More on Herman Cain’s Uzbekistan Comments

by Joshua Foust on 10/14/2011 · 5 comments

I wrote my column for PBS this week, from Bishkek, elaborating on Nathan’s thoughts about Herman Cain’s insult toward Uzbekistan:

Uzbekistan must be at the heart of any successful security policy for Central and South Asia, arguably one of the epicenters of U.S. foreign policy for the next decade. If any budget-cutting Republican wants to drawdown in Afghanistan and keep Pakistan at bay, he must come up with an alternative to Pakistan’s supply routes, which Islamabad uses as a trump card when it dislikes an American policy. Building up the transit corridor through Uzbekistan gives the U.S. leverage to cut off and isolate Pakistan as punishment for its constant funding of international terrorism…

Still, Herman Cain wasn’t arguing that engaging with Uzbekistan was a bad idea. That’s a perfectly defensible position to take, even if I disagree with it. Cain was arguing that no one should bother with Uzbekistan because it doesn’t matter to Americans, so he’s proud to be ignorant of the place. That’s just wrong. Uzbekistan is crucial to American interests, if for no other reason than it can help us craft an exit strategy in Afghanistan.

There’s a bit more there, so read the whole thing before leaving comments.

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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 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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Don Bacon October 15, 2011 at 10:52 am

“a stable relationship with Uzbekistan is vital to the war in Afghanistan” . .”to reduce our dependency on Pakistan”

That is certainly current US policy. There’s a clue right there! Dropping Pakistan from the settlement of this mess and throwing in with Uzbek b/c it’s “vital to the war in Afghanistan” is bad policy. We’re trying to end this ten-year mistake not keep it going. The US must retain a “dependency on Pakistan” because Pak has vital interests in the area. That’s clear.


“This ‘new Silk Road,’ as the Obama administration has called it, could fundamentally alter the global economic landscape”

is more than a slight fork in the road since your recent excellent essay “The Brilliant, Unworkable Idea of the New Silk Road.” What’s with that?

And how does this work?

“General Motors operates a high-volume car factory in the Uzbek town of Asaka. All apologies to Mr. Cain, but I’m pretty sure at least a few American jobs have been created or saved through the development of this plant.”

GM, partly owned by US taxpayers and the autoworkers union, invests in Uzbekistan and that is good for US autoworkers?

There are two important meetings coming up that need to include Pakistan and consider its security interest regarding the India presence in Afghanistan. They are the Istanbul Conference slated for November 2 and the December 5 “Bonn+10” Conference which will convene more than 1,000 delegates from 90 nations. Let’s promote the ending of this war and not its continuation.

Nathan Hamm October 15, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Again, read what Cain actually said, not the policy platform you imagine he proposed. He said,

“‘You know, I don’t know. Do you know? And then I’m going to say, ‘how’s that going to create one job?'”

And so how this works is that a US company has a large joint venture in the company he unfortunately picked to make this point. That likely creates at least one job for an American in America. And it’s not hard to check. With the magic of LinkedIn, it’s easy to find people working in Detroit as part of the GM Uzbekistan venture.

I’ll point out again that logistics routes work both way. If we are going to leave Afghanistan, having a northern route for withdrawing troops and equipment is as important as it is for supplying the continuation of conflict.

Don Bacon October 15, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I’m commenting on Foust not Cain, but nice try.

Don Bacon October 15, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Catch-22: A situation in which a desired outcome or solution is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical rules or conditions.

It’s impossible for the US military to withdraw from Afghanistan without a peace treaty because the ANA will never be capable, and peace is impossible without Pakistan support because its interests and national security transect the Durand line, therefore shunning Pakistan and making it an enemy in order to favor an alternate withdrawal route makes no sense.

What does make sense is recognizing that Pakistan has very real security interests and that they supersede any empire-driven, New Silk Road fantasies that the US pretends to have.

Uzbekistan October 23, 2011 at 5:35 pm

USA has long tried to vow Uzbekistan to counter the Russian Influence in Central Asia. But Americans and Europeans still living in the era of last 20 years forget to understand the influence of recent adventures on countries inhibited by the muslims and thus keep on living on false assumptions. Islam karimov can provide and exact a good price from Americans for the time being. But his days are numbered and his security set up built on terror and financed by Americans will fall and there will be a crisis. Who so ever will come will not be able to tow the USA policy. So let the fools live in their paradise and hope for the best. With every passing day the so called Europeans Geniuses will know how wrong they were.

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