Morning Report 7/26/05
Rumsfeld Has to Say 'Please'

Hat in hand, he tries a new tack—diplomacy—in Central Asia

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Gamesmanship: Above, campaign posters like this one made Kurmanbek Bakiyev a winner in Kyrgyzstan. Elsewhere in that country, at Ganci Air Base, Senior Airman Sharon Poinsette (below) seems to be having more success playing Win Lose or Draw than Don Rumsfeld is enjoying in the Great Game.

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Senior Airman Ashley Center/USAF

On April 27, 2002, Secretary of War Don Rumsfeld traveled to Kyrgyzstan to share a few laughs with dictator Askar Akayev, thanking the despot for allowing us to set up an air base from which to invade nearby Afghanistan.

Yesterday, Rumsfeld made another trip to beautiful, mountainous Kyrgyzstan. But the grinning idiot Akayev is gone, ousted by a populist revolt, and new leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev isn't nearly as friendly.

In Central Asia, at least, the Bush regime's top people are reduced to having to practice diplomacy, rather than bluster. My guess: They can't do it.

Ann Scott Tyson wrote about the trip in this morning's Washington Post, noting that Rumsfeld urged the Central Asian "republics" to "make up their own minds" about letting U.S. military bases stay.

Oh, what a different world it was only three years ago. During Rumsfeld's April 2002 visit, according to the Pentagon's flacks, Akayev gave Rumsfeld a history lesson: Those who enter Afghanistan by way of nearby Kyrgyzstan are successful—like Alexander the Great and the medieval Mongol emperor Babur.

And Rumsfeld had assured him that the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan had the same goal for Afghanistan: peace and prosperity, adding:

    So it is quite clear that the interests of the United States are notably different from those of Alexander the Great.

That drew a laugh from Akayev. Three years later, the grinning idiot has fled—Akayev, I mean. Looks as if history has given both him and Rumsfeld a lesson.

Since then, Kyrgyzstan's new leader has been shanghaied, along with other Central Asian rulers, by China and Russia. The relatively new Shanghai Cooperation Organization is cutting the legs out from under the Bush regime in Central Asia. We're getting our butts kicked in this round of the Great Game.

Our gutless diplomacy—we've helped prop up not only Akayev but also Uzbekistan tyrant Islam Karimov—is costing us dearly.

We face intense pressure to give up our Uzbekistan base at Karshi-Khanabad and only slightly less arm-twisting to give up our Manas, Kyrgyzstan, base—named Ganci Air Base after fallen 9/11 New York firefighter Peter Ganci.

But no worries for Rumsfeld, at least publicly. The Post story says:

    "We're not at that point" of seeking alternatives elsewhere, Rumsfeld said. But he indicated that the United States did have other options. "We always think ahead. We'll be fine," he said.

Yeah, you think ahead, like in Baghdead.


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