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Back To Uzbekistan?

I doubted yesterday that the Obama administration would seek a return to the Karshi-Khanabad air base in Uzbekistan — the government of Islam Karimov kicked the United States out in 2005 after the Bush administration admirably denounced one of his civilian massacres — but it seems I was wrong about that. In the aftermath of losing Kyrgyzstan’s Manas air base, a key staging ground for resupplying the Afghanistan war, necessity is evidently trumping human rights. Then again, as Michael Tomasky points out, it’s not like Kyrgyzstan’s human rights record is much better than Uzbekistan’s, so we’re probably wrong to elevate this to the level of principle.

Still, dealing with Karimov is unseemly. The Wall Street Journal reports that alternatives to both Manas and Karshi Khanabad include bases in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — neither of which are flourishing liberal democracies, but also aren’t egregious human rights violators to the degree Uzbekistan is. Both, of course, are much further from Afghanistan than Uzbekistan is. Not that I know the first thing about how to determine what is and isn’t a suitable air base.

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