I have just come back from a series of debates on Iraq, including one sponsored by the Economist in England, where I only learned one new thing from the other side. All of them have recently learned to pronounce the name “Islam Karimov” and that of the country, Uzbekistan, over which he rules.
……If Bush’s critics are implicitly demanding that he do something about Uzbekistan, are they not also conceding that his policy there blemishes the wider support for regime-change? The United States did not invent or impose the Karimov government: It “merely” accepted its offer of strategic and tactical help in the matter of Afghanistan.
Presumably, those who criticize Karimov’s internal conduct are not asking that we repudiate such help (or are they?). They are, at any rate ostensibly, demanding that we use our influence to amend Uzbekistan’s internal affairs. So it seems as if, when all the rhetoric is examined, the regime-change position is only being criticized for its inconsistency. That strikes me as progress of a kind.
I’ll risk guessing that Hitchens is being tongue in cheek here. My feeling is that most of those who made polemical hay when Karimov’s regime massacred the protestors did so in order to try and prove that the policy of regime change and democratisation is, as they have insisted against all evidence for three years, a lie. That the leopard hasn’t changed its spots – it still ‘backs’ dictatorships when it suits it and so, according to Stopperish logic, Iraq and Afghanistan couldn’t really have ‘been about’ ending tyranny and kick-starting democracy at all.
In other words, Uzbekistan, was used to justify the Stopper’s opposition to regime change. It leads us to the real, utterly confused, position of ‘the other side’:
They are against the US removing tyrannies because they believe the US is against removing tyrannies – even though it has removed them.