A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Little Bush Hypocrisy

Since the last post ripped on an in-your-face liberal, in the spirit of fairness, this one will take a look at the Administrations inconsistencies on this whole democracy worldwide thing. In his 2005 State of the Union address, Bush promised, "America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." Yet when a brutal dictator crushes democratic dissent in Uzbekistan by killing his own people, the U.S. effectively does nothing except admit that the situation is "deeply disturbing." For a bit of background on the situation in Uzbekistan, and why would should care, check out this piece in the New Republic (you have to sign up, unfortunately)

Now, it seems that Karimov is cozying up to China. Which can only be bad. If we truly do "stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements," then we need to do more than just tsk-tsk Karimov and his thugs. The people there are ready to throw off Karimov's oppressive shackles, but they aren't likely to do so when torture and death are the likely result. And torture and death will remain the likely result until a bully like Karimov is faced down by somebody with a bigger stick than his-- and America has that stick.

As much as it galls me to admit this, because I despise the man on general principle and for a wide variety of offensive stupidities, Ted Rall actually has a point when he asks, "How can the United States claim to be fighting a war on terrorism when its biggest allies are terrorists themselves?"


I agree that the administration appears to have dropped the ball regarding the Andijan massacre, but hopefully there is more that is going on behind the scenes than just a "tsk, tsk" (which I suspect is probably the case). Stability is needed in Uzbekistan, but realistic options are limited.

The U.S. could have brought this before the U.N. Security Council, but either China or Russia would have nixed any action. It would have given the U.S. the ability to say that, due to our involvement elsewhere, we attempted to get the world body to help the poor people of Uzbekistan, all the while knowing that it would just amount to nothing more that another "tsk, tsk."

Militarily, the United States really isn't able to march in and take over the country at the snap of a finger. A military operation of that scale would involve the development of a battle plan to invade and secure the country; determining where the troops required to carry out that battle plan could be drawn from (possibly requiring a call-up of reservists or national guards); a redeployment of those troops to areas in or near theater to participate in the attack; the logistical requirements of administration, communication, medical evacuation, and supply (possibly requiring the hiring of private sector logistics support services such as Halliburton); and preparations for humanitarian aid (food, water, medical, etc.) following the securing of objectives and regions. We would need to keep the entire operation hush-hush to avoid having our airbase in Karshi-Khanabad overrun, or we would need to either beef it up quickly or withdraw the equipment and 1,000 personnel currently there before a full scale invasion. Those are just the basics for the military operation itself; the politics and diplomacy surrounding such an action would be an immense undertaking in and of themselves.

Right now there is no organized democratic movement in Uzbekistan, so it becomes difficult to support any resistance or challenge to Karimov. Also, any push to simply topple Karimov would create a power vacuum which could put Uzbekistan's Islamic fundamentalists in charge. We wouldn't be helping the people of Uzbekistan by creating a situation where a brutal dictator is replaced by fundamentalists who are described by Ted Rall, in the same opinion piece that Nick referenced in his post, as "reminiscent of the Taliban."

Unfortunately, the best resolution appears to be to work with the Russians to force Karimov to accept and implement reforms that will help alleviate some of the outrage of the people of Uzbekistan. If not, the U.N. really seems to be the only other viable option at this time.

It isn't pretty, but sometimes the reality is that we need to have unsavory allies so that we can keep more unsavory enemies in check. We assisted the Soviets against the Nazis, the Iraqis against the Iranians, and the Afghanis against the Soviets. We tried to change that up in the 90s by not allowing dirty intelligence operatives, and that cost us greatly. At this point in time, we won't be going back to that policy.
I'm actually going to defend Bush on this one. (I know, stop the presses.) But this one is easy to defend him on because all he is doing is following the stupid political game that all politicians play.
He has to say that America wants to end tyranny because we invaded Iraq to oust a tyrant. But the truth is that we can't be the world's only police officers, because our people wouldn't accept all the soldiers killed in countries we have never heard of. We chose to do something in Iraq because of the oil. (The money and the possibilites of WMDs also came into play, but if everyone admits the truth those two are secondary to the oil.)
If there is a world goal of ending tyrany (and it needs to be a world goal), the UN could set up a global police for with troops from all over the world and then send them to places like Uzbekistan or whatever African country is trying their hand at genicide today.
But the U.S. can't do it all, and shouldn't even try. But when we really have a need to, like Iraq, we have to keep up the image.
By the way, I was writing my comments at the same time as Mojo and didn't see the comment on the UN Security Council. Mojo makes a good point, with the current members and their veto authorities, even a UN police force couldn't do anything for Uzbekistan.
The above guys are right. Nick is out of line to expect the US could do much about this.

There, I disagreed with Nick on something! I'm not a total echo chamber. :->
Hi. I'm baaa-aack! Miss me?

Well, I'm going to side with Nick on this one. I don't think he was saying that America should be commencing military action tomorrow on these items.

Look at the Bush quote again. "Stand with the allies of freedom...with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny." He talked about the ultimate goal; it's no necessarily on tomorrow's to-do list.

But even that is a far cry, as Nick pointed out, from ignoring dictators or making mushmouthed protestations of genocide. Or, as in the case of Saudi Arabia, hugging and kissing them.

Actually, I believe that intervening with 'the stick' as Nick puts it, should not be the option of first resort; but that there are other ways to bring about positive changes. Unfortunately, especially in Uzbek, the sitaution seems to have deteriorated beyond rational responses.

I, along wiht Nick, would like to think that it's not too much to ask that our elected leaders whoever they may be, don't just make with the pretty words when its a speech or a photo op, but actually carry that through the gamut of their positions in a consistent way.

As Binkley once said, "sneaky inconsistency keeps me up at night."

Enjoy your Memorial day with a tasty Usinger's sausage!
No military action was taken, but what the U.S. did diplomatically has now cost us the base in Uzbekistan. We'll get by in the region, but the humanitarian supplies that were previously delivered to the Karshi-Khanabad airbase, and subsequently distributed to northern Afghanistan via a road route, will now need to be delivered into a more hostile Bagram airbase before being distributed throughout the country.

Karshi-Khanabad air base in south-eastern Uzbekistan, which the US has been given six months to leave, has played a key role in supporting US operations in Afghanistan since 2001. ... [R]elations have plummeted since the Andijan killings in May, when Uzbek troops fired into crowds of demonstrators to crush an anti-government protest.

The Uzbek authorities restricted flights into Karshi-Khanabad after the US backed calls for an independent inquiry into the incident, described as a "massacre" by aid agency Human Rights Watch.

And now the Obama administration has some unsavory allies in the same region. If Ted Rall's "How can the United States claim to be fighting a war on terrorism when its biggest allies are terrorists themselves?" quote applied to the last administration, I'm sure that Nick and TC would agree that the current administration should be held to the same high standards.

Some observers see a conflict between Kazakhstan's chairmanship of the 56-nation OSCE, which plays an important role in monitoring elections in emerging democracies, and its own widely criticized human rights record.

But if the Obama administration saw any disconnect, it kept its criticism to itself. [...]

In an interview, Kazakh Ambassador Erlan Idrissov told Weisman, "There was no pressure at all in the meeting," and that Obama quoted Winston Churchill as saying that democracy is "the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

The warm welcome for Nazarbayev underscores the extent to which Kazakhstan, which agreed in January to allow NATO to ship nonlethal cargo through its territory, has become critical to the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan -- especially given the ongoing instability in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where the U.S. military leases an important airbase.

Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan since 1991, when the country became independent after the fall of the Soviet Union, and his highly centralized rule has been heavily criticized by human rights monitors.

As I said when I initially replied to this post about a half-decade ago, "It isn't pretty, but sometimes the reality is that we need to have unsavory allies so that we can keep more unsavory enemies in check." I don't like the relationship with Kazakhstan, and I definitely don't like the Obama administration, but I don't think that the president has much of a choice in this one.

I am curious how you would comment on this one with Obama, Nick.
16 June 2010

The Obama Administration agreed to a new lease for the Manas Airbase in northern Kyrgyzstan last year; the lease was about 270% higher than the previous lease ($63 million vs. $17 million), but the airbase is crucial for operations in and around Afghanistan.

Then there was a violent uprising in April of 2010, and the Bakiyev government was overthrown. The interim government has agreed to extend the U.S. lease on the airbase for another year after the end of the current lease in July. This extension is being allowed even though the U.S. may have ignored tax evasion and other irregularities on the part of former President Bakiyev's son with regards to fuel sales to Manas airbase.

Now there are violent clashes taking place in southern Kyrgyzstan between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. Over 100,000 ethnic Uzbeks have fled across the border into Uzbekistan, with thousands more Uzbeks stranded on the Kyrgyzstan side of the border. In the cities, Kyrgyz who are in Uzbek held enclaves are not receiving aid, and the same is occurring to Uzbeks in Kyrgyz controlled urban areas. The term "ethnic cleansing" is being used by some observers.

(Source, Source, Source)

In Obama's Inaugural Address, he stated, "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." In Kyrgyzstan, the Obama Administration has extended a hand, paid an exorbitant amount on a critical airbase to a corrupt government, ignored the brutality of a coup to keep that strategic airbase, and appears to be remaining silent as the new government clamps down violently on ethnic Uzbeks in the south.

I still maintain that sometimes the reality is that we need to have unsavory allies so that we can keep more unsavory enemies in check. The Obama Administration is in a tough spot, and since we lost our base of operations in Uzbekistan, Obama seems to have found that making deals with the lesser of two evils (such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) is sometimes the ugly necessity to prevent the loss of ground to the greater of those evils.

Many human rights groups are starting to be disappointed with the execution of the "new engagement" that Obama campaigned on. Tell me, Nick, do you like Obama's change in foreign policy? I know that you've stopped writing on this blog, but I am curious if the shine is wearing off of Obama for you. You can always swing by my blog if you'd like to opine on any of this.
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