Tuesday, November 01, 2005

 

Central Asia and US Policy

Central Asia and the greater Caucasus region has developed into a strategically important part of the world for many different countries. More than the Middle East, Africa, or Latin America, the bigger countries of the world seem to be engaged in a serious competition vying for influence in a part of the world that literally "straddles" so many different civilizations.
I was reading some of the testimony offered by witnesses for the US House of Representatives International Relations Subcommittee on Middle East and Central Asia. Daniel Fried is the Assistant Secretary of State this region. During the course of his testimony he outlined the key interests the US has in Central Asia. Security, energy and economic collaboration, and freedom through reform were the three most important factors to US interests in Central Asia. Secretary Fried's analysis of the ongoing security and political developments in the region were clearly articulated and I enjoyed this one particular piece from his testimony:

"In FY 2005, we budgeted over $240 million in assistance to Central Asia, focusing our efforts on building and strengthening civil society, promoting democratic and economic reform, and combating criminal activities and terrorism. We are also directing assistance toward promoting regional security through counterproliferation, counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics
cooperation. This is money well spent.

We pursue all three sets of our strategic interests in tandem, because failure in one area will undermine the chance of success in another. We are therefore supporting political and economic reform, rule of law, good governance, respect for human rights, religious freedom and tolerance, free trade and open markets, development of small businesses, energy investment, and cooperation in the fight against terror and weapons of mass destruction, all at the same time".

I take the Secretary's testimony at face value and assume he is telling the truth. I like the language he uses and sincerely hope the US is taking a three dimensional, muti-faceted approach to advancing our interests in this region the Secretary identifies in his testimony. For a few years now there has been a debate between those supporting a purely realist approach to US foreign and national security policy versus those who advise a more humanistic approach focusing on securing our security by helping others advance their freedom and security. I think the key point of Secretary Fried's testimony is the idea that working for others interestss in conjunction with our own is consistent, long-term, winning strategy in promotion of our position in Central Asia as well as the rest of the world.

I just fear so much damage has been done to America's reputation in recent years that no matter how mutually beneficial our foreign policy may be, the international community is going to resist it simply becausee its being put forth by America.

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