Wednesday, April 27, 2016

frenemies and co-dependants

I've long believed that the most difficult foreign policy problem is how to deal with friends behaving badly. Shared interests may drive you together, but self-destructive behaviors can drive you apart. Jeremy Shapiro and Richard Sokolsky examine this problem in detail on Vox.
The truth is that our allies behave the way they do because we let them. We provide billions of dollars in military and other aid to countries in order to protect and advance US interests, yet we fail to use this leverage to induce the recipients of this aid to behave in a way that actually advances US interests.

That's because the US has become so focused on maintaining its relationships with its allies above all else that it's forgotten what the relationships were for in the first place: securing US interests.

In part, this is a holdover from the days of the Cold War, when what mattered was who was on "our side" and who was on the "their side" in the great ideological struggle with the Soviet Union. In other words, it was the alliance relationship itself that mattered more than anything. What our friends did on their own time in their own countries and regions didn't really matter, as long as they stayed our friends.
But that's not the world we live in today. In today's complex world, where most nations pursue cooperative and conflicting policies across different issues, the US should focus less on making our allies happy and more on making them actually behave like allies.
Easier said than done, but worth trying.

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