A reader writes:
I lived in Kyrgyzstan for 2 years and my wife is from Bishkek, so we have watched the events of the last few days with mixture of dread and sadness. Scott Horton makes a valid point re US payments for the base at Manas, but he misses a much larger one: US complicity in the revolution in 2005 that allowed Bakiev to come to power in the first place.
When President Akaev fled from Kyrgyzstan after similar protests in '05 there was an opportunity to support a broad-based coalition and democratic process for filling the vacuum. The USG had actively intervened in the revolutions in both Georgia and Ukraine, making it clear that the US supported reform-minded opposition leaders. In a real sense, the US actively helped mid-wife these revolutions, providing moral support, logistics and, in some cases, political and technical advice to the reformers. In 2005 when the revolution took place in Kyrgyzstan, many observers were expecting the State Department to take a similar role. It never happened.
Instead, under pressure from the Pentagon, the State Department caved in and the US stood by. The Tulip Revolution was still born and the reform-minded opposition was quickly marginalized by criminal elements. The result was a regime even more corrupt and inept (if that is possible) than the one that preceded it.
This time around the US needs to actively support acting PM Otonbaeva. She is a great friend of the US (indeed she was the first Kyrgyz Ambassador to the US) and is one of the few members of the political class not tainted utterly with corruption and nepotism.