What do you get when you combine a Wikipedia-type entry on a country no one knows about, along with incorrect facts you could easily Google in like fifteen minutes, and lots of preening about democracy? A Max Boot column! This time, after solving Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq, he’s decided his junket to Kyrgyzstan taught him their democracy is “wobbly.”
There are, of course, substantial errors of fact in his piece. Kyrgyzstan’s GDP is $4.5 billion, not $12 billion. Most estimates of Kyrgyzstan’s per capita GDP are between $800 and $900, not $2200. Besides, using estimates of per capita GDP tell you very little about a country’s economic output or its prospects for the future. The structure and output of the economy matter more, as do the regulations and taxes that constrain or promote certain types of business activity.
But beyond basic stuff like easily-Googled data, Boot comments on Kyrgystan’s prospects for democracy and stability without mentioning the brutal, horrifying riots that happened last summer in Osh and Jalalabad. That is astounding, and should be to all of us (see Registan.net’s coverage of the riots here). It is something you can only do through sheer ignorance.
Most egregiously, by neglecting to mention the huge, very bloody elephant in the room, Max Boot blew a huge opportunity to drawn an appropriate analogy to the current riots buffeting the Middle East. In Kyrgyzstan, a mass uprising against a putative ally turned into a pogrom of Kyrgyz thugs ethnically cleansing Uzbeks from the western cities, forcing a massive refugee flight. Despite the obvious confluence of U.S. objectives there — and the role the alleged criminals who provide fuel to Manas at a 100% markup played in fomenting the riots — the U.S. chose not to respond, even by sending aid to the tens of thousands of displaced.
In fact, Kyrgyzstan was something of a preview for how the U.S. would respond to the uprisings within its allies: namely, that we will only intervene when we have nothing at stake. That strikes me as the real lesson (and a tragedy for how it demonstrates the hollowness of our power), not this “assessment” of the “wobbliness: of Kyrgyzstan’s government.
And, lastly, Max, miniskirts say nothing about the relative secularism of a society. Good grief you should be embarrassed. I hope the junket was nice.