Hoping for a Policy Change

by Nathan Hamm on 11/20/2006 · 2 comments

With Democrats taking control of Congress, some in Central Asia have apparently speculated that US policy toward the region will change. As Roger McDermott relates, that is not terribly likely.

In fact, basing his assessment on the continuity of U.S. foreign policy in the region, he told a Central Asian audience that President George W. Bush does not envisage changing the main elements of U.S. policy, which center on efforts to promote democracy and security. Ordway also noted that there is little distinction between the Republicans and Democrats over Central Asia.

Ambassador Ordway said that representatives from both parties have visited the region and have similar opinions. I would add that what really unites both parties’ members of Congress on US Central Asia policy is that they rarely think about it.

Leaders in the region, understandably, want the US to quit worrying about democracy and instead focus on economic development and security. Hope and dream as they might, they are sure to find the next Congress little changed in its insistence on democratization continuing to be a part of US policy.

But Congress only has indirect control over foreign policy, so will frustration with the Bush administration’s (decreased of late) talk of democratization encourage foot-dragging in relations with the US in hopes of cutting better deals in 2009? Perhaps, but they would be well-advised to listen to Ordway. Attitudes regarding Central Asia among US politicians to the extent that they exist at all are fairly uniform and variations are not the result of party affiliation.

McDermott points out that the US is not the only one pressuring Central Asian states for democratization. As frustrated as they may be with the US, the only way that Central Asian leaders will be able to entirely avoid any pressure to democratize is to cut themselves off from the West. There is really no point in waiting for things to change. After all, Europe, despite having a good reason to reforge ties with Uzbekistan, decided to keep pressures for liberalization in place. The quicker that the region’s leaders realize that there is no such thing as a free lunch, the better.


Subscribe to receive updates from Registan

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.

For information on reproducing this article, see our Terms of Use

{ 2 comments }

Anna November 22, 2006 at 8:00 am

>>I would add that what really unites both parties’ members of Congress on US Central Asia policy is that they rarely think about it.

Agreed — if there is a distinct “Central Asian policy” at all, that’s in any way different from the blanket global “democracy like ours at all costs, unless there’s oil involved.”

Major JOhn November 26, 2006 at 7:51 pm

“I would add that what really unites both parties’ members of Congress on US Central Asia policy is that they rarely think about it.”

That is, unfortuantely, the most accurate thing I have read i a long time. Sigh.

Previous post:

Next post: