The systematic terrorization of the elite - the arrest of scores of people who have experience in running the government and the economy, the terrorization of their families, the push into exile and silence of dozens of other people has enormous consequences for the capacity of a state as small as Turkmenistan to govern itself.
Since September 11, discussions of political Islam have been distorted by the tendency to identify political Islam with Osama bin Laden, his associates, and organizations involved in violent actions in places such as Chechnya, Kashmir, Algeria, and Egypt. In reality, such violent, militant groups constitute only a small minority among political Islamists.
The U.S. faces two contradictory imperatives in the war on terror: on the one hand, it tempts the U.S. to put aside its democratic scruples and seek closer ties with autocracies throughout the Middle East and Asia. On the other hand, the U.S. has increasingly come to believe that it is precisely the lack of democracy in many of these countries that helps breed Islamic extremism.
During the 1990s, international democracy promotion efforts led to the establishment of numerous regimes that cannot be easily classified as either authoritarian or democratic - semi-authoritarian regimes. These regimes pose a considerable challenge to U.S. policy makers because the superficial stability of semi-authoritarian regimes usually masks severe problems that could lead to future crises.