Dana Rohrabacher Got It Right
Posted by Heather Hurlburt
You won't catch me typing that very often. But continuing Suzanne's effort to find common ground with our conservative friends, I want to note that Rohrabacher called it right on Uzbekistan -- and did it while the Administration was still summoning the courage to be "deeply disturbed" about Karimov's use of force.
I caught him regaling NPR listeners about his trip to Uzbekistan just last month, and how he had told President Karimov that he could "leave as a statesman" by allowing a free election for someone else to succeed him, or "leave feet first."
This time, Rohrabacher understands something too many of our friends in the blogosphere do not -- that there are plenty of options between supporting authoritarian stooges and abandoning a country to extremist rule.
Or, when it first became obvious a decade ago that Karimov was nobody's idea of a great ruler, there were options. There were also considerably fewer radical Islamists. Now there is a powerful, shadowy and highly radical Islamist organization, along with poverty, resentment, heightened ethnic tensions -- all in all, just the place for the US to be building big military installations.
Karimov has squeezed out civil society, peaceful Islam, and other avenues for protest -- and the US military presence makes a mockery of the well-meant efforts of State Department human rights officials to insist that the US really does want change.
Last July, for example, the US determined that Uzbekistan was not making progress on human rights concerns and cut $18 million in aid. Just a month later, though, Human Rights Watch says, the Defense Department ponied up an additional $21 million. If you were Karimov, what would you think?
This is a great opportunity for progressives to stress what we would do differently with respect to two of Suzanne's questions from Drezner readers: are you for democracy promotion, or not, and what about hypocrisy?
As I have written before, the US will deal with nasty governments in order to preserve our national interests, no matter who is in power. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," Emerson says. But smart policymakers -- a category that doesn't have to be limited to progressives -- will limit their hypocrisies by being able to ask themselves hard questions. Such as:
how many of our eggs do we really want in this sleazeball's basket?
given the discouraging Soviet and British precedents, do we really want a long-term heavy-footprint presence in Central Asia?
are we diminishing our long-term prospects by getting ourselves identified too closely with this lousy government in the near term?
And, now that this violence has happened, and Karimov appears to be unrepentantly following up by ordering large-scale arrests:
are we stuck? if so, what levers do we have, beyond expressing "deep concern," to put the situation on a better track and communicate to Uzbeks who aren't (yet) committed to Islamist revolution that there is another way?
Progressives on democracy promotion: you promote democracy by increasing, in big ways or small ways, the ability of people to make decisions that affect their own lives. You don't promote democracy by lecturing about it -- how much did conservatives like being lectured by Europeans about our elections? You don't promote democracy by installing it by force, as I argued (with some nice company, like Wes Clark) in this month's Washington Monthly.