Allies are critical – we cannot take our friends for granted

When a German state official was asked a few years ago what are the strengths of America, he noted its military power and its allied relationships. His concern at the time was the lack of respect that the previous president was showing to our allies. Sadly, the current president has made a second mistake in keeping our allies abreast. This cannot happen.

The first mistake was not giving ample heads up to our allies that the US was pulling out of Afghanistan. They were somewhat surprised and, as a result, less prepared to act when the time came. That is poor form.

The second mistake happened this week when Australia canceled a deal with a French entity for submarines to make a better deal with the Americans. No phone call or heads-up was made to the French and they were beyond frustrated. In fact, France pulled their US ambassador in protest. Just three months ago, President Macron said side-be-side with President Biden, America is back.

Allies are critical. With allies on our side, we have been able to build coalitions to do things. Yet, when we lied to our allies about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) as pretense for invading Iraq, our allies were left holding the bag as well. A UK investigation faulted President Bush and Prime Minister Blair for misleading the UK people about the WMDs.

The US announced leaving the Paris Climate Change Accord in 2017, an accord that all but three countries had signed. It was an agreement we helped forge, yet our word does not mean as much with fickle presidents. Fortunately, we rejoined the agreement under President Biden. One departure under the last president that got less press is the US pulled out under an eleven country Trans Pacific Partnership to enable Pacific based countries to better compete with China. The other ten countries went on without us.

No deal is perfect. No relationship is perfect.. But, we cannot take our friends for granted. This is especially true when an action may be detrimental. You must talk it through. Thinking of it in terms of married relationships, marriage is hard work. You have to work at it and you cannot take your partner’s love for granted. Our allies may not love us, but the same goes for them. Do not take them for granted.

Credibility

Former CIA Director Michael Morell said on CBS Morning News today he is persuaded from the evidence Iran is most likely behind the attacks on Japanese and Norwegian tankers. Yet, he also spoke about a credibility problem the US must overcome to convince its allies. He is not alone as newspapers in the European Union and United States have made similar reports.

Morell notes the US faces three credibility issues and he does so with chagrin and in a matter-of-fact way.

First, he said the US is remembered for the ardent and contrived evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction that led to the invasion of Iraq. This information helped build a coalition of support. A UK commission faulted both President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair for being less than forthcoming.

Second, Morell said “let’s face it,” the US president is known for being untruthful on a recurring basis. So, anything he says must be verified. America is less trusted because its White House incumbent is untrustworthy.

Third, many allies view the US as contributing to this mess. By pulling out of a nuclear deal between Iran and six countries, when our allies and US intelligence noted Iran was in compliance, set us on a different path forward. It should be noted Secretary of Defense Mike Mattis said at that time we should remain in the deal. By asserting more pressure on Iran, we are pushing buttons that need not be pushed.

Morell said neither country wants to go to war, but all it will take is an attack on US interests or Saudi Arabia or Israel acting aggressively. It could be an actor that wants to instigate a fight. This should worry us.

I do not disagree with Morell and have tended to find him a voice of reason. What also concerns me is a president who is not (nor cares to be) a student of history and is more concerned with perception than reality. Reality is about to bite him on the behind and we have damaged one of our greatest strengths – our allied relationships.