Monday, May 16, 2005

Hangin' Ten on the 'Democratization Wave'

This Weekly Standard piece on the May 13 anti-state uprising Andijan, Uzbekistan is a good example of what is good, bad, and ugly about the magazine. The revolt, which some commentators have been quick to declaim as a destabilizing event in the war on terror, has evidently perplexed the hell out of the mainstream media (I refuse the acronym), so much that I can scarcely find a major network TV or national newspaper article to have covered it at all. While it is too early to tell whether this revolt was the work of reactionary jihadism or a loose aggregate of disgruntled anti-state interests, I'm leaning toward the latter - the charge that the detained businessmen are in fact operatives for Hizbut-Tehrir seems too convenient for the challenged authorities, and given that this is the only official source for the charge, I'm skeptical of it. As far as deceitful jihadist rallying points go, "unjust taxation" is a relatively novel one, and particularly as a rallying point in the relatively infertile ground of Uzbekistan. On the other hand, Schwartz's immediate dismissal of the claims against the imprisoned businessmen - that they were instead members of "a spiritual and charitable circle" - is unnerving. It seems more likely that they actually are neo-Wahabbists in disposition, just with a legitimate day job. In any case, this populist strike against a tyranny located in neighborhood of both Arab radicalism and leftover Stalinism shouldn't go unnoticed. The money quote from Schwartz:

"The appeal of radical Islam in Uzbekistan is highly overrated; the resentment of local bazaar merchants against unjust taxation and other abuses in the Ferghana Valley is not."

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