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“I want to speak to the people of Central Asia. The United States believes that liberty, dignity and justice are within reach of everyone in this region. We are fully committed to partnership in helping you to realize this vision. We seek peace and security. We seek economic development and prosperity. We seek democratic values and human rights that unite all free nations in trust and in respect”, (Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State, 2005).
Historical experience shows that when a foreign-policy era ends, the institutions, mindset, and interest groups that characterized the old era tend to persist into the new era, with inertia that often endures far longer than the institutions’ utility (Overholt, 2008).
Any analysis of the US relations with Central Asia must be undertaken with historical consciousness of the caricatures that arise and suddenly collapse. America’s relations with Central Asia continue to rely on principles that are a legacy of the Cold War.
However, after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, the US changed its relations with the Central Asia. These were deadly occurrences with severe impacts for Central Asia. When the US initiated war against terror on Afghanistan in the year 2001, its interest in the neighboring countries such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan increased (Crosston, 2006).
In the subsequent years, the US activated Tajikistan foreign policy. Tajikistan relations with the West and Asian countries improved with a diversified foreign policy. The country’s participation on the war against terror enabled it to reach out to the world. Tajikistan participation in the war against terror reduced its relations with Russia.
Tajikistan started weighing its relations with the aid and cooperation of the leading nations. The US embarked on a task in ending terrorist groups wherever they were to be found. It had to create democratic states so that terror groups will not find breeding sites in which to reemerge.
In short, official US foreign policy to the Central Asian region has always been three-fold: preventing the spread of terrorism, providing tools for political and economic reform and instituting the rule of law, and ensuring the development of energy reserves.
The US human rights and democracy strategy
The American political philosophies on human rights rest squarely on the institution of democracy. The US Bureaus for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, (DRL) have responsibilities of supporting democracy worldwide.
The institution believes that democracy is the only national interest that helps in securing all other rights. The US believes that countries with democracy promotes peace, prevent aggression, promote economic growth, protects US citizens, open their markets, fight terrorism, crime, prevents humanitarian chaos, and uphold human rights.
The DRL promotes the US diplomatic, foreign policy on spreading democracy. The institution has the responsibility of aiding new states to form and implement democratic principles. It also advocates for democracies worldwide and assist other countries in promoting their own democratic principles.
At the same time, the institution identifies and denounces countries which deprive their citizens free and fair democratic processes. In this context, the US is promoting a strategy for respect for human rights in a moral and self-justified manner for the benefit of the US security. The US believes that countries, which have gross violation of human rights, are mostly likely to create chaos and disrupt peace and security in their regions. Consequently, this results into massive ill that can have gross consequences for the US.
The US supports this ideology by relying on its National Security Council Strategy. In reference to human dignity, the strategy highlights issues such as the rule of law, regulation of state powers, promotion of justice, freedom of speech, religious and ethnic tolerance, freedom for worship, respect for women, and respect for private property. These are the guiding principles and policies on which the US interacts with the world community.
These interactions form the main objective of the US foreign policy. The engagements derive their support from American strategy of holding regimes accountable to their actions under the norms of universal human rights banner. The strategy also promotes the respect for human rights. Further, it dwells on freedom from torture, free press, freedom of expression, rights to children and women and security of minority groups. America also aims to promote the rule of law, combat culture of impunity and seek accountability.
The US foreign policy is perfect in relation to promotion of the fundamentals rights of persons. However, there is a general problem in implementation. Another problem lies in gauging the results. This is because it might need up to two generations in order to see the tangible consequences (Fukuyama, 2006).
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The US has adopted a diplomatic approach of emphasizing the basic generational quality of its reforms in the region of Ferghana Valley. However, critics believe that these declarations are false promises because the US does not fully involve and implement its policy in the region. They believe that there will be no results, not even generational if the US cannot implement its policy (Jonson, 2006).
What comes out is that the US is philosophically engaging Central Asia but with no real, productive implementation of policy. The US declares it principles with regard to human dignity, law and accountability but ignores them if any ally, in the war against terror does not follow them.
The US has not changed the culture of impunity, particularly in connection to terrorism. Surprisingly, the DRL assertively declares the historical developments of the US foreign policy in creating democracy across the globe. The records show that there were 30 countries recognized as democratic by the year 1974. Progressively, this number had reached 117 by the year 2005. This is American legacy of spreading democracy. However, the reality suggests otherwise.
Central Asia is a crucial example of this reality. The region has been slow to adopt changes after the former Soviet Union left it. The region experiences domination of the superpowers that have the absolute power and control over it. At the same time, it remains isolated politically and economically (Gleason, 2003).
Before the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in the US, Central Asia was not significant to America. However, after the incidences the region became strategic point in setting the US foreign policy in curtailing terrorism elements in Afghanistan and Iraq with a close watch on Iran. Despite Central Asia providing a strategic point to combat terror, the region has not experienced any real implementation of the US foreign policy and democratic principles.
In reference to these points, the US is ignoring the principles that drive its foreign policy. These are the core of its human rights agenda and democracy focus. However, the reality shows that this policy is impotent. Observers believe that failure to implement the policy will finally return to disturb America in its war to combat terrorism.
Democracy in Central Asia
After the 9/11 attacks, the US has focused its war on terror in Central Asia using three-piece ideals. There have been deliberate efforts to promote democratic principles, develop civil society groups and promote the rule of law. Further to this, there is a fourth ideal of war on terror in promoting democracy. The US insists that their partners in war against terror must also demonstrate a positive willingness to manifest a positive change within their societies.
The US has repeatedly stated that they cannot turn a blind eye on atrocities in favor of fighting terror. According to Powell, former Secretary of State, these ideals of promoting foreign democracy reinforce each other. There are mutual relations between international war against terror and promotion of democracy within the allies’ domestic societies. This is the foundation of philosophy of democracy.
America learned this harsh lesson when it disengaged from Afghanistan in the early 1990s. The notion is that the US cannot leave alone countries to develop into breeding places for terrorism and extremism. In order to prevent Central Asia from becoming a breeding ground for terrorism and extremism, the US foreign policy is promoting stability, prosperity and full integration of the region into the world community. However, no major progress is noticeable (Chomsky, 2004).
The US has significantly and consistently increased its aid to the Ferghana Valley. This is because the region has cooperated enthusiastically in fighting terrorism. However, with reference to the other three ideals of promoting democracy, there has been less progress made. In any case, the civil society, principles of democracy and the rule of law are declining in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. However, government agents lauds the progress made, and remarks thus more work to be done (Carothers, 1999).
The Wonka Vision notes there is nothing wrong with ignoring the experienced reality of false democracy while promoting the fantasy of emerging democracy. This is tantamount to naïvely ignoring long-term goals in support of short-term favors. The US has been actively involved in fighting terrorism and developing energy reserves, but has ignored the development and promotion of democracy in Central Asia.
The US assistance programs
After the fall of the Soviet Union in Central Asia, it became obvious that the US would provide funding to the region to act as a stabilizing element during the transitions. True to this, the US has focused its funding programs on economic and political transformation, combating nuclear proliferation, legal and judiciary aid, promotion of free press and development of parties (Adams, 2003).
Though there are incidences of financial assistance increments, there is very little on the ground to show for it. The US ambassadors continue to account for achievements in Central Asia as generational transition, which varies significantly from country to country in the region.
However, they claim that the USG assistance programs continue to aid in promotion of good rule of law, independent press, growth of civil society and human rights. Most of these aids go in building security apparatus for law enforcement necessary in war of combating global terror. At the same time, the financial assistances go in addressing internal issues that may create conflicts, extremism or emergence of other failed states.
The critical point to note is that American aid in Central Asia is purely to promote American agendas. The US uses this funding aid to help in state planning, development of institutions capacity, stabilization and reconstruction of the region from conflicts to strife, which will lead them to a path of democracy, peace and open market economy (Andrew, 2005).
Critics argue that the American aid in Central Asia is funding short-term American national interests and projects. According to them, this is fundamentally not right. Critics further notes that ever since the 9/11 attacks, the US has reduced its funding to allegedly questionable states, but has increased its funding to the Central Asia.
They believe that the aid programs are rewards for the region for cooperating in war against terror, but not for promotion of democratic principles. To them, cooperation and war on terror in Central Asia is putting Americans’ security at risk in the future (Callahan, 2003).
Central Asia strategic relevance only became useful to America after the 9/11 attacks. The current development of the US foreign policy in Central Asia shows a deadly disparity with potentially risky consequences. The problem is that America is not supporting its verbal commitment of democratic ideals with the implementation of its foreign policy in Central Asia.
A closer look at the types of projects America is funding after the 9/11 reveals that they are not in the direction of implementation of democratic policy but towards the issues of a trans-national security with questionable achievements. There is an exceptional division between philosophical framing of the US foreign policy and the reality of implementing the programs. According to the US, democracy is not only essential for freedom but also for security.
For instance, the words of former Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice in the year 2005 reflect philosophical reasoning in confrontation, and implementation of foreign policy in Central Asia. Americans believe that democracy is the priority solution to terrorism and fundamentalism. The US foreign policy in Central Asia may be cultivating severe consequences for its security in the future by failure to implement what it believes in promoting.
Adams, L. (2003). Cultural Elites in Uzbekistan: Ideological Production and the State: In The Transformation of Central Asia: States and Societies from Soviet Rule to Independence. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Andrew, B. (2005). The New American Militarism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Callahan, P. (2003). America’s Foreign Policy: Theories of America’s World Role. New York: Longman Publishing.
Carothers, T. (1999). Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve. Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Chomsky, N. (2004). Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. New York: Henry Holt & Co.
Crosston, M. (2006). Fostering Fundamentalism: Terrorism, Democracy and American Engagement in in Central Asia. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Limited.
Fukuyama, F. (2006). America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Gleason, G. (2003). Markets and Politics in Central Asia: Structural Reform and Political Change. New York: Routledge.
Jonson, L. (2006). Tajikistan in the New Central Asia: Geopolitics, Great Power Rivalry and Radical Islam. New York: LB.Tauris & Co Ltd.
Overholt, W. H. (2008). Asia, America, and the Transformation of Geopolitics. New York: Cambridge University Press.