T Nation

Realpoliticks in Terror War?

Very interesting happenings w/r/t alliances in central Asia. To the extent that the U.S. was engaging in some realpoliticking, it seems to be re-orienting priorities toward human rights and democracy promotion.


On the other hand, Maura Reynolds and David Holley report in the Los Angeles Times that some countries are requesting that U.S. forces leave ahead of schedule ( http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-uzbek31jul31,1,7194368.story?coll=la-headlines-world ):

[i]Uzbekistan has issued an eviction notice to a U.S. air base that has been used since 2001 to stage military and humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Saturday.

The notice, delivered Friday to the U.S. Embassy in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, gives the United States six months to comply, Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood said.

“The bottom line is, they want us out,” he said.

The Uzbek government has increasingly bristled at the U.S. military presence, especially since the State Department joined international allies in calling for an inquiry into the shooting deaths of protesters during a rally in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon in May…

Anticipating eviction by Uzbekistan, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld won pledges from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan last week to let the United States continue using airfields there for operations in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan does not border Afghanistan, and Tajikistan’s roads into the country are poor, but Rumsfeld expressed optimism that those more distant bases would be adequate should Uzbekistan carry through on its threat to evict U.S. forces.

“We’re always thinking ahead. We’ll be fine,” Rumsfeld said on a tour of Central Asia. [/i]

Over at the Christian Science Monitor, Mark Sappenfield suggests that these recent developments suggest the complexity of fighting a global war on terror ( http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0801/p02s01-usmi.html ):

[i]As the Pentagon transforms its military to meet the more flexible needs of the war on terror, it has also begun to recast the footprint of its overseas bases, and nowhere has this been more obvious than in the remote Central Asian republics of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

For more than three years, they have allowed the United States to use a pair of austere airfields to provide crucial support for troops in Afghanistan, and they have served as models of how America will wage its wars in the future. Yet even as Kyrgyzstan reaffirmed its commitment to the United States for the duration of the Afghan war last week, Uzbekistan sent US forces an eviction notice.

It is a glimpse of what awaits the Pentagon as it spreads beyond the stability of cold-war bases in Europe and the Far East. New alliances with nations from Southeast Asia to the Horn of Africa promise quick access to the remotest corners of the globe, but they could increasingly link American security to the whims of fickle allies and controversial regimes.

“We’re going to be fighting this global war against irregular forces in much different places than we were willing to fight in the past,” says Robert Work, an analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments here. “And in [these places] there are no long-term allies.” [/i]

Another way of interpreting the data is that the administration is actually willing to put its emphasis on democracy promotion front and center, even in regions considered of geostrategic importance. The willingness to leave nondemocratic Uzbekistan while maintaining bases in democratizing Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan suggests that the U.S. is recalculating the requirements to be a long-term partner of the U.S. (This, by the way, would contradict what I wrote in Diplomatic History last month: http://danieldrezner.com/research/Leffler.pdf )

The LAT report ( http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-uzbek31jul31,1,7194368.story?coll=la-headlines-world ) suggests that the Uzbeks might just be bargaining, so we’ll see how this unfolds.

Out of Uzbekistan.
By: trevino ? Section: Foreign Affairs

The United States is being evicted from the K2 airbase in Uzbekistan ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/29/AR2005072902038.html ). From the beginning of the Afghan war, K2 was a vital staging area for American and Allied forces. This was particularly so in fall 2001, when the Northern Alliance held only its thin strip of territory in the far north of Afghanistan. K2 has been useful since then – in the few Afghan missions I’ve been tangentially involved with, we always staged out of there – but its strategic importantance is considerably less since the occupation of Bagram ( http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/afghanistan/bagram.htm ). The United States also has use of airfields at Quetta in Pakistan and Manas ( http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/manas.htm ) in Kyrgyzstan. The latter is a significant staging area and will probably, along with Bagram in-country, pick up the missions that were previously staged out of K2. Following Chinese-inspired threats ( http://www.sciencedaily.com/upi/?feed=TopNews&article=UPI-1-20050712-00053600-bc-russia-kyrgyzstan.xml ) of eviction ( http://www.asiantribune.com/show_article.php?id=2594 ) from Manas, Secretary Rumsfeld just returned from Central Asia, where he secured assurances of Allied use of Manas for the foreseeable future ( http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/07/363ce7be-5c22-4d42-b176-83e8b4e67900.html )
Why is this a political matter? It’s significant because of the reason K2 is being shut down: the United States, having engaged in necessary realpolitik in engaging with the bloody regime of Islam Karimov ( http://hrw.org/doc/?t=europe&c=uzbeki ) (see lefty outrage here: http://www.thememoryhole.org/pol/us-and-uz.htm ), has turned up the human rights pressure in the wake of the Andijan massacres ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_2005_unrest_in_Uzbekistan ; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4550845.stm ) – and in correlation with the decreasing strategic import of K2. The United States has specifically been active in aiding the flight of Uzbek refugees; it was, apparently, a 29 July airlift ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-5174685,00.html ) of several hundred of them to Romania that enraged the Karimov regime to the point of shutting down K2. (American and British human rights advocacy on this point is noticed in the Middle Eastern press, by the bye: http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle.asp?xfile=data/theworld/2005/July/theworld_July830.xml&section=theworld ) Since the close of the Second World War, American foreign policy has wavered between the twin poles of human rights idealism and naked self-interest. The drawbacks of each in isolation became clear enough in the Nixon and Carter administrations; it is good to see the Bush Administration doing a fairly good job of finding a middle way. In cases like the K2 eviction, the rage of tyrants is a badge of pride.

Update [2005-7-30 22:29:58 by trevino]:

Another example ( http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20050729/wl_afp/uschinazimbabwe_050729062739 ) in another region of the Administration acting as a lonely voice of human rights.

Also see here for a few more linked reports:


We can actually go and find news and stories on our own.

Did you have an opinion or an analysis or anthing for us to discuss?

Well vroom,

I thought that given the number of times that people have claimed that democracy-promotion was just a bunch of nice-sounding cover for the administration’s true goals (depending on the poster, world dominance, oil, etc.), I should think the implications would be obvious.

The administration is walking the walk, and not just talking the talk, when it comes to democracy promotion - in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

While you’d think the amount of resources that are currently being devoted to what has now become more of a democracy-building and country-rebuilding exercise in Iraq than anything else, you’d think that point wouldn’t even be contested, but I suppose it helps to have some other evidence from elsewhere as well.


I don’t think anybody would ever doubt that the US is promoting democracy.

However, if you were honest, I think you’d see that this argument comes up most with respect to the reason for attacking Iraq. The war was justified based on fear tactics which turned out to be incorrect, perhaps knowingly.

If the US wants to wage wars to spread democracy, then all it has to do is get the population (via elected representatives) to approve the use of force for this purpose.

Really, anything to discuss at all or just cheerleading the Bush administration whenever you can find an excuse to?


Perhaps my memories are different, but I recall quite a few people who doubted the U.S. was aiming to do any democracy promotion at all w/r/t its foreign policy.

The fact is that democracy promotion is one of the foremost goals of this administration’s foreign policy. While it might not be able to effect it in every instance, and while certainly its a circumstance-heavy determination concerning how much weight it will get, I think that a close look would show it’s always considered and it’s always one of the aims.

While it’s definitely good that you acknowledge that, there are a lot of folks who do not.

And, w/r/t Iraq, it was one of the four consistently articulated reasons for going in – but a lot of people didn’t want to argue that point, and WMD was definitely the focal-point of the arguments.

BB, you recall correctly.

A number of anti-Bush posters have cried about his support for the dictator of Uzbekistan and called him a hypocrite.

It looks like his support isn’t all they made it out to be.