After the toppling of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan the important but overlooked former Soviet states of Central Asia became for a brief time key players in the US-led war on terror. American and other Western military and economic aid poured in on the assumption that stability and greater democratisation would follow in its wake. But only a few years later the West’s strategy to exert geopolitical influence in the region is in tatters. How did it all go so wrong? The Temptations of Tyranny in Central Asia explains why the US alliance with Uzbekistan failed to produce reform and instead ended with the massacre of hundreds of civilians in Andijan; it provides the first detailed account of the 2005 revolution in Kyrgyzstan; investigates the bizarre dictatorship in Turkmenistan that threatens to be the next North Korea; and examines the Islamic militant groups that threaten stability in the region. The book concludes with some of the lessons for Western policy in Central Asia, including the possibility of democratisation in the Islamic world; the myths and realities of Islamist militancy; the role of authoritarian states in inciting radicalism and violence; the conflict in US policy between security relationships and rhetorical commitments to democracy and human rights; and the developing rivalry between China, Russia and the US in the region.
‘David Lewis has provided an accessible account of very complicated area of study. His careful presentation of Islam, geo-politics and the political cultures of Central Asia refreshing. Based on years of research experience in the region, Lewis offers an insightful and balanced narrative that is must-read.’ — Professor Shahram Akbarzadeh, National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies, The University of Melbourne
‘The author’s first-hand experience of the region is evident from the text, which intersperses a pacey narrative with anecdotal evidence. Deep understanding of the region is worn lightly in the text, which makes the book both highly readable, but also informative.’ — Michael Denison, University of Leeds
David Lewis was Director of the International Crisis Group's Central Asia Project from 2001 to 2005. He is a long-term observer of politics in the former Soviet Union and holds a PhD in political science from the LSE.