May 17, 2005

UZBEKISTAN UPDATE: [Identifying information removed at correspondent's request] Reader _________ emails:

[Paragraph deleted at correspondent's request.]

I'm writing to ask your opinion regarding the situation in Uzbekistan and the Bush Doctrine. Full disclosure-I'm a staunch Democrat but one that willingly acknowledges the positive effect the Iraq invasion has had on democracy movements in several nations. In fact, most liberals I know are shamefully in denial about this and need to wake up and get excited about the spread of freedom.

However, I think the Uzbek situation is where the Bush Doctrine's rubber needs to meet the road. It was great when the new democracy movements produced governments that were friendlier to US interests (Ukraine, Georgia, Lebanon), but Uzbekistan is different. Karimov is our buddy, it seems primarily due to our military base in southern Uzbekistan. However this week we've seen just how amazingly brutal he is and the Bush Administration needs to come out clearly against this turd. I think we can find another place from which to stage our Afghanistan operation. Sadly, the lukewarm admonishments coming from our government only confirm my initial suspicion about the Bush Doctrine, that we would only pressure tyrants that we didn't need anyway.

I'm sure you've gotten lots of email like this about Uzbekistan, but I thought maybe you'd like to hear from an American who was there during the incident. It wasn't easy telling them that we were keeping our mouths shut because we find Karimov convenient. The worst thing is that they knew this already, they've known it for years.

Well, I think Ukraine stands as a counterexample to that, as Yushchenko has been far less supportive of U.S. war efforts than his predecessor. But I certainly think we need to be encouraging democracy in Uzbekistan.

In wartime, you can't always be choosy about your allies -- we sided with Stalin in World War Two, and for that matter cut deals with the likes of DeGaulle that we came to regret later. And America's longstanding reputation for being harder on our allies than our enemies is something we don't want to exacerbate, as you don't get allies that way. Telling friendly dictators that we'll focus our efforts elsewhere for a while, and give them time to arrange a transition to democracy that leaves their families safe and even lets them keep some of their ill-gotten gains is acceptable realpolitik. Closing your eyes to mass murder is not.

But I think it's fair to insist that things move in the right direction, not the wrong one, and from what I can tell, things in Uzbekistan have gone very far wrong -- far enough to justify ditching any promises made earlier, if the reports are true.

UPDATE: A reader who prefers anonymity sends this link to a report that we're actually doing more than I realized:

Over the past few years, Uzbek president Islam Karimov has been warned by the U.S. to either get with the democratic process, or risk getting overthrown. Even though the United States withdrew most foreign aid last year over this issue, Karimov believes that he can tough it out. But the United States has been funding pro-democracy political organizations in Uzbekistan.

Sounds like a good time to tighten the screws some more. Michael Totten says it's time to dump Karimov, and suggests that the White House agrees.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Much more on Uzbekistan at Registan.

MORE: Jim Hoft has posted further thoughts on Uzbekistan.

STILL MORE: Reader Robb Minneman is a bit unclear on the anonymous-source concept, and sends this:

I've never written before, but I felt the need to do so this one time.
You've been awfully tough on Newsweek (and deservedly so!) in the last
couple of days, but today, you did something just like they did. In the
update to your post on Uzbekistan and democracy movements
(, you quoted an anonymous

Now this guy may not be anonymous to you, but really, how does this make you any different than Michael Isikoff? You've got just as much to worry about, in terms of trust issues, as Newsweek does. Maybe more so, as you're a newer outfit.

Er, except that the anonymous reader isn't the source for the information. He just forwarded me a link to a public source for the information. That's not the same at all.

Anonymous sources, of course, aren't always bad -- but you'd better either (1) be sure that what they're reporting is accurate; or (2) be truthful about your uncertainties in that regard. But sending someone a link isn't anonymous sourcing at all.

MORE STILL: Tim Russo says I'm not being tough enough on Uzbekistan. I think, however, that he misunderstood my original post.