I knew it!

by Nathan Hamm on 5/21/2005 · 5 comments

So, I said here that if you’ve been reading long enough, you could probably step in for me and write why it is I find Johann Hari’s Uzbekistan article so damned silly.

Tim proved me right. He actually does me a few better. I was probably just going to keep it to:

1) The suggestion that Uzbekistan is key to accessing the region’s oil. Keep in mind that there are 53 countries with bigger reserves of oil than Uzbekistan (and that includes you, Canada, so, since we only do things for oil, you better watch yourself). Seems to me we would support the iron-fist in more oil-rich countries like Kazakhstan (or hell, why not Ukraine? Yushchenko’s not just gonna be giving it away!) rather than the country next door.

2) Pipeline? What the hell pipeline is Hari talking about? Kazakhstan has figured out that it can, wait for it… wait… keep holding… float the goddamned oil in “tankers” as they call them, on over to Baku to get the product to Europe and North America. Or, if it wants to sell to China, it can always use that pipeline it’s building. Curiously, it doesn’t take a circuitous route through Uzbekistan but goes straight into China!

So, just to pause. The US is backing the Uzbek government–“to the hilt” in the words of Craig Murray–for access to oil that is in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan and/or to keep the country stable so that the oil can be transported through Uzbekistan on pipelines that don’t exist and aren’t planned. Just so I’m clear, because that whole “Uzbekistan is in the center of the region” argument was extremely compelling in the face of facts.

3) A 98 memo from Dick Cheney about Caspian oil and the suggestion that Uzbekistan has a Caspian coastline? Maybe I’m extrapolating a bit much on the latter, but Uzbekistan is for matters of politics and economics not really part of the Caspian. Geographically, some of its largely unpopulated far west may be in the Caspian Basin, but it has not ports, is not part of talks over, and does not play any appreciable role (if any at all) in the extraction or transport of Caspian resources. And couldn’t anything more recent be found? You know, things that take into account 7 years of accumulated and significant political and economic changes in Central Asia and the Transcaucasus?

Crap, there’s loads more, but at its core, Hari’s article is a run of the mill “it’s all about oil” piece. Doesn’t require one bit of original thought, insight, analysis, or a handle on facts. But really, maybe Hari should go into business selling his expertise on every corner of the world. He could just write the same essay over and over again, just substituting a couple names now and then. After all, plenty of folks seem to make a living off of saying everything the US does is for oil if oil is to be found within 5,000 miles.

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This post was written by...

– 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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Chirol May 21, 2005 at 4:48 pm

Well said Nathan.

And in the words of Barnett, even if we pretend the world is only interested in other countries for oil, so what? Want to know what a country with no resources looks like because nobody’s interested? Sub-saharan Africa! And we know how well things are working out there.

david_walther May 23, 2005 at 11:06 pm

i found that article a painful reminder that ideology is a sickness… i’m more and more convinced that communism, religious extremism, consevatism, liberalism, all the isms, look almost exactly alike at their core. they all provide an incredible shelter from actually thinking (or doing research in the academic case).

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