Unfortunately, in the eyes of many Central Asians, America’s interest does not extend beyond gas and oil. Washington’s decision to pull back from Afghanistan in 2014 will likely erode American influence at the very moment when it could do the most good ”” especially as rising prosperity increases pressure for governments to loosen their grip. Greater freedom presents great dangers, as the disillusions of the Arab Spring have so sadly demonstrated.
Yet it may be in Central Asia, rather than the Middle East, Pakistan or Indonesia, where the ideals that both Presidents Bush and Obama have espoused will be most actively pursued in coming years. This is not to suggest that Washington pay less attention to the Arab world, but perhaps it is time for us to listen to our own lectures on the possibilities of a peaceful and intellectually open version of Islam, and to back those societies that are trying most successfully to advance it today.