May 23, 2005
UZBEKISTAN'S NOT-SO-GREAT GAME:
If the United States reacts to the Uzbek uprising based upon its articulated principle of supporting democracy, is it not repeating the mistakes of the Carter era, undermining an ally, and potentially paving the way for something worse?
Though there is some legitimacy to this concern, casting 2005 Uzbekistan in the role of 1979 Iran is an error. First, though Uzbekistan has been a meaningful ally in the War on Terror, Uzbekistan cannot be considered a staunch, long-term ally of the United States. Over the past several years, Uzbekistan has actively moved away from the West, towards an alliance of authoritarian states. Second, not all revolutions in Islamic countries are alike. The uprising in Uzbekistan is part of a larger international trend. The Iranian revolution was not. It inspired no imitators. No government outside of Iran has been toppled by a revolution based on the Iranian model. Uzbeks, on the other hand, have been observing a string of revolutions in countries with which they share a common history. . . .
China and Russia are standing behind their Shanghai Cooperation Organization partner. The foreign ministries of both countries have expressed support for Uzbekistan's methods of maintaining order. Those who believe that the word "multilateral" automatically legitimizes any international action need to consider the situation in Uzbekistan very carefully. Uzbekistan is now the focal point of a multilateral effort of authoritarian powers trying to stop the international wave of democratization from progressing any further.
I can understand why they'd feel that way.