In This Review

Central Asia's Second Chance
Central Asia's Second Chance
By Martha Brill Olcott
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005, 389 pp

September 11 and the attention it brought gave Central Asian regimes a "second chance," and so far, Olcott argues, both they and their Western partners have blown it. Central Asian leaders have not taken advantage of Western support or the security benefits of the Taliban's defeat. They have failed to abandon the drift toward authoritarianism by opening their political systems or to begin creating the transparency essential to economic progress. The United States in particular did not anticipate the longer-term risks of easing pressure for reform in the name of security cooperation, and Western economic aid has done little to promote regional economic integration. As a result, the future could well bring trouble and instability -- when an old and rapacious set of leaders passes from the scene, or when those left out have had enough, or when change in one country prompts leaders in another to interfere. Between summary judgment and prediction, much of Olcott's book briskly surveys what is right and wrong, wise and unwise, in each of the five countries that make up Central Asia.