There�s a story in the WSJ on Kazakhstan. It provides an ironic commentary on the supposed Bush agenda of Democracy in the Middle East.
The WSJ is bullish on Kazakhstan. �For the U.S. -- and investors such as ChevronTexaco Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and AES Corp. -- Kazakhstan offers stability in a Central Asian region worried by the kind of Islamist fundamentalism that spawned Afghanistan's Taliban and local terrorist groups.� The figures look good:. �The economy has grown 10% a year since 2000, and a Norway-style national fund to save oil income has built up reserves of $3 billion, about 10% of GNP. A rickety banking sector has been tidied up into what the IMF calls "an independent and transparent financial system." Inflation is a steady 6%; reserves have grown to make Kazakhstan a net creditor to the world, with the highest per capita private bank deposits in the former Soviet Union.�
But there is the little problem of the man who runs Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev. As Hugh Pope, the writer of the article, notes further down from the optimistic grafs:
�Kazakhstan is still the kind of place where militiamen can force a planeload of passengers on a regular internal flight to stand outside for five hours in the snow with no explanation. A number of journalists who have stepped out of line with criticism of the regime have been beaten, jailed and, in one case, sent the headless body of a dog. Yet there are few problems with Islamist fundamentalists in Kazakhstan, which is half-Muslim and half-Christian. Mr. Nazarbayev attributes the lack of religious strife to the nomad Kazakhs' relatively late adoption of Islam.
Meanwhile, scandals have clouded the country's economic success. Mr. Nazarbayev said he "paid no attention" to a recent U.S. indictment of his former American adviser on oil deals, investment banker James H. Giffen, who allegedly directed a bribery scheme. U.S. prosecutors also are looking into $78 million paid by oil majors into Swiss bank accounts, including one in the president's name. "American companies should be grateful [to Giffen] because he brought them to Kazakhstan," Mr. Nazarbayev said.�
Dariga, Nazarbayev�s daughter, has founded a political party. Daddy has pledged to leave office in 2010, and Dariga looks set to take over. The usual thing. We loved Nazarbayev�s comment about the issue: �We prefer that [the succession] will happen as in the Bush family."
Funny � Wolfowitz doesn�t seem to be on the case, here. We expect any moment now he�s going to challenge the country to develop a robust civil society and kick the nepotists out.
EuroAsia net has an article about the latest doings of the Nazarbayevs by a journalist who, for some reason (probably having to do with an aversion to headless dogs) prefers to remain pseudonymous.
LI was pleased to hear from a man we quoted this week � Jay Bergman, over at Central Connecticut. We wrote about his article on how Trotsky was misled by his penchant for a particular historical analogy. Dr. Bergman wrote us to say that he was glad we liked it.