Saturday, June 18, 2005

# Posted 3:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

ONLY BUSH CAN DELIVER THE MESSAGE TO UZBEKISTAN: The White House says that DoD is on board with its efforts to stand up for human rights and democracy in Uzbekistan, but the press has been reporting a split between State and Defense for some time now.

While refusing to actually say that it opposes the State Department's efforts to hold Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov accountable for the recent massacre in Andijon, the military would apparently prefer to preserve access to its bases in Uzbekistan.

If Bush wants Karimov to know that America is serious about human rights and democracy promotion, he will have to deliver the message himself. Otherwise, Karimov will have a strong incentive to interpret the lack of consensus in Washington as a greenlight for further repression. Moreover, Bush will have to back his message up by making firm demands for an external investigation of the events at Andijon.

Almost two weeks ago, the WaPo argued that the value of our bases in Uzbekistan is hardly enough to justify compromising our most important principles in the war on terror. There are bases available elsewhere. In contrast, our credibility will suffer a damaging blow if we allow Karimov to crush legitimate dissent in the name of fighting Islamic terrorists. As the Weekly Standard points out,
The Taliban has been defeated, and, with the liberation of Iraq, the nature of the global struggle to which the Bush administration is committed is no longer exclusively focused on the destruction of terrorist redoubts. We are now committed to a democratizing effort that challenges tyranny along with terror as threats to peace and freedom around the world. The Uzbek regime that was part of the solution in 2001 is now, with its bloody suppression of protests, part of the problem.
Republicans on the Hill have also become increasingly critical of Karimov. The WaPo editorial points out that after returning from a visit to Tashkent, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Sununu all announced that Karimov's behavior has called the value of our diplomatic relationship into question.

Some might suggest that Bush's minimal presence up to this point suggests that he isn't following the issue or isn't concerned about human rights and democracy in Uzbekistan. But for quite some time now, Bush has refused to make excuses for authoritarian allies. He hasn't challenged every one the way he has Putin or Mubarak, but that takes time. Given a little more time, I expect Bush to approach Uzbekistan in a manner fully consistent with his principles.
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