On COI #477, Kyle Anzalone discusses news from Haiti and updates the war in Ukraine.
Stephen Walt criticizes the Biden administration’s version of “Pactomania”:
Even when states are united by a shared perception of threats, however, the ultimate value of the partnership depends in part on whether the members agree on a common strategy and are willing to share the burdens appropriately. Adding weak and vulnerable members to an alliance may not strengthen it, and long-standing partnerships become less effective if some members let their own military capabilities languish. When this happens, Uncle Sucker ends up bearing an excessive burden, and the partnership’s ability to achieve its stated goals will be jeopardized.
Indeed, in today’s world, what U.S. officials like to call “alliances” or “security partnerships” are more like protectorates. In many cases, the United States has agreed to defend weak and vulnerable countries that can’t do much to help the United States no matter how much they might want to. Such arrangements may still be useful if the country in question is in a critical location or controls other valuable assets, but that determination needs to be made on a case-by-case basis and in an unsentimental and hard-headed way.
Walt is right about all that. There are a couple more reasons to worry about the further proliferation of partnerships and would-be alliances under Biden. The first is that the U.S. is already overstretched with the commitments that it currently has, so taking on more is an invitation for trouble and failure. As Walt says, “The more commitments you have, the harder it is to honor them all,” and sooner or later the U.S. will not have the bandwidth and resources to make good on all its promises. Now is the time to start pruning and reducing outdated and unnecessary commitments instead of inventing new excuses to expand on existing ones. Biden is going in the opposite direction.
The other danger is that some of Biden’s most high-profile agreements among allies have been built on shaky foundations. The trilateral summit with South Korea and Japan that the U.S. touted as a significant upgrading of the relationships with both allies was made possible by the unilateral and unpopular actions of the South Korean president. The political opposition in South Korea is strongly against what Yoon did (the opposition leader has even gone on a hunger strike to protest Yoon’s leadership on this and other issues), and Yoon’s attempt to force rapprochement with Japan will likely be undone by his successor. The closer trilateral cooperation that the U.S. hoped to institutionalize could evaporate in just a few years because the underlying disputes between South Korea and Japan have only been papered over and not seriously addressed. Dylan Stent offered a blunt assessment last month: “Any trilateral agreement will be torn to shreds and discarded when the Korean left makes it into office, whether in 2027 or later in the future.”
Daniel Larison is a contributing editor for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.
Peace proponents in Haiti and around the world condemned Monday’s authorization by the United Nations Security Council of a U.S.-backed, Kenyan-led multinational military invasion of Haiti to help its unelected government fight gangs that have run roughshod over parts of the Caribbean nation’s capital.
The U.N. resolution—which was reportedly co-authored by the United States and Ecuador with input from Kenya—was approved by the 15-member Security Council, with 13 votes in favor and Russia and China abstaining. The measure authorizes a Multinational Security Support (MSS) force supported but not carried out by the U.N. to deploy for up to one year, with a review after nine months.
Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan was attacked for visiting a German military cemetery in Bitburg, West Germany, because that cemetery included forty graves of members of the Waffen-SS, the combat branch of the Schutzstaffel led by the infamous Heinrich Himmler. Reagan’s intent was to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the ending of World War II in Europe, not to celebrate those forty graves among the 2000 in that cemetery. Nevertheless, he was deeply criticized for laying a memorial wreath at Bitburg, as the photo below shows.
On Sunday September 3rd, Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky replaced Defense Minister Alexei Reznikov with a 41 year old former lawmaker named Rustam Umerov. Since Russia’s invasion of February 2022 Ukraine’s military and Ministry of Defense have been “dogged by corruption allegations,” and Reznikov’s dismissal was a supposed signal to the United States that the Ukrainian government takes reform seriously and is deserving of continued aid.
But Zelensky’s move to calm concerns invites a lot of uncomfortable questions.