Backing a Dictator Always Backfires

I was waiting for somebody to point this out.  Despite what the realists may say, it is ultimately not in U.S. interests to abandon values and human rights while kindly looking in the other direction in the face of conveniently oppressive dictatorships, such as Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s recently toppled Kyrgyzstani thiefdom. (Update: there’s another piece arguing the same in NYT).  From the Los Angles Times editorial pages:

The problem with looking the other way is that it can leave you blindsided. (…)

Corruption and nepotism were Bakiyev’s undoing. For example, he placed his son, Maxim, at the head of the Central Agency for Development, Investments and Innovations, which managed the country’s financial resources — including U.S. payments for use of the air base — and which recently privatized two of the country’s largest state-owned utilities. Maxim Bakiyev reportedly was the sole supplier of fuel to the U.S. base, and is believed to control the privatized utilities, which increased electricity, gas and water rates. Popular fury over the rate hikes fed the ranksof the opposition that forced Bakiyev from Kyrgyzstan’s White House.

The United States doesn’t get to pick the leaders of countries that are its strategic partners, but Kyrgyzstan is yet another example of why we must balance our military interests with our interest in opposing repression, promoting good government and maintaining U.S. legitimacy. The uncritical U.S. alliance with Bakiyev could easily sour relations with an opposition-turned-government.