I have a new article up at Foreign Policy about Central Asia. I argue that the greatest threat to the region is not volatility, as is commonly assumed, but stagnation:
The slow, tortuous decline of Central Asia is something we should all pay attention to — not because it will inevitably lead to state collapse, but because it might not. Central Asia shows how a country (Tajikistan) can spend decades sliding toward a failed state, yet never quite arrive. It shows how mass violence can claim the lives of hundreds, as in Uzbekistan in 2005, yet fail to alter the political structure that predicated it. Above all, Central Asia shows how quiet repression can be as damaging as violent conflict — and more difficult to quell or contest. Central Asia’s biggest problem is not conflict, but stagnation: the consistency of corruption, the chimera of change.[…]
The endurance of Central Asia’s dictatorships serves as a reminder that the collapse of an authoritarian state is not inherently imminent, no matter how bankrupt it is fiscally or morally. Corruption, brutality, and censorship are not necessarily signs of vulnerability, but indicators of the lengths a government will go to preserve its power at the expense of its people. Central Asia’s dictatorships are not surviving on luck, as some experts have claimed, but on fear.