Leading article: Reckless realpolitik

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The Independent Online

Mr Rumsfeld was on a low-profile tour of central Asia, visiting US soldiers in Kyrgyzstan and offering support to the military airbase in Uzbekistan. No one would deny that these outposts provide important support for the remaining US military presence in Afghanistan. Yet we should be under no illusions about the nature of these two regimes.

Uzbekistan's president, Islam Karimov, is a brutal dictator notorious for using torture against his opponents. Even the US State Department threatened to withhold aid to Uzbekistan after it ignored calls for an international inquiry into a bloody crackdown in Andijan earlier this year. Yet Mr Rumsfeld evidently does not see this as a reason to stay away from the region. There is also good reason to be wary of the Kyrgyz state, whose harsh suppression of an opposition rally three years ago resulted in the deaths of a number of demonstrators.

What we are seeing from Mr Rumsfeld and the Bush administration is the same old cynical diplomacy that flourished in the Cold War era. The lessons of that time have not been learnt. By doing business with such regimes, the US is merely storing up problems for the future.

The image of Saddam Hussein sitting in the dock ought to remind us what can happen when our leaders turn a blind eye to brutality in the name of realpolitik.