Saturday, December 20, 2008

Alliances support security

Transformation, per Donald Rumsfeld, involves “new combinations of concepts, capabilities, people and organizations that exploit our nation’s advantages and protect our asymmetric vulnerabilities to sustain our strategic position….” (Lamb, 1) While including new alliances in the list may seem to be stretching the concept of “transformation,” upon consideration, carefully chosen and monitored new alliances with democratic governments would do much to improve US defense.

Some of the most damaging foreign policy mistakes have resulted from problems with imprudently selected allies, like the Shah’s Iran. The United States foolishly backed the Shah and became overly identified with him, even as his policies continued to alienate the people and set the conditions for a radical revolution. In another situation, the US allowed itself to become the de facto ally of the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, which in retrospect looks like an overreaction to the Soviet presence there. Unfortunately, the combination of American arms and geopolitical neglect allowed for the rise of the Taliban. In Sherwood-Randall’s romantic description of allies, Iran was like a “long marriage,” while the Mujahedeen were like the “summer romance.” (Sherwood-Randall, 3-4) In both cases, the break up resembled the ending of the movie “Fatal Attraction.”

On the other hand, well chosen and well monitored allies provide two potential advantages. Alliances with strategically positioned countries can send a signal to potential rivals that the US is willing to defend its foreign interests. The strategic location of the Ukraine, a nascent democracy on the Black Sea, situated between Poland and Russia would prove to be useful to the US. The Ukraine would allow the US to open yet another site of influence on the Russian border, and offers a potentially new location for missile defense sites. Alliances with democratic governments of countries that formerly provided shelter to terrorists would safeguard the US by squeezing terrorists into more inhospitable locations. Afghanistan and Iraq as allies would provide that service, as would Somalia, were it to develop into some kind of democracy.

Sources cited:

Lamb, Christopher J. et. al. (2005) Transforming defense. Washington: National Defense University Press.

Sherwood-Randall, Elizabeth (2006) Alliances and American national security. Strategic Studies Institute (October).