On April 7, 2010 the people of Kyrgyzstan, a far-away country straining under an increasingly oppressive president, liberated themselves. In a revolution recalling those of 1989, protests unexpectedly toppled the authoritarian government. The opposition quickly took control, promising free and fair elections.
The United States government promptly asked if the new administration would allow America to keep its air base in the country. It did not endorse the new government, instead releasing a statement that read:
We remain a committed partner to the development of Kyrgyzstan for the benefit of the Kyrgyz people and intend to continue to support the economic and democratic development of the country.
To be fair, there is some concern over the credibility of the new government. Kyrgyzstan’s president himself came to power after a similar revolution overthrew an authoritarian regime. Power might corrupt the new government as it did with President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Moreover, this military base is very important to the interests of the United States. It constitutes a vital logistical component of the war in Afghanistan. Outside of Afghanistan itself, the United States does not have another regional military base.
But sometimes standing for a principle is more important than even the most vital military base. These principles include things such as freedom, liberty, and democracy. America, however imperfectly, has always championed these values. When an oppressed people free themselves, it is a fundamental part of America’s creed to stand with them.
President Barack Obama himself – not Hillary Clinton – should take thirty minutes out of his week to call the new government, congratulating them for their efforts standing against tyranny. He should apologize for supporting Mr. Bakiyev (who in any case was no friend of the United States, having previously threatened to close the base).
Actions like these will be remembered by the new Kyrgyz government long after the United States forgets. They might – in fact, they probably will – even convince it to keep America’s precious air base.