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Is Manila Worth American Lives?

August 4, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Washington policymakers treat allies like Facebook friends, the
more the merrier. Montenegro or the United Kingdom, allies are
viewed as much the same. Administrations routinely ink another
“mutual” defense treaty and pretend the result is a
real military alliance, designed to make America more secure.

In fact, most U.S. “allies” are nothing of the sort.
During the Cold War Washington’s principal objective was to
prevent weak, war-torn, and/or failed states from falling under the
control of the Soviet Union, and later China and North Korea.
Although General and then President Dwight Eisenhower warned
against turning the Europeans into security dependents, successive
administrations ignored his advice. The U.S. inevitably took the
lead and didn’t worry much about what its nominal allies did.
They lagged behind the United States, failed to fulfill their
commitments, and not too subtly took a very cheap if not quite free
ride at Washington’s expense. U.S. officials whined on cue
about the unfairness, but otherwise did nothing.

The allies eventually recovered economically, with Japan,
Germany, the UK, France, and South Korea becoming important
international players. Nevertheless, Washington continues to be
overwhelmingly responsible for national and regional as well as
global security. The presumption is that its alliances are
essentially costless. All Washington needs to do to deter impudent
adversaries is make an occasional threat or issue a pertinent
demand. There’s really no need for allies to even possess
weapons.

However, that world, which never really existed, is gone
forever. Both Russia and China are well-armed and hostile; neither
is inclined to give way to America. Smaller states, such as Iran
and North Korea, have an even greater incentive to establish their
credibility in order to resist Washington’s dictates.

Still, the alliances are supposed to deter aggressors. And
surely they do to the degree that they are seen as credible.
However, they have three additional, less positive impacts. The
first is to discourage defense efforts by the country or countries
being protected. NATO is a spectacular example. Even those nations
which claim to be most worried about the threat of Russian attack
spend barely two percent of their GDPs on the military, far less
than the United States. Some European states, secure in their
belief that America will do whatever is necessary, don’t even spend
a percent of GDP on defense.

The Philippines might be
a nice place to visit. But it isn’t a nation whose security America
should guarantee.

The second incentive created by an American defense guarantee is
to encourage nations to be more aggressive, even reckless. Once the
Democratic Progressive Party began winning elections in Taiwan, the
U.S. had to worry that the new government would declare
independence …read more

Source: OP-EDS