Tim Russo sees the image of a man using a straw broom to sweep blood from the streets of Andijon as a “depressingly poetic” statement on the failure of democracy policy fails to live up to democracy doctrine.
Besides my advice to not make much of the fact that Uzbeks use straw brooms, I simply have to hand over the floor to those who can answer a few questions for me.
- What should US policy towards Uzbekistan have been from 01/01/92 to 5/12/05? Explain how that alternate policy would have either resulted in the liberalization of Uzbek government and society or how it would have prevented the massacre in Andijon.
- What should the short-term US response to Andijon be? What are the long-term implications of your answer?
- If US is to support democratization programs under the nose of a very hostile government, should it abandon the project or accomplish what it can?
- Should the US be willing to curtail its public, rhetorical commitment to democratization and liberalization in Uzbekistan for the sake of maintaining its ability to support NGOs and democratization projects?
There’s nothing I’d like more than for Uzbekistan to be a democracy. Yesterday. But I’m hearing a lot of calls for what I must, at my most charitable, characterize as a shoot from the hip, emotionally satisfying response to the Andijon massacre. I can’t deny that a part of me doesn’t want to see that, but this situation is too serious to foul up. Believe you me, I want our policy to improve. But I want us to take fully into account the realities on the ground and be willing to swallow some of the realities that we don’t like for the sake of an effective long-term policy.
No matter what happens, we’re not likely to see Uzbekistan a liberal democracy anytime soon. I like Tim, but one of the things that continually bugs me about Democratic thinking on foreign policy (and I’m definitely stereotyping here) is the desire and assumption that goals will be accomplished quickly and painlessly and that we wouldn’t be in predicament x, y, or z if it weren’t for bad planning. I don’t think Democrats actually believe these things and they’re appearing less often (thank goodness), but it’s still there.
[Hey, I genuinely don't want to get in a Republicans vs. Democrats debate here. There is plenty about Republican foreign policy thinking that sets me off too, and one of the Republicans who makes an issue of Uzbekistan a lot has a tendency to bother me. But this is as good a moment as any to let those who don't know already where my sympathies generally lay. And it does explain some of why I'm no longer a Democrat.]
The world is a nasty, imperfect place always throwing a wrench in our best designs and our policy needs to speak to the long game. To a certain extent, that’s the problem with publicly harping on democracy rather than just quietly doing it. It makes sensible policy look hypocritical.
What we’re quite possibly going to see in Uzbekistan is the chaos Martha Brill Olcott describes. We need to figure out not just what is actually possible for us to achieve in a country like Uzbekistan, but how we can manage the contingencies. So, if anyone has sensible answers to the above questions, you might change my mind. But for the time being, I’m not particularly demanding that we turn the ship around until we’ve totally figured out what our course will be.