TCS: Michael J. Totten Responds to Nathan

by Laurence on 6/9/2005 · 3 comments

Our very own Nathan is the center of a long and thoughtful article by Michael J. Totten.

I think Totten’s analysis is useful to read, because it seems to echo the conventional wisdom in Washington, especially this point: “If we continue to support Karimov, Islamist hatred of the United States will gain traction with some of the liberals.”

Nathan may disagree with me, but I believe Totten is wrong, though he has expressed the motivation for America’s flawed policies. America believes there can be an alliance of liberals and Islamists.

IMHO is not the way most Uzbeks think, since Tashkent liberals know perfectly well that the first thing Islamists would do if they take power is kill them. The Ayatollah did this to his Communist allies in the Iranian revolution.

In fact, one might argue that perceived American support for Islamists is pushing Uzbek liberals back into the arms of Russia, their “older brother.”

Unlike America, perceived as losing in Iraq and still not in control of Afghanistan, therefore an unreliable ally, Russia has fought Basmachi uprisings in Central Asia successfully for over 150 years, most recently in Tajikistan. After the killings in Andijan, Russia’s interest in Central Asia will be welcomed by many in Uzbekistan, especially liberal secularists.

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Olesya June 9, 2005 at 8:25 am

(Since I didn’t feel like joining and logging in I leave this one here)

This is such a populist thing to say something like “Our future relationship with Uzbekistan will be determined on the day the people elect their first government, when they either thank us or damn us”.
No one can guarantee they (whoever comes to power) will even let us vote next time. To be honest, no one actually cares about Americans at this point. People care about how THEY are treated by the government. And in order for us to start liking/thanking America you’ve got to improve the way we are treated. You can’t just say you have nothing to do with the dictatorship to make this happen though.

“The short-term response, at absolute minimum, is a public condemnation of the atrocity and, by extension, the regime.”

Public condemnation does no good if the condemned doesn’t feel like repenting anyway. And if you call this an effective solution then I really think you’d better not waste your time at all. You’ll end up saying sorry anyway.

Robert June 9, 2005 at 8:26 am

Overall, he does answer the questions, but it only really does so in the context of U.S.-Uzbekistan relations. I think one of the most important parts we need to look at is the regional effect our policy will have. Would immediate, harsh western isolation force Karimov into the unsavory arms of China, who has been cozying up of late? What about Russia? Could this actually lead to a reversal of any democratic progress that has been made?

david_walther June 9, 2005 at 8:38 am

“Unlike America, perceived as losing in Iraq and still not in control of Afghanistan, therefore an unreliable ally, Russia has fought Basmachi uprisings in Central Asia successfully for over 150 years, most recently in Tajikistan”

Russian success in Central Asia? The U.S. not in control of Afghanistan? Um, wasn’t there some kind of war between the USSR and Afghanistan, I’m having trouble remembering. Oh, that’s right, there was that one thing from 1979-1989, and withdrew in defeat after ten years of bloody fighting… and you can still see the aftermath in every major Russian city in the form of legless or armless beggars, or both.

I think you’d be very hard put to demonstrate that people in Central Asia, specifically in Uzbekistan, trust the Russians particularly more than they trust the United States. I think you’d be very, very hard put to demonstrate that they trust the Russian army any mor than they trust the U.S. army… Besides, what the hell does it matter what people think? No one asks them. They can’t write about it in the newspaper, and they can’t actually vote on anything. So who cares who they trust more? They can’t do anything about it either way.

If you have evidence to back up this speculation, I’d love to see it.

I would also love to see your background on your consistent claim that the U.S. has a policy of backing Islamist parties in Uzbekistan. That is completely contrary to the situation that I see, so if you have some evidence of this I would really like to see it,
cause I am in fact more interested in the reality of the situation than something that just happens to fit my political views.

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