These dynamics changed dramatically after the terrorist attacks in the United States of America on the eleventh of September. The military presence of the United States of America in Afghanistan leveled the training camps. This offered a second chance for the economies in this region to address the economic and to a large extend social problems. Even in the light of this glaring opportunity, the countries in Central Asia were not willing to take the second chance offered to them by the international community. Presently, terrorists are taking charge in many of these states. This has increased the global security risks.
In recognition of the squandered second chance to set the track right, Martha Brill Olcott explores these pertinent issues with a speculation of what could potentially happen next. This review will temper the views of the author in this book with sentiments from another book she has authored. This will avail wealth of perspective to aid in articulating issues more clearly.
Review of Chapters One, Two, Three and Five
The main theme in chapter one is the unexpected chance that presented itself after the terrorist attacks on the eleventh of September in the United States of America. The unexpected chance presents itself in the annihilation of the terrorist camps in Afghanistan by the military forces from the United States of America. This is an expected opportunity because for a long time, economies in this region had cited the terrorist activities in Afghanistan as the reason why economic, political and social reform took a back seat so that the countries could experience some stability. The tragedy of this situation is that even with the near complete destruction of these terrorist camps by the American offensive, neither the international community nor the regional governments took the opportunity to reshape the trajectory of the regions political affairs (Olcott 3)
On a sad note, the author paints the leaders in the region as rather myopic in their collaboration with Washington. Most of them look at the short term benefits like security guarantees and the chance for the unpopular regimes to hold on to power. All in all, the powers in the region were either unwilling to latch on to the opportunity or were blind to it all together (Olcott 15).
Chapter two of the book reviews the regions journey after independence in order to determine the readiness of the region to utilize the opportunity presented by the American offensive and the increased interest from the international community in the region to reform the social and economic challenges chocking the region. The author wittingly articulates the case for the region so that the reader does not rush into condemnation before they are abreast with the facts. The placement of this chapter is not coincidental but very deliberate. While the first chapter helps the reader form an opinion about the region and its leaders, the second chapter allows the reader to evaluate the formed opinion (Olcott 23).
The chapter looks at the odds that the region was faced by before the second chance so that the reader can understand its ability to maximize on it. It is for this reason that the author reviews how the first chance in the region was squandered since the collapse and eventual deterioration of the Soviet Union to the ten years leading to 2001. The debate on whether the ten years since independence of the region was a success or a failure is largely contentious. Too much credit was given the states in the region citing the little bloodshed in these ten years and the vast natural wealth that could be used to improve the economies. It is true that the region has vast natural resources.
It is also true that most of the economies are diversified enough not to rely upon the extraction of natural resources. However, the failure to transform economic potential into economic prowess for most of the countries in the region is down to the policies designed by one entity in total disregard of the opinions of the entire populations.
At times these policies have been short-sighted; something which rhymes with the myopic ambitions of their collaborations with the American offensive after the September eleven attacks. Other odds stacked against the region included long standing rivalries, nontraditional security threats like water shortage risks and extremist ideologies. All these could have been the impediments that prevented the region from making the most out of the second chance. Then again, it could be the myopia of its leaders (Olcott 45).
The third chapter of the book takes account of the degree of involvement from the international community prior to the terrorist attacks on the eleventh of September. Additionally, the author outlines the building blocks that were earmarked for future engagement in the region. The independence of the Central Asia region was not only unexpected for the international community but also for the region itself. For this reason, the better part of the ten years after 1991 was spent on matters inconsequential for the region. The international community spent this timing thinking on the appropriate priority to append this region while the states were distracted by figuring to which of the western calls to hearken (Olcott 52).
Tragedy of the matter is that while regional powers and western forces dubbed Central Asia a region of strategic importance, none of them came through with their potential engagements. Additionally, prior to the terrorist attacks, the approach of the international community was more talk and less actions. It offered more engagement and very little commitment. It is evident that the international community fell short of their implied glory. This worked at the detriment of the region.
The fifth chapter of the books looks that the failures of institutional building politically speaking and the challenges of succession that his creates. After the attacks on the United States of America in 2001, the country stepped up its efforts for the search of a democratic breakthrough in Central Asia. Policy makers sough to increase money to aid in the reform. However, these plans were derailed by the offensive in Iraq. This left little resources for the efforts in Central Asia. It is arguable that the diminished priority towards the establishment of the Central Asia as a democratic block was not coincidental. When the United State of America invaded Iraq, priorities had to change because of decreased resources (Olcott 125).
The strategic importance of the region now was informed by its significance to the energy security of the United States of America and its contribution to the war on terror. This usurped priority from issues of democracy building and long term security issues. The failure came from the difficulties in securing support for funding for democracy building activities. This is because the investment was not worth their while with other projects promising more outlay for American taxpayers. The author notes that this failure opened a wide range of challenges for succession.
Review of Central Asia Today: An Afterthought”
In an attack of the current discussions as if the region has been in a vacuum for the last twenty years, the author articulates the issues of the present day Central Asia. The author acknowledges that the region has common problems, like lack of sea ports, water shortage and commodity pricing. Nonetheless, she reckons that most of the problems are of their own making. Some of these problems include failed attempts at diversifying their economies, social problems where the youth lack marketable skills to scoop the already too few jobs available, poorly designed educational systems. There is also increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots and a sense of unsatisfied social expectations. Some of the proffered foreign solutions are worrisome with two major power blocks pulling antagonistically.
The European Union and the United States of America propose increased democratization while Russia and China posit that that increased security installation is the way to go. The caveat with their proposal is that they discourage opening up to external force as they view these as security threats. I agree with the author that any proffered solutions from foreign powers all have vested interests. The tragedy of the matter is that even in the apparent view of impending doom and gloom over the region; none of the vested foreign powers are willing to remedy the situation through direct foreign investments.
The two books are authored by the same person and over the same region yet they speak in tow distinct languages. The two books both show the tragedy that the Central Asia region suffers under the hands of foreign powers. This does not serve to exonerate the leadership of the region from blame. While the leaders have enough to blame for the current state of affairs, the foreign powers have unfairly manipulated the situation to their advantage. It is incumbent to the leadership of the region to realize this and initiate reforms that are informed by the needs of their people and the region. It is the only way to spur ahead in the face of undecided international community.
Olcott, Martha B. Central Asia's Second Chance. Washington, D.C: Carnegie Endowment for Internat. Peace, 2005. Print.