The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight


September 5, 2005

Having been dumped by Uzbekistan, is the United States looking to Turkmenistan for a rebound? Curzon and Nathan Hamm interpret recent events differently.

Curzon says: “There are precious few totalitarian regimes left in Eurasia, but Turkmenistan is one of them. Eurasianet says the US may be exploring a base deal with Turkmenistan. I really, really hope not.”

So do I. Is the US really so stupid as to squander whatever gains it got by getting tough with Karimov? If Turkmenistan is the alternative, we should’ve just stayed in Uzbekistan.

Nathan, for his part, doesn’t think the US is likely pursuing basing rights in this particular neo-Stalinist dystopia:

With the Turkmen government, Abizaid’s message seemed more to be that the US is not interested in confrontation with Central Asian states. While I can certainly conceive of that meaning “…so what do you think about letting us base some planes here?” I certainly hope that if it has anything to do with repositioning US forces in the region, it has to do with securing overflight rights for flights from Azerbaijan.

At APSA I participated on a panel on incomplete contracting in international politics. I presented on imperial legitimacy, Hendrik Spruyt talked about decolonization, Charles Lipson discussed broader issues about international change and the nature of interstate contracting, and Alex Cooley gave a conceptual overall for the project he and Hendrik are working on. One of the major case studies of their book-in-progress involves US basing.

Alex knows American basing, and he knows Central Asia. In fact, he’s got a piece coming out in Foreign Affairs that takes a similar position to my own: the long-term costs of establishing bases in authoritarian states outweigh the short-term benefits. I promise I’ll discuss it when it comes out.

Alex and I tossed around some interesting ideas about how globalization is changing the dynamics of US basing agreements. There may be a paper in the semi-distant future.

[Post edited for purposes of clarification. See the comments section.]

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.