TAPPED too hard…

by Nathan Hamm on 3/24/2005 · 12 comments

I appreciate that Matthew Yglesias gave us a mention at TAPPED, I really do, but…

Let me just remind that paying slightly more attention to US policy in Central Asia than the public at large does not expert opinion make. I’ve got nothing against pundits, but they do often fail to grasp more than the countours (which is why I stick to what I know). Matthew cites a tepid US response, but there are things he may not have read that are not so tepid. And, US criticism was often and vocal enough within Kyrgyzstan (because, who would come to that press conference in DC?) that it seriously pissed off Akayev and did embolden the opposition.

I’m not trying to give Bush credit. The Kyrgyz deserve all the credit for what they’ve accomplished just as they’ll deserve the blame if things go wrong. But, Matthew’s attempt to head off any credit for the administration (and it does deserve some, even if he’s right that the Bush administration’s policy is a continuation of Clinton’s, though, in my opinion, it has more teeth) makes me wonder if he’ll jump up to blame Bush if things do go wrong (as the Justin Logan’s and Justin/Dennis Raimondo’s of the world are chomping at the bit to do).

And, of course, I disagree with his characterization of US-Uzbek relations. It’s missing this big deal that happened last year that critics of the relationship roundly disregard/forget.

P.S> I forgot to mention that one difference between the OSCE when Clinton was in office and now is that the OSCE actually, you know, criticizes poor elections.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Curzon March 24, 2005 at 12:29 pm

Agreed — although I’d go much farther and say that Michael Yglesias is a total wanker. You are, of course, correct in that the situation is far more nuanced.

Great coverage, Nathan. Keep it up!

Nathan March 24, 2005 at 12:31 pm

I do try to be nice… Sometimes…

Justin Raimondo March 24, 2005 at 2:01 pm

I don’t think it is “chomping at the bit” to wonder what possible U.S. interest there could be in regime-change in such a place as Kyrgyzstan — and what the actual extent of U.S. involvement is.

C Schwartz March 24, 2005 at 2:07 pm

[QUPTE] The Kyrgyz deserve all the credit for what they’ve accomplished just as they’ll deserve the blame if things go wrong. [/QUOTE]

This is the most important point. My experiences with the Palestinians proves this for me.

Nathan March 24, 2005 at 2:14 pm

There’s a difference between wondering and “I wonder… (nudge, nudge)” in a Leninist innuendo kind of way.

Justin Raimondo March 24, 2005 at 2:33 pm

I’ll leave it to you to discern the differences between an ordinary American who wonders what the foreign policy goals of U.S. policy in Kyrgystan are, and “Leninist innuendo.” In the meantime, my congratulations on a very informative blogk chock full of information.

Matthew Yglesias March 24, 2005 at 2:41 pm

I see no reason to blame Bush if things go badly…it’s not a situation he can exert much control over.

Nathan March 24, 2005 at 2:44 pm

Thanks for the compliment. It, and I am being sincere, means a lot to receive a compliment from someone I disagree with (and with whom I butted heads over Ukraine).

I don’t mean to say that you’re Leninist by the way, but it’s a similar style of argumentation. He advises to see who benefits materially and follow the path. While not a terrible mode of analysis, it is tempting to fill in the gaps with materialist explanations and posit some mysterious, powerful interest as the mover behind events.

Even if we are driving events, I have to wonder how bad that is… Though I doubt we are. There’s not too terribly much for us to want in Kyrgyzstan unless we are interested in monomaniacally increasing our hold over every corner of the globe (which is an awfully steep burden to prove). (Here’s a KelKel activist wishing that the CIA were helping them out. Seems we’re not that unwelcome…)

Nathan March 24, 2005 at 2:47 pm

Matthew: I guess that is consistent with your position, but you can understand why I might think otherwise given how you framed the issue. I voted for Bush, and think he’s changed the tone of the debate in the world in an important way. The ball’s out of his hands, and I, for one, won’t give the administration any more than a sliver of credit or blame for what happens in Kyrgyzstan.

Personally, I think it’s most edifying and less likely to melt down into a domestic political squabble by just leaving the administration out of this.

Justin March 24, 2005 at 4:45 pm

Nathan has mischaracterized my views, which were unstated on Kyrgyzstan until now. Allow me to clarify:

I think the president has a responsibility to defend our country and eliminate threats to our vital interests. I fear that shaking up the region too much could serve to create havens for IMU types or other violent salafists. I most certainly do hope Kyrgyzstan’s situation gets better for Kyrgyzstanis than it was under Akaev, but my first concern is for protecting our country. I for one don’t believe that increasing democracy in Kyrgyzstan will make us any safer, and I’m afraid if things spin too far out of control, instability /could/ allow terrorist cells to train and recruit.

Nathan wrote that Bush “does deserve some” of the credit for what’s going on in Kyrgyzstan. In whatever sense he does deserve some credit, he’ll deserve some blame if things go wrong for Kyrgyzstanis. But my primary concern in this case is that there’s more to lose than there was in, say, Ukraine from a national security standpoint. If things go wrong for our national security, he’ll deserve the blame, just as he would if he fails to protect us from a threat anywhere else.

Nathan March 24, 2005 at 4:55 pm

I’m extrapolating from Justin’s “moral hazards” argument. Kyrgyzstan is specifically mentioned. My response was here. His much less, um, civil, response is here.

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