Daniel W. Drezner

Flows, stocks, leaders and allies

Flows, stocks, leaders and allies

 Many of my posts from the past week are about just who is an ally and who is an adversary.  This is a nice (albeit belated) segue into  the G-20 open mic flap, in which French president Nicolas Sarkozy said what he really thought about Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu — and Barack Obama didn’t disagree. 

There’s obviously going to be much gnashing of teeth about this from the usual suspects, and much caterwauling about said gnashing of teeth from the other usual suspects.  So perhaps it’s worth stepping back for a second to appreciate the fact that, contra realism, most alliances in recent history are far more long-lasting than a particular leader’s term of office.  Obviously, certain leaders — see: Castro, Fidel — can realign a country from one great power to another.  Geopolitical pressures can cause other countries — see:  India — to realign during critical junctures.  Still, these have been the exceptions rather than the rule since 1945. 

The Netanyahu/Obama flap is clearly one of clashing ideologies and clashing personalities, but it doesn’t really change all that much in the way of the US-Israeli alliance.  The defense cooperation between United States and Israel is stronger and larger than ever before, for example.  The fundamentals of the alliance remain unchanged.  As Robert Blackwill and Walter Slocombe recently pointed out in their WINEP paper: 

[T]he United States and Israel have an impressive list of common national interests; that Israeli actions make substantial direct contributions to these U.S. interests; and that wise policymakers and people concerned with U.S. foreign policy, while never forgetting the irreplaceable values and moral responsibility dimensions of the bilateral relationship, should recognize the benefits Israel provides for U.S. national interests

This argument has drawn criticism from the usual suspects, but it reaffirms my point that alliances rarely rise and fall due to individual leaders.  

So think of dust-ups like the open mic gaffe as mild ripples in the flow of friendship between the two countries, while the stock of the alliance remains fundamentally constant.