Thursday, September 15, 2005

# Posted 7:51 AM by Patrick Belton  

CENTRAL ASIAN REGIMES, MONGOLIAN CRICKET, AND OTHER THINGS YOU JUST FIND YOURSELF THINKING ABOUT: This just in from Crescat's Amanda Butler, Central Asian maven par excellence upon whom I might note we here at OxBlog are quickly developing a blogosphere crush:

The latter [being the Mongolian cricket - ed.] is because when I googled for Mongolian news earlier today, this came up.

And the former is about your comments on Martha Brill Olcott's latest. I disagree that "The situation's somewhat better in Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan, more open to the recommendations of the international community," so far as that's an accurate statement of Kazakhstan/Nazarybayev's motives. I don't think that Kazakhstan is particularly open to the international community's recommendations; I think that Kazakhstan is simply interested in becoming a member of the international community. While similar, these aren't equal.

Kazakhstan wants to be a nation among nations and not a laughingstock. It put in a bid for Almaty to host the winter Olympics, an opportunity that would have showcased it as a legitimate, functioning, respectable nation. It also sought to become chair of the OSCE in 2009, which would mark it as a reasonably well governed democracy (and Bill Clinton even endorsed the bid for chairmanship). Kazakhstan also sent---and advertised heavily in the Washington Post about this---roughly 30 soldiers to Iraq.

Finally, Kazakhstan also receives a lot of investment from foreign companies, especially those interested in its oil and gas riches: the government is not blind to the fact that "real nations" have strong economies, and does consider that a goal. The national TV news likes to cover economic success stories. My friend Ryan Giordano over there has commented several times that he's met far more Kazakhstanis who believe in the power of capitalism to lift up their personal situations than he has met Americans with a similar faith.

The problem is the lack of democracy (though people in Kazakhstan really do think that they live in a democracy, since they vote for a president and parliament to pass their laws), lack of a free media, lack of people who are trained well in what they are doing (I'm thinking now of teachers and of Olcott's comment that success in the Communist party is one of the worst possible trainings for service in a democractic government), and surplus of bridenapping and incredibly widespread corruption. I'm not yet optimistic about the country's future, but I'm not yet pessimistic, either. There's a last hill to overcome---that of changing the culture, such that the Kazakhstani notion of democracy and good governance much more closely approximates the Western notion of those terms---and that's where I'm afraid it will get derailed into a situation like that of modern Russia.

Well, now that I've blathered enough, I hope Switzerland is treating you well---it sounds lovely.

All the best,
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