Stephen Blank has a great article at EurasiaNet on the crackdown against democratic forces in Central Asia. He makes an important observation regarding an oft-overlooked reason for the crackdown, at least as far as Uzbekistan is concerned.
As the experience of the Andijan entrepreneurs indicates, the full dimension of anti-democratic repression in Central Asia cannot be properly understood unless one realizes that a major motive for it is essentially greed. The Andijan tragedy might not have occurred if greed did not play such a large role in the official decision-making process.
Subsequent Uzbek policy decision can also be linked to avarice on the part of the country’s leaders. For instance, a Rand Corporation report in 2005 suggests that one reason for Karimov’s mounting unhappiness with the former American air base at Karshi-Khanabad was his knowledge that the family of former Kyrgyz leader Askar Akayev, then in power in Bishkek, was making a fortune off of concessions at the US base at Manas, outside the Kyrgyz capital. Ultimately, Karimov opted to expel US military forces from Uzbekistan after he could not reach new base-terms with American officials, the report stated, basing its assertion on interviews with Washington-based Uzbek diplomats.
And the important thing, Blank says, is not so much that Central Asian leaders are corrupt but that there are no property rights in the region. And without property rights, he says, there will not be liberalization, rule of law, or democracy.
He closes on a pretty pessimistic note.
While such a system may seem outwardly stable, in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan there is good reason to believe that we are seeing failing states hollow out before our eyes. Thus, the anti-democratization trend stands a good chance of culminating in upheaval. Any attempt to reverse the current, dangerous trend will stand little chance of success unless those promoting change pay attention not only to the need to promote basic civil and human rights, but also to the defense of property rights. Without the latter, the former can neither be achieved nor secured.
I entirely agree, and think that the importance of property rights, for whatever reason, do not get anywhere near the amount of attention they deserve from most advocates of liberalization in Central Asia.