The sight of the bloodied corpse of an overthrown dictator being beamed around the world might give US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pause for thought as she heads to Uzbekistan this weekend.
The dictator in question is, of course, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, whose demise on October 20 Clinton said would give Libyans a fresh start. And the dictator Clinton is going to meet is Islam Karimov, the president of Uzbekistan who has been in power for 20 years.
The answer is Afghanistan: Washington is wooing Tashkent to secure the Northern Distribution Network, which supplies non-lethal cargo to the US-led coalition in Afghanistan. This alternative to the violence-plagued Pakistan route already supplies over half the cargo going in by land. Washington wants to raise that to three-quarters by the end of the year.
The very next day Clinton welcomed Uzbek Foreign Minister Elyor Ganiyev to Washington to discuss, as she put it, “matters of importance between our two nations.”
There is a heated debate about what works better when it comes to pushing for improvements in Uzbekistan’s deplorable human rights: engagement or isolation. That’s an argument that can go round in circles, but one thing is certain: Washington is currently opting for engagement.