war effort.
      If there’s any chance of turning Uzbekistan into a ‘liberal, freedom-loving society’, then it’s going to require gradual political engagement from the Americans (as opposed to the ‘hold free elections right now or we’re not friends any more’ approach that some people think would be more moral) and a successful policy of containment against the region’s Islamists. The latter requires progress in Afghanistan, which is in turn more likely if the US can count on a northern supply route.

  3. Realpolitik is sometimes almost always ugly and distasteful.

    I expect to hear hypcritical posturing from team red and hypocritical justification from team blue.

    1. No doubt. It was worse during the Cold War, of course. I’m just amused by the coming red-blue argument over this issue.

      1. The plan also calls for an Uzbek representative to be appointed to the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla.

        I knew it! You got some ‘splainin to do ProL.

        Who won the World Series in 1986, comrade?

    2. You’ve already provided the hypocritical justification from team blue, by imagining that ‘posturing’ by team red is ‘hypocritical’ – as the article clearly states, the Bush Administration criticized the government and lost a strategic deployment position.

  4. Michael:

    “After criticizing the Karimov regime, Uzbekistan booted the American military from the country.”

    Not to be nitpicky, but this reads like Uzbekistan criticized the Karimov regime (its own leadership) and then kicked out the American military. Do you mean the Americans criticized the Karimov regime? Or ?

  5. So we can climb in bed with these bastards but have to continue a fifty year embargo of Cuba?

    1. Wait a second….

      [Looks up number of Uzbekis registered to vote in Florida]


    2. I does what I does.

    3. Yes, just as we climbed in bed with Stalin in the 1940’s.

    4. Karimov is a bastard but Uzbekistan didn’t deliberately flood the US with convicts. It was also a victim of communist imperialism, rather than a proponent of it. There also wouldn’t be much of a strategic advantage to getting friendly with the Castros.
      Why does Cuba want to trade with the US anyway? I thought Marxists saw free trade as an imperialistic mechanism of dependency and exploitation.

  6. We cozied up with some nasty people during the Cold War. And we made a lot of mistakes during the Cold War.

    …but we did win the Cold War. And if we want to win the War on Terror?

    …much of it will be fought against enemies that operate within the boundaries of sovereign nations against enemies that are beyond the control of those nations…and if Reverse Domino Theory doesn’t work (and it doesn’t), and you don’t want to topple and occupy those nations (and we don’t), then there’s always what’s worked in the past…

    Did I mention that we won Cold War?

    If we want to win the War on Terror, I think we’re going to have to make some ugly friends.

    Relax, it’s not so bad. Ugly friends helped us win World War II too. It goes back farther than that, actually… Making friends with the enemies of your enemies isn’t unusual, historically speaking, and ignoring common sense out of altruism, well Bush the Lesser showed us where that road leads.

    If we need an airbase? Then God help the good people of Uzbekistan. No really.

    1. Ken,
      How many actual U.S. deaths can be attributed to the war on terror?

    2. Sure, it worked out so well in Iran.

      I mean, really, it couldn’t possibly happen that Al Quaeda/Islamicists will say to the people of Uzbekistan, “hey, you know that government you hate? They’re being propped up by the Great Satan. And if they weren’t the Great Satan, why the hell are they propping up that government you hate?”

  7. The Times expressed concern that “Three of the least appealing leaders [in the region]?in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan?have now become American allies against their southern neighbor Afghanistan.”

    No wonder – it is simply more proof of Obama’s penchant for prefering the company of really creepy individuals…

  8. It’s funny too…how these same arguments used to break out back when we used to argue about Most Favored Nation status like we did with China…

    If free trade with China was in the best interest of the United States and its economy, why would we let how China treats such and such a group get in the way of…what’s in the best interest of the United States?

    After Iraq, et. al., aren’t you all tired of hearing about how our foreign policy should consider every nation’s interests–except for the interests of the United States?

    And another thing… Have you noticed that while the critics fret about what mixing with the untouchables may mean for our mission in the world (I think it’s supposed to be freedom and democracy), seeing the regimes we engage with come under our influence…doesn’t that always seem to be what our enemies fear most?

    What do you think the Taliban is more afraid of? That associating ourselves with a dictatorship will ruin our propaganda efforts? …or that we’ll form a strategic alliance with their enemies?

  9. Is there a Karimov/Obama terrorist fist bump in the future?

  10. A pretty good foreign policy appears to be avoiding doing much of anything in or with countries that end in “istan”.

    1. Which is a subset of “never get involved in a land war in Asia”.

  11. Borat was right about those bastards.

  12. The Daily Mail headline: Rothschild and the daughter of one of the world’s most brutal dictators

    Do these peole deperately want to remain center of conspiracy theories? Wll, if you’re behind the FED cozying up with mass murderers seems almost tame.

    1. If you were a brutal dictator and needed a bridge loan to buy military equipment while you were waiting on the US aid check to clear wouldn’t you set your daughter on a Rothschild scion?

  13. The concern for human rights in foreign policy is inversely proportional to how much they like the government.

  14. [sticks fingers in ears]

    Pinochet Pinochet Pinochet! I can’t hear you!!

    [removes fingers from ears]

    1. National Geographic had an article recently about pristine fjords in Chile and how they’re in danger because of salmon farming in the oceanic part and dams proposed on the river parts. They blamed the river dams on rivers in Chile being privately owned due to Pinochet, but it’s the government granting these salmon leases, so WTF is the difference?

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