Political Corruption Is Universal

by Joshua Foust on 7/27/2007 · 4 comments

I’ve gotten a lot of grief on here for my dislike of Bermet Akaeva, the half-disgraced daughter of former Kyrgyz dictator Askar Akaev. She was most recently discussing how Kygyzstan should break apart into federation… which would conveniently leave her in control of the autonomous district of Kemin. I got seriously dinged for repeating an oft-thrown charge that the vandalisms and disruptions over her arrest (and contempt conviction) were carried out by paid agitators. One commenter even angrily wondered, apparently forgetting this blog’s area of coverage, why I didn’t cover more of my own country’s political problems.

Well. Our politicians are not above paying people to serve as agitator either. Which just goes to show you, the lust for power is insatiable, no matter the country.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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E.K July 27, 2007 at 8:57 pm

Two thoughts in response:


Bermet Akaeva is not suggesting in any way that Northern Kyrgyzstan should “break apart” from the rest. These choices of words to describe Bermet Akaeva’s idea for federalism in Kyrgyzstan reveals Joshua Foust’s lack of rudimentary knowledge in political theory. Read Bermet Akaeva’s interview closely but in no way does she suggest what Foust insists. Simply put, there is no breaking up involved. In fact, the idea of federalism that Bermet Akaeva argues for is in truth a very Western idea and more than anything an American idea.

I will explain how this is so. But first, what is the name of the essays that the Founding Fathers of America wrote in order to justify America’s first Constitution? Surely, they were the “The Federalist Papers.” The Founding Fathers of America believed that the best political system for mankind is a federal one. In Federalist essays #45 and #46, James Madison argues that the objective of a federal system is to create a check-and-balance system to the national government. In essence, a federal system creates a safeguard mechanism in the country’s polity that prevents the national government from becoming tyrannical. In addition, federalism also raises a preventive barrier to a fundamental danger all democracies inherently face: tyranny of the majority.

All the “democracy”-loving, “human rights”-loving, “freedom”-loving people should be the first to support Bermet Akaeva’s idea of federalism in Kyrgzystan. Anyone who follows Kyrgyz politics know very well that Northerners in Krygyzstan have been repeatedly asking Bakiev in the recent months to stop harassing and persecuting them. There is a press release in akipress as recent as a couple of days ago where elder tribal leaders in the North have requested that the government stop harassing them. Indeed it has become evident that the Northerners in Kyrgyzstan believe that their national government has become a police state that consistently violates their individual rights and civil rights they are entitled to by law and constitution as citizens of Kyrgyzstan.

Having said this, there is an interesting parallel between Krygyzstan and Iraq. Just the way the national government in Iraq(ironically an Iranian and American backed Shiite government) fails to include the interests of Sunnis and Kurds, the current national government in Kyrgyzstan represents solely the interests of the South. From a political structural perspective, the principle reason why the national governments in Baghdad and Bishkek are currently so dysfunctional is because they are not truly national governments. In Iraq, the national government fails to take interests of the Kurds and Sunnis, while in Kyrgyzstan the national government fails to take interests of the Northerners.

Another similarity is that both disasters in Iraq and Kyrgyzstan are a direct result of the American government: in the case of Iraq, through an illegal military invasion and botched occupation and in the case of Kyrgyzstan, the results of America’s support for the Kyrygz “Revolutionary” hero Kurmanbek Bakiev.

If Kyrgyzstan adopts Bermet Akaeva’s idea of federalism, the Kyrgyz government would become similar to the American system. The benefits to the Northerners and also to the Southerners as a result of federalism would undoubtedly make Kyrgyzstan a more democratic, civil, and stable nation with safeguards against tyranny. However, I should note a caveat that a federal system does not mean that regional differences between the North and South will immediately disappear. Even with a federal system, the North and South entered a civil war in America. The only way the national government in Kyrgyzstan can prevent the escalating tensions between the Northerners and Southerners is for the Kyrgyz government to adopt Bermet Akaeva’s sensible and bold idea of federalism in Kyrgyzstan.

Unlike the current government in power, Bermet Akaeva actually has a pragmatic roadmap to put Kyrgyzstan on the path to development: both political, economic, and social. With the current standoff in Kyrgyz society between the Northerners and the Southerners, there cannot be a properly functioning unified state for self-evident reasons. Therefore, a federal system in Kyrgyzstan is far overdue. The idea that a federal system would immediately and automatically leave Bermet Akeava in charge of the North is just preposterous and absurd. A federal system in Kyrgyzstan is in the interests of both the Northerners and the Southerners.

Call ex-President Askar Akaev a tyrant, dictator, or whatever stick-figure caricatures, labels and titles you want. The last 8 years has taught all of us that the America government has the highest score among any states for coming up with the best stick-figure labels, titles, slogans, and bumper stickers and Gobbel-like propagandas. Some examples that come to my mind immediately: “War on Terror”, “Operation Iraqi Freedom”, “Axis of Evil”, “Enhanced Interrogation”.

A sobering figure to put all this in perspective. Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson recently told British broadcaster Channel 4 that the US administration had kidnapped and arrested an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 suspects over the past year around the world. Eighty-five percent of them were innocent, according to Wilkerson. Add to that hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis brutally murdered as a consequence of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and millions of Iraqis displaced from their own motherland. If these actions are not dictatorial and tyrannical, than what is?

Instead of viewing Central Asia from an exclusive American and Western lens/bias, I believe the sensible and intelligent approach is to analyze Central Asia from the context of its region and historical positioning. Is this not the difficult fact and lesson the fiasco in Iraq has taught all of us? Had America looked at Iraq in the context of its region and not in the context of Neoconservative think tanks, the reality in Iraq would be undoubtedly different. Just like any leader of all countries and of all times, ex-President Akaev is no Jesus Christ. No human is perfect. However, in a region of the likes of cult-of-personality figures like Niyazov, no one can deny the fact that Askar Akaev sowed the seeds for democracy in Kyrgyzstan.

Cite all the flaws you want during his Presidency, as the Founding Father of Kyrgyzstan he sowed the seeds for democracy and development in a newly created Kyrgyzstan in the region that was forced to face the humiliating and depressing collapse of the Soviet Union with Stalin as its most famous leader. Kyrgyzstan was not founded as an offspring of America or the UK and therefore the demand that it resemble today’s West is precisely the colonial thinking and attitude the Europeans and now the Americans have adopted towards the world: especially in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

I do not need to remind anyone the disastrous historical consequences to mankind of the colonial view the British empire in the 19th century and subsequently the American empire have adopted towards less developed nations/regions. Anyone still in doubt should start thinking about the consequences of “human rights”, “democracy and freedom promotion” in Iraq.

If there is one lesson we all learned(hopefully) from the crimes against humanity in Iraq that America is responsible for is this: with its reckless and arrogant invasion against millions of innocent Iraqis, Americans need to stop viewing and judging rest of the world exclusively through their lens/biases/prejudices. In the last four years of heartburn in Iraq, we all have learned how difficult it is to put in place a Western type democracy in a region that has never known it and how fickle and precarious human societies are. Building a free and prosperous society is no easy task. The way to truly develop a country is to understand and view the country in relation to its region and historical development.

In this manner, what the world needs right now more than anything is what Bush ironically advocated in his campaign for Presidency in 2000: a humble approach in affairs related to the rest of the world.

Just the way it took over 200 years for the principles of constitutional democracy to be implemented in America, it will also take a long time for the seeds of democracy in Kyrgyzstan to fully shine. Remember there were laws as recent as 1960s in America that banned interracial marriage, and I have noted some of the horrors, struggles, and tragedies of America’s own path to the implementation of its own democratic principles, especially in the founding years of America.

The Founding Father of Kyrgyzstan is no Jesus Christ. He had flaws just the way the Founding Fathers of America had and for that matter we all as human beings have. However, the undeniable fact is that in a region deeply soaked in Soviet communist thinking from many years of failed Soviet communism and malaise and depression, the Founding Father of Kyrgyzstan introduced fundamental principles of constitutional democracy and liberty. Whatever limitations existed in the implementation of the principles of democracy in Kyrgyzstan’s early years of its existence(just the way there were flaws that existed and still exist in the American system and in the Founders of America), through the introduction of the principles of constitutional democracy, the undeniable fact is that ex-President Askar Akaev planted the seeds for a free society and a free people.

Given the very destabilized and dangerous times we live in with serious issues that threaten mankind’s existence like never before(global warming, nuclear proliferation, hunger, AIDS, extremism in a globalized world), what is unequivocally clear is that the roadmap for mankind’s future survival does not rest in America’s current attitude and appraoch to the rest of the world: adhominens, demonising, scape-goating, slogans, labels, titles, bumper stickers, and above all wishful thinking like the self-righteous and immensely arrogant belief that a full-fledged democracy can be artificially engineered and forced upon militarily in a short amount of time to a region that has never known it.

This is significant especially when the impulse for change comes from the American empire(with its own history and roots/heritage that is responsible for disastrous consequences of colonization, imperialism and bloody genocide in its own territory and around the world) and towards a country and region that still suffers from the destructions inflicted by hundreds of years of unjust assault in the name of slogans and bumper stickers such as “freedom”, “human rights” and “democracy”.

Mark July 28, 2007 at 10:12 am

EK wrote,

“serious issues that threaten mankind’s existence like never before(global warming, nuclear proliferation, hunger, AIDS, extremism in a globalized world)”

I don’t think any of these things threaten mankind’s existence, sure many individuals may die in the future from these issues but mankind will most likely survive.

And actually any real threats to mankind (large asteroid impact, insect competition and others) are likely to be countered by financial and scientific solutions from the US.

The rest of your comments seem to conflict with points you’re trying to make in the in your previous point

“In fact, the idea of federalism that Bermet Akaeva argues for is in truth a very Western idea and more than anything an American idea.”

followed by,

“Americans need to stop viewing and judging rest of the world exclusively through their lens/biases/prejudices.”

I’d write more but frankly I’m too ignorant of of all thing CA (that’s why I’m here reading this blog) and I do need to catch up with Lindsey Lohan’s continuing saga.

Joshua Foust July 30, 2007 at 9:18 am

E.K., again you seem to be saying that because my country is not perfect I cannot comment on other countries… ironically while commenting on my country from your very imperfect one.

I told you before – you’re basically trolling with these little diatribes I honestly don’t bother to read (really, can you be more tedious?). Mark highlighted one big reason — you’re really big on rhetoric, not so much on consistency. Pull this again, and I’m going to ban you.

Kayumars July 30, 2007 at 1:22 pm

You seem to have a lot to say. Perhaps you would be interested in starting your own blog? I’m not being sarcastic at all.

If you are interested then just go to wordpress.com or blogger.com and you can have a free blog within the hour. I’m barely computer literate and I was able to figure it out.

With a blog you can link to an article or blog post elsewhere that you disagree with and post your lengthy replies. Or of course write original posts of your own.

Sorry if I seem patronizing, but generally speaking lengthy responses to blog posts are not the best way to get your message out since a low percentage people actually read the comments.

Perhaps you could build a significant readership on your own blog?

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