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January 03, 2017


New Zealand ?

Turkey has, up until now, been extremely important as a US ally. Heck, you even store nuclear weapons there (and also the Netherlands and Italy):

Which is not something one can say about Israel.

It might also be interesting to ask which are the countries that are most dependent on the US as an ally.

I thought about NZ but then wondered what they provided to the US that Australia doesn't/couldn't. Love NZ though - was there a long time ago and it was awesome (same with Australia though).

Turkey is a good one - I might put it on that first list.

"It might also be interesting to ask which are the countries that are most dependent on the US as an ally."

After January 20th, Texas, Russia (especially its security apparatus, which will be emulated/imported like an app by the incoming "unpresidented" catastrophe), Poland (excluding the Jews and the other Others), Mississippi, Kansas, and the North Carolina legislature.

UK, top of the list.

Two things: to be an "important" ally, they would have to be a country of similar geopolitical/military 'heft'. Micronesia may tots have the US's back, but STFW?

Also, to really be an "ally", the alliance needs to go in both directions. The US is an ally of Israel, but it doesn't go the other way.

In more familiar terms, the UK is like a sibling: if you get in a fight, they're right beside you.

Israel is more like an annoying cousin, constantly picking fights with strangers, and expecting you to bail them out. Related, but not closely enough that you can spank them, no matter how much they need it.

Holidays! It's a family time!

Welcome back, count!

BTW, after Texit, it's not "Texas" any more. It's "Outer Dumbfnckistan". Oklahoma is "Inner Dumbfnckistan".

Kansas is maybe "Central Dumbfnckistan", but it's getting kind of crowded in the near-fnckistan abroad.

Anybody who doesn't figure Canada as the US's most important ally either
a) hasn't actually thought about the question, or
b) is being hyperbolic about the importance of whoever they are naming instead.
Because this seriously counts as a no-brainer. One look at our common border will show you that.

On allies in general, I'd want to look at who we can count on to support us.** Canada, Britain, Australia? No real question that, if the chips are down, they will be there for us.

Ditto, in fact, all of NATO -- as they demonstrated in Afghanistan. Estonia, for example, may not have a big enough military to be significant on the ground. But they had their guys there fighting and dying along with the rest of us.

After you get through with all those real allies, we get to the conditional allies. That is, those who will support us in some places, and under some conditions. Maybe. Now we are talking about Israel. Also the Saudis, among others. (I'm also tempted to include Japan in there.)

Of course, since alliance is a two-way street, we may be about to see all that change. If our current allies (at least some of them) conclude that the next administration won't be there for them (however could they have gotten that impression?), their willingness to stand by us will have to decrease.

Mr Trump may figure that doesn't matter; at least to us. Which, objectively and in terms of raw military power, may be true. Right up until we want to do something and discover, for example, that nobody who has territory which would be a decent launching pad is willing to have us. Oops.

** "In an ally, considerations of house, clan, planet, race are insignificant beside two prime questions, which are:
1. Can he shoot?
2. Will he aim at your enemy?"
Israel definitely qualifies on #1. #2? Not so much.

Welcome back, Count! Hope you had a great holiday season.

Is there even a formal alliance (treaty and all) between the US and Israel?

A quick Google tells me there is a treaty on mutual assistance in criminal matters, but nothing else that rises to the treaty level in defense - all "agreements" or "understandings" it looks like.

Since the UK has (a) nuclear weapons, and (b) The Queen (long may she wave!), Canada and Australia take their foreign policy cues from the UK.

So I stand by contention that Airstrip One The UK is the most important ally of the USA. But it really is a matter of "99.5% vs 99.4%", so whatevs.

Return of the Count! Hallelujah!

The UK has far greater military muscle than Canada and more of a propensity to back the USA in using it. In terms of the sort of international affairs the USA has been involving itself in in the last forty years, that makes us a far more useful set of idiots. In terms of domestic policy support, I have no idea, though.

The Queen is the head of state of the following countries, so (for what it's worth) if that's the way you want to look at it (I don't) I guess they're kind of your allies too:

United Kingdom, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

I think we may need a refresher course on the difference between the (ceremonial) chief of state and the (administrative) head of government.

The US happens to have a single person for both jobs, which tends to make the differences a nuance that is lost on us here. But when discussing alliances, and action thereon, it actually is an important difference.

Saint Kitts & Nevis don't really meet the 'can he shoot' test, being about the same size as (say) Monterey City, CA... and Monterey almost certainly has greater naval power.

Though I guess they did give you Hamilton.

wj, and Nigel, that's true - just taking the rare opportunity these days of having a bit of fun.

Some of those smaller Commonwealth Realms are significant vacation destinations for US citizens, though, so they loom larger in the imagination for that reason. The Bahamas is a very, very close neighbor.

As is Cuba...

Yeah, I figured that, being in the UK, you knew the difference.

In order, mostly:

The other NATO countries
Everyone else

I think of China, India and, to a lesser extent, Russia as competing hegemons

Nice list, Marty.

And while Canada may now be thinking of "building the wall", that does seem like an odd behavior between "good allies".

I'd describe India as an allied hegemon, but that's open to debate. I will say that the last time I read a (public but wonkish) strategic intelligence forecast for the next couple of decades, India didn't even get mentioned when discussing rivals.


Pure numbers witb specific and focused goals to achieve economic superiority make them competition. I haven't read much that they have been able to leverage their growing economic strength to create a sphere of influence that is significant.

But I see potential there. And they really don't seem to be what I would consider a close ally of anyone. Again, I could be off base.

But "competing hegemon" more so than Russia? That really seems like a stretch.

We may end up competing with India. But then we compete with Britain, Germany, Japan and South Korea (how did South Korea not make the list?), and still consider them allies.

Marty's list is pretty much mine, except I'd put South Korea above Taiwan. Turkey goes *just* below Israel -- as nigel says, you have to be REALLY good friends for us to store nukes there. This is why tension between Israel & Turkey is a particularly fraught situation for the USA: it's really important to us that we all just get along.

Per wiki, 10 largest US trading partners (skipping EU as a whole), starting with #1:

South Korea

India is #11. Israel is #23, just ahead of Australia.

I see Russia as a limited competitor at present. The concept of hegemony in my mind is influence beyond conquest. Russia can't compete economically or responsibly enough to maintain a broad sphere of influence. It can only influence what it can control militarily.

We will see if we learn from that. As Donald and others point out, responsible use of influence is essential to keeping it.

China is making inroads in places we have ignored and is building a military capability to offer both economic and security treaties.

India is indecisive on the military front but capable on the economic front. It's ability to wield influence is still a question.

All this is surely a laymans view of our place in the world. I would defend none of it vigorously.

This being the leader of the free world stuff seems complicated.

fwiw my take pretty much echoes marty's

Taiwan is a provocative choice in a listing of countries allied with the United States. Its inclusion jumped out at me, and I was immediately reminded of this article in Foreign Policy, which came out last month in response to Trump taking a personal call from Taiwanese government regarding the (very fraught) question:


Though certainly an ally, it is also not the case that the U.S. considers Taiwan to be an independent country ("there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China"):


Please do not read this as an attempt at weighing in one side or another. I just find the historical currents swirling about the island & its semi-autonomous status to be interesting.

On Taiwan, one thing with Trump is that we are likely to find out what domestic, international, and diplomatic norms and kabuki dances are important and which ones are not - because he is going to blow through most if not all of them.

Good times.

Not trying to bust anyone's chops, but when I read stuff like
China is making inroads in places we have ignored and is building a military capability to offer both economic and security treaties.

I think that there is a lack of realization that when a country/nationality goes out into the world, they aren't immune to change.




"I think that there is a lack of realization that when a country/nationality goes out into the world, they aren't immune to change."

I simply don't understand the point. Not disagreeing, I just don't understand it.

Perhaps the point is merely that, when you go out into the world, you get exposed to different points of view than you were surrounded by at home.

And when you then go home, you still have those broadened horizons. Which make you a source of new perspectives for those who remained at home. And thus the whole country (slowly!) starts to change.

wj, Yeah ok, how does that relate to what he quoted? China is forging partnerships and alliances in Africa and elsewhere in places we have pretty much ignored. Is that incorrect? Or am I just missing this entirely?

I took it as a recognition that, as China forges those partnerships and alliances, it will increase its contact with other places. And while this will have geopolitical impacts on those areas, it will also have an impact on China.

That impact will change how China interacts with the rest of the world. Exactly what those changes will be is an open question -- and impacts how we should respond. But that there will be changes is pretty much a certainty.

Thanks wj, don't disagree.

Sorry, these comments got pushed down and I didn't see them, not ignoring them. wj does a good job of channeling my point. This leads me to suggest that if we treat China as a competing hegemon, that will probably be what we get.

Hmmm... I'll stick to military allies rather than trade partners. Conventional rather than nuclear considerations.

One class are those countries where we want free rein to operate in their territory against potential attacks from nearby: Canada, Mexico, Cuba, the Bahamas. Bermuda, maybe. Push the range that far out and there's no one with the logistical capacity to mount a meaningful conventional attack directly on the US.

The other class requires answering the question "Allies against which enemy?" China? Russia? There are few countries that would make a difference in, eg, a conventional US-vs-China fight. Almost by definition it would be in China's backyard -- they lack the logistical capability to deploy and sustain that scale operation elsewhere. Most of the possibilities are as likely to act as a trip wire than as an ally. South Korea's situation seems more likely to drag us into something not in our real interests than to help us with something else in their part of the world.

Israel is a peculiar case. It's not the US and Israel against some Middle East enemy. Essentially, the UK and the US promised the Jews a small Middle Eastern country after WWII. The UK is no longer in a position to deliver on that. My own opinion is that Israel is playing a dangerous game. Slow but steady expansion of their boundaries, rogue nuclear state... when does the US decide they've gone too far and stop backing the promise?

Put another way, when does a promise like that reach its Use By date?

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