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During both the Bush and Clinton years, the White House argued that the United States should “engage” with governments in the Caspian region, saying that such a strategy would do far more to promote democracy than pressuring Caspian regimes about human rights. Of course, American pressure on human rights might also threaten U.S. access to energy reserves in countries like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, though that was rarely mentioned.
And guess what? The strategy was a total failure, which shouldn’t come as a great surprise since “engagement” hasn’t worked well anywhere as a force for democracy, viz Saudi Arabia and China. In 2007, a year after Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazerbayev (in power since his country was a Soviet Socialist Republic) visited with George W. Bush at the White House, lawmakers in Kazakhstan waived term limits, paving the way for “president-for-life” status. And now Azerbaijan has gone down the same path:
Election officials in Azerbaijan said Thursday that citizens had overwhelmingly voted to scrap presidential term limits in a referendum boycotted by the opposition in the oil-rich country courted by Russia and the West.
The result opens the door for indefinite rule by President Ilham Aliyev in the Caspian Sea nation that critics say is closer to a monarchy than a democracy. The Central Election Commission reported 92 percent of voters approving the referendum, with 71 percent turnout
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Acres of hemp grown by “patriotic‚” U.S. farmers in 1942 at the behest of the U.S. government:
A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.
Greenpeace apologized after activists accidentally defaced the site of Peru’s 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines when they unfurled cloth letters reading “time for change” near the ancient sand drawings. “We fully understand,” the group wrote in a statement, “that this looks bad.”
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”