Today, the United States is over-invested in alliance relationships that are no longer well aligned with our interests or the willingness of current partners to support common action and genuinely shared risks. If our international partnerships were an investment portfolio, we would be continuing to hold blue-chip stocks from the 1950s: General Motors, U.S. Steel, Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez. We’d also be heavily weighted with municipal bonds, as though technological revolutions and emergent market offerings and job migration had never occurred, and as though management decisions had no effect on long-term value.
In effect, we have allowed sunk costs and concern for transition costs to determine the apportionment of our international partnership efforts. We should rather be asking ourselves what kind of alliance relationships and institutions our country needs to better manage the security demands of protecting and advancing our interests. We should get to work constructing the capabilities and relationships that will be vital for managing the problems we have today and can reasonably foresee tomorrow. There is the rise of a China that is not and may never become a responsible stakeholder in the post-World War II order. There is our manifest incapacity for containing Iran. There is the possibility of Mexico’s headlong descent into violence. There is the re-institutionalization of authoritarianism in Russia, a Russia that appears not to be reconciled to the post-Cold War territorial status quo. There are also opportunities provided by a secure Europe and pressure for economic and political liberalization in the Middle East and Africa. On balance, the greatest opportunities arise from rebalancing our portfolio to hold fewer multilateral obligations, while diversifying and increasing our holdings of bilateral shares with countries willing to contribute.
The Mythic Golden Age
American internationalists tend to mistakenly believe there was a time when our country was steadfast in its commitments, and when those commitments were well balanced against the resources available to fulfill them. This mist-shrouded beneficent time is generally conceived to be the first decade of the Cold War. The only problem with this putative golden age is that the men who lived that time, who made those seminal bargains, wouldn’t recognize it.
The Truman Administration set the foundation for America’s most binding alliance relationship, NATO. It didn’t seriously consider British and French proposals for the United States to guarantee peace in Europe until the 1948 Soviet blockade of Berlin, and even then, the Administration circumscribed NATO’s mutual defense pledge to explicitly exclude European colonies and to avoid specifying that a response to attack had to be military in nature. While the Washington Treaty states that “an attack on one shall be considered an attack on all”, the hagiography of Article 5 tends to gloss over the fact that it merely requires allies to consult on the appropriate response. Similar concerns about overextension led that same Truman Administration to publicly place South Korea outside the perimeter of American interests—until it was attacked.
It is doubtful that even the NATO alliance would have retained political meaning if the North Korean invasion of South Korea had not occurred. That attack panicked Atlanticists into supporting the development of an Integrated Military Command in NATO and the stationing of U.S. forces in Europe. At the same time, even that most dedicated of Atlanticists, Dwight Eisenhower, envisioned the stationing of U.S. forces in Europe to be a temporary measure only necessary to give West Europeans time to recover their economic and political strength. The uneven distribution of burden into which NATO calcified was not what its American architects envisioned.
Getting Europeans to undertake the political and military measures necessary for their defense proceeded so slowly that in 1956 Secretary of State John Foster Dulles reported “a certain lack of solidarity among the NATO powers was quite evident at the meeting. . . . If this continued to be the practice, the alliance of the Western powers would gradually fall apart.” President Eisenhower agreed, saying that “the United States did indeed have to undertake an agonizing reappraisal of its policies.”1 (By the way, NATO was not a monochromatic alliance security domain, as golden age mythmakers would also have us believe. There were three distinct tiers of alliance status, particularly with regard to the deployment and potential use of nuclear weapons.2)
American Administrations envisioned NATO as one of many regional defense pacts with parallels, including one each in the Pacific and Middle East. Both were developed in the early 1950s on the same model as NATO, and both collapsed because participating countries (including the United States) were unwilling to commit to defend the others. The Truman Administration and the first Eisenhower Administration even harbored deep concerns as to whether NATO’s allied unity could withstand an attack, so the U.S. military retained a separate national chain of command for its forces in Europe and excluded most allies from planning for contingencies like an attack on Berlin. The United States framed NATO’s political and military architecture such that most NATO allies would choose whether to participate in an action only after the U.S. military was already engaged. That arrangement, which was thought to make it easier for allies to choose to pitch in, inevitably generated incentives for weaker allies to free-ride on the U.S. guarantee instead.
Moreover, instead of building a strong allied foundation for putting pressure against the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe (a logical objective within the framework of containment), the NATO bargain created complacency. It enabled an imbalance in which the desire to preserve Western gains trumped the goal of extending those gains to other countries. Even during the golden age of American alliance relations and the zenith of America’s relative power in the international order, the U.S. government never seriously considered acting to roll back Soviet control of Central and Eastern Europe.
The Soviet Union’s emphasis shifted to the peripheries in the 1960s, prompted by the routinization of the Cold War order in Europe, the opportunities afforded by decolonization and the challenge posed by China to Soviet leadership. The American public eventually became disillusioned with the conflicts in the two places the U.S. government chose to respond (Korea and Vietnam), which suggests that adversaries rightly assessed the political limits of our interest. These experiences highlight the fact that the most difficult assessment for U.S. leadership to make in alliance relations is how far to extend American commitments to other states. Extend them too little, and America could invite an attack on a friendly country; extend them too much and it could bleed the United States for a marginal interest, which, in turn, would threaten to discredit our central commitments.
Americans do themselves no favors by whitewashing the historical record of frustration, compromise and disappointment that America’s alliance relationships have entailed. Transatlantic relations have always been difficult and mostly unsatisfying undertakings. To paraphrase Joseph Ellis’s plaint in the context of the Founding Fathers, by casting them in marble instead of flesh, we both diminish their achievements and absolve ourselves of meeting their impossible standard. Creating a mythology that NATO was always a “permanent standing alliance”, able and willing to address security problems wherever they occurred, weights American diplomatic effort too heavily toward Europe and away from the countries most affected by and willing to contribute to solving problems in which we are also invested.
The Stability of the Status Quo
America sustains its current alliances for two main reasons besides inertia. First is the naive belief that more is always better: The greater number of allies and alliances we have, the better able we are to manage problems and the more likely we are to be engaged with the countries whose help we will need. There is a kind of logic to this, especially as the range of uncertainty is broad and our track record poor in predicting where problems will emerge. Universality, however, is not inherently good, and the quest for it has significant costs. It tends to consume resources that could be put to better use. It minimizes the consequences for allied states of choosing to impede American interests, because, the thinking goes, there are so many others who can man the oars. It can result in diffuse signaling to adversaries. It can lead to systematic overextension when allied momentum commits the U.S. government to act when its vital interests are not at stake. Thus, for example, it was the desire to preserve NATO, rather than any direct interest in the outcome, that predominantly drove U.S. involvement in the wars of Yugoslav dissolution.
The second motivation sustaining current alliance relations is the desire to avoid paying the transaction costs of creating alliances that are better aligned with current challenges. These costs are unquestionably significant, politically and militarily. Disentangling ourselves from NATO’s integrated military command will alarm Europeans and may encourage other powers to probe Europe’s ability to defend itself, as well as our continuing interest in assisting them.3 Gathering countries to constrain Chinese military assertiveness and attenuate its mercantilist economic policies could provoke China to become even more aggressive. Allies with privileged access to the U.S. military and defense industry marketplace will resent being downgraded, making it more difficult to continue to work with them. It is a natural and commendable conservative trait to seek to avoid incurring the costs of change without a high probability of being able to construct something superior to replace existing bargains.
Europe, however, is able to defend itself, China bears responsibility for the path by which it chooses to rise, and allies should not have privileged influence unless the arrangement aligns with our interests. In the past several years, many have cast the argument against more fluid alliance relations as being an opposition to “coalitions of the willing” that do not have the staying power to handle serious and protracted challenges. But Secretary General George Robertson’s urgent appeal that NATO provide a “permanent coalition” for the United States has not been borne out by the mixed record of allied support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some NATO allies are simply unwinnable constituencies, and their expectations of preferential treatment say more about their pretensions to perpetuate a disproportionate influence on America as they do about the appropriateness of American behavior.
Many have expended considerable thought in recent years on universalizing NATO, building it out to produce an alliance system based on a “concert of democracies.” It is a satisfying idea that our most capable alliance, one consisting of states with the deepest commitment to our values, could become the foundation for a broader, re-energized coalition to manage pressing global problems. It is an old idea, but not necessarily an obsolete one.4 Atlanticists deserve an enormous amount of credit for the creativity and tenacity with which they have pushed NATO into new roles.
But the effort has mostly won enthusiasm from like-minded countries that would have cooperated anyway via coalitions of the willing (Australia, Japan, Sweden). And to force those countries into NATO’s way of doing things is not the most effective way to benefit from their resources and political will. The larger problem with the concert of democracies idea is that even the common values of NATO members don’t translate into a common willingness to promote and defend those values beyond Europe. Countries share our values without shouldering our burdens for the disarmingly simple reason that interests matter as well as values. A larger alliance based preeminently on values would have even more diversely interested members, and would thus be even more ungainly than NATO.
The assumption that multilateral alliances are superior to bilateral relationships also merits reconsideration. NATO did not produce commitments to the war in Iraq; allies made national decisions. True, some allies would probably not have contributed to the war in Afghanistan if NATO did not have a role; but the countries that did contribute would be more committed to the war’s objectives, more generous in the employment of their forces and less burdensome for U.S. military operations. Engaging institutions has not really substituted for bilateral relations in any event; it has instead injected another layer of authority that has to give its approval. This is justified if one believes the institution legitimates collective action; if it doesn’t, it adds burdens incommensurate with the benefits.
Multilateralism as practiced by the Obama Administration in Libya maximizes the drawbacks and minimizes the benefits of working with others and through international institutions. It delayed action until Qaddafi’s forces had retaken momentum and were moving in on Benghazi (although policy disputes within the Administration are also to blame), thereby increasing the need for a dominant role by the American military; it left undecided key questions about command and other responsibilities that will delay transition to coalition partners and increase squabbling; and it failed to attract support from rising powers Brazil and India even as it failed to give a starring role to the countries it expects will eventually take over the work.
The demands of the wars unleashed by the 9/11 attacks on the United States have finally administered the shock necessary to set in motion a re-evaluation of existing alliance relationships. Binding ties can work to America’s advantage in the same way that practiced teamwork has advantages over playing a pick-up game. Experienced allies have a more solid ground of understanding, and as military operations grow more complex, preparing to fight together provides even greater advantages. Our challenge therefore is not to get better at ad hoc coalition building; it is to create a stable set of new alliance relationships better suited to our current challenges. This requires determining which countries will help when help is needed, and developing plans to establish tighter bonds with them.
The international order is changing, whether we change our alliance relationships or not. Responsibilities and benefits in the Transatlantic relationship feel badly out of balance. Asian countries concerned about China crave a reassuring institutional structure. The unrest across the Middle East and Africa calls into question the sustainability of U.S. relationships with several tottering authoritarian governments, and it creates opportunities to reposition ourselves. Countries like Colombia and El Salvador, which have successfully come through insurgencies and domestic drug wars, have much more to contribute and have earned the right to exert more influence over our policies. As a case in point, Mexico screams out for a large-scale international effort to assist an allied government, one whose success will have an even greater effect on American security than the wars we are now fighting.
In addition to the changing political order, some important technical variables in the alliance equation are changing, both for the United States and its allies. The three most important variables are improved weaponry, its availability to weak state and non-state actors, and the concomitant reduction in warning time. It used to require the resources of a powerful nation to inflict debilitating damage on a similarly powerful nation. Now that armaments are increasing in range, precision and destructiveness, armed attacks no longer require the mass mobilization that served to warn adversaries of political intent and military capability.
These trends have been gathering strength for nearly two decades. The American military’s focus on transformation in the late 1990s was directed at them. The 1998 Rumsfeld Commission on ballistic missile threats highlighted the advantages that technological advancement gave to adversaries. The September 2002 National Security Strategy based its argument for the preemptive use of military force on the way these advances changed risks to the United States.
Yet our alliance relationships have not adjusted to the fact that the United States is more at risk. The countries whose help we need most share our values less than did past allies. Therefore, running risks for them, as we did for Europeans in the past, will be a more difficult sell to the American people. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attempted to infer that the American nuclear umbrella covers Persian Gulf states concerned about Iran; just imagine, however, the Senate debate that would ensue over ratification of a mutual defense pact with a country that does not permit women to vote, or imagine the public’s enthusiasm for trading Los Angeles for Riyadh when both come in range of Iranian nuclear-tipped missiles. Making credible pledges of extended deterrence was already difficult in the context of societies fundamentally like our own; it is significantly more so when political and cultural differences are manifest.
We also cannot write off the consequences for alliance relations of our policy choices about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have paid considerable attention to the costs of engaging in those wars and to the way they have been prosecuted. We pay far too little attention to the costs of not continuing them to a successful conclusion. While American power is both vast and resilient enough to absorb failure, losing wars is damaging to our credibility—especially when we have the means to win but, as in the case of the Obama Administration with Iraq, we simply choose not to care much about the lingering risks of failure. Our choices about Iraq and Afghanistan will have an enormous effect on the calculations states make about our commitments, especially at the periphery, where they have a rich appreciation that periphery means “not central.”
Six Attributes for Alliance
When America’s current alliance institutions were established, they were meant not just to help us stabilize and protect allied countries. They were also explicitly designed to allow us to share the burden of providing common goods. In the course of the past sixty years, allied contributions have ebbed, and America’s flowed, to the point that everyone expects America to unilaterally police the “global commons” rather than stitch the seams between national responsibilities for territories, airspace and waters.
Successive U.S. administrations have been complicit in allowing this shift in boundaries. Virtually every administration since that of Lyndon Johnson has launched a major policy effort to get NATO allies to spend more on defense; virtually every effort has failed. We have allowed ourselves to take on greater responsibilities for allied security. We raised the standard from shipping troops to Europe to stationing troops in Europe, from re-conquering states that had been attacked to preventing attack in the first place. We committed to out-of-area missions to prevent NATO from going out of business and pestered Europeans to develop power-projection capabilities, without much to show for it. And we have fostered moral hazard, shielding them from the consequences of spending less on defense and assigning them less demanding operational roles to keep them contributing in some way to allied military operations.
We should not accept this division of labor as a natural state of alliance relations. Instead, the U.S. government should weigh allied participation, both in standing alliance institutions and in coalition operations, on the basis of six factors that demonstrate the value of an ally’s contribution. We should align our engagement, and their influence over our policy choices, to states that better meet our standards, instead of buying into a narrative of sentimental attachment to substitute for more genuine burdensharing in our security alliances.
Identify Common Interests.
It is not solely or simply the work of the United States to determine where our interests and those of potential allies overlap. Yet the overwhelming tendency of other governments is to explain their interests to us with the expectation that we will want to solve their problems. They think of the United States as an overwhelming hegemon with both the responsibility and the resources to make things better for them. Most countries still marvel at our preoccupation with terrorism and our view that it takes precedence over what their political leaders see as the graver and more immediate priorities of caring for their populations.
It is rare but incredibly gratifying for countries to explain how activities they are involved in will assist American interests. New allies are better at this than allies of long-standing, perhaps because they take less for granted. None, however, match Britain. Prime Minister Blair’s September 11 memo to President Bush is the gold standard, the template on which allies seeking to influence the United States should model their engagement. He demonstrated an appreciation for our grief, compellingly expressed Britain’s solidarity and explained all the activities his government had underway to help advance America’s interests, such as getting NATO to invoke Article 5 for the first time in its history, orchestrating condemnation of the attacks at the United Nations and pressuring the Taliban to disavow al-Qaeda. Foreign governments typically assume that the U.S. administration of the day has a plan, and so they wait to be told what we want from them. Allies that take initiative to identify common interests and act to advance them are America’s ideal partners in an age when we feel, more acutely than before, the burden of our obligations.
With the exception of Mexico and some other Latin American states that have visceral reactions to American involvement in their countries, the nature of most countries’ defense relationships with the United States are discussions about what we can do to protect them. We need to set in motion a virtuous cycle of incentives whereby the states that do the most for themselves get a larger share of support and influence with us.
The Defense Department under Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tried to develop a worldwide program to assist in training the military forces of other countries so that they could better control their own territory and contribute to multinational operations. That program has gained wider acceptance in recent years, with significant advances coming in the previously unpromising quarters of Mexico and the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The desperate fight in Mexico against drug cartels and the growing threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, coupled with GCC governments’ fear that over-reliance on outside support will delegitimize them, have reshaped their attitudes about the importance of dramatically improving their own security forces and the value of cooperation with the United States to assist the development of their own capabilities. These attenuations of an earlier hesitance to act themselves deserve to be rewarded. We should also use them as examples for other nations who seek greater influence with and commitment from the U.S. government.
Contribute to the Fight. New and prospective European allies understood how much we would value their participation in the Iraq War when allies of deeper ties and longer standing would not. Unfortunately, many of them have concluded that they will not receive the expected benefits. In some cases, such as lucrative business deals, their expectations were illegal, unreasonable or crassly bartered. But in many cases the United States was simply too preoccupied with the immediate demands of the war to satisfy contributors (Poland’s demand for visa-free travel to the United States comes to mind). Contributions can take many forms: Germany opposed the war but was extraordinarily helpful in facilitating the flow of U.S. and other coalition forces to the theater. It protected our facilities and families in Germany, helped care for our wounded, and even crucially pressured Belgium not to close its ports to our military shipping.
President Bush understandably resented it when counterparts like Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero engaged in grandstanding against the war and then expected favors. The Pentagon has a long memory, for some things, at least. It will not be soon forgotten that the Turkish military showed its first subordination to civilian power by not throwing its weight behind the U.S. request for transit through Turkish territory en route to Iraq, or that, perhaps even more galling, Turkey denied the U.S. military search and rescue rights in extremis on its territory.
We should be overgenerous in rewarding the behavior we want countries to repeat, so as to set an example for others. No country fought more bravely than El Salvador in Iraq. When, during the Sadr uprising of April 2004, their base came under attack, they fixed bayonets to defend it. Poland stepped up to lead a multinational division with contributing forces from 19 countries, an exceedingly difficult undertaking. There is a sifting that will occur, both in the countries that helped us and in the performance of troops that showed up, as there should be. Countries that contribute to our wars deserve primacy in our defense relationships. Our alliances, in short, must be means-tested alliances, with no significant exceptions allowed.
Lead Your Own Public.
Many governments shy away from making unpopular decisions. Even more are skittish about persuading skeptical publics of the need to use force. The German government is, for reasons it should by now have graduated out of, notoriously unwilling to make the case for its military fighting in Afghanistan. We should not make excuses for governments that are unwilling to work to change public attitudes when those attitudes are invidious to the country’s own interests. Rather, those governments that take political risks to share our burdens deserve our support and forbearance, as such actions are a leading indicator of greater cooperative action in the future.
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl deserved high marks for scolding Germans in 1991 for protesting the Gulf War when they did not protest Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Germany now believes itself righteous because it insists on the primacy of United Nations Security Council mandates in cases where responding to aggression is concerned. When divided Germany was the issue, however, they were adamant not to allow Soviet and Chinese vetoes to keep us from defending them. There is all too often tolerance, especially among European countries that are now safe, of sanctimony in the face of other peoples’ dangers. Too many seem to believe that their security developed without the force of arms and political pressure and that they thus bear no responsibility for advancing freedom elsewhere. The countries that not only share our values but are willing to promote them will provide a stronger domestic foundation for future collective action.
Not all Western governments have been unwilling to run political risks in order to build security beyond their borders. The Dutch, Danish and Canadian governments all led extensive public campaigns to build support for their continued involvement in armed operations. The Dutch even allowed their government to fall rather than accede to popular demands that were bad for Dutch interests. The Japanese government, especially under Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and the South Korean government have also engaged in the difficult work of bringing public attitudes into alignment with broader contributions. Such a willingness to lead is a priceless attribute in an ally.
Americans have never embraced the so-called realist approach to international power. Our citizens accept that our interests may require us to cooperate with reprehensible states, but they aren’t motivated to make commitments that extend our power far beyond our values. The central constraint on U.S. power internationally is Americans’ resistance to taking on obligations, and that resistance increases as similarities with other societies decrease. We are willing to run greater risks for states that believe in the consensual relationship between government and public; that essential freedoms are inherent rather than endowed by governments; and that people have rights that they loan to governments to conduct public business. Americans stubbornly refute both the realist’s insistence that all states behave the same and the Rawlsian tenet that we should treat non-nationals with no less favor than our own people.
The nuclear deterrence debate of the 1950s and 1960s—whether the United States would trade Paris for New York—showed the limits of Americans’ willingness to protect non-Americans, even those whose freedom we ourselves had redeemed in war and to whom we were allied. When the government of Afghanistan will not defend religious freedom or women’s rights, it understandably makes Americans wonder why we’re sacrificing so much to advance their interests instead of more narrowly advancing our own. It is unrealistic to believe the U.S. government can make enduring commitments to states constituted as Gulf states and societies currently are. There are real limits to the willingness of Americans to take on responsibilities for states that do not share our values. Those limits admit cooperation but not alliance.
Thus, as we piece together the mosaic of a new alliance structure, we need to avoid over-committing, first, to countries that share our values but won’t shoulder common interests, and, second, to countries that will assist our efforts but are constituted so differently from ours that we cannot reliably undertake obligations on their behalf.
Compensate for Our Weaknesses.
America has disadvantages as well as strengths: We are often poor messengers of our own policies. We seldom know how best to translate our motivations into compelling arguments in other countries. We are often hesitant to twist allied arms as ruthlessly as others can do for us (the NATO Secretary General usually excels at this task), or to make smart bargains to secure necessary votes in international fora. Additionally, there are types of assistance we will need no matter how far our logistics chains stretch: ports, airfields, overflight rights, fuel depots and more. Allies that have these, or that are capable of persuading those that do to commit them, help our efforts even when they are not present in the fight. The Canadian government stepped in for U.S. military forces in Afghanistan as our effort shifted to Iraq, contributing to a war they did support and reducing the demands on our forces they knew would be stretched. We need to think carefully about what we don’t have, and what countries can either provide or cajole others into providing.
We also need to think creatively about how to give allies the confidence they need to take leading roles. The U.S. government should not have to be the driving force in solving every problem, nor is it a conservative husbanding of our resources to do so. Yet allies often fear to take ownership of a problem without us at the helm. A good example of how to encourage allies is the Clinton Administration’s underwriting of Australian leadership during the East Timor crisis. Quiet work with the Australian government produced a deal wherein the Australian military led a UN force and the U.S. government committed to providing both ongoing assistance and a guarantee of military support if needed. The Australian military performed admirably, and it was a good deal for us to get a problem solved by an interested and competent ally at a marginal cost to our treasury. As crises evolve, we should think about who can lead besides us, and what we can contribute to give them confidence in their success.
A New Constellation of Allies
There are very real constraints on America’s ability to trade in its current allies for countries that would shoulder more of the burden. Foremost among them is that we ought to have a superior alternative to the current crop before spurning their assistance, and there are no obvious targets of opportunity in the near term. We should not, however, be discouraged by the difficulty of building the alliances we need. In the mythical golden age of American alliances, America’s leaders faced greater impediments to building support for a common approach than we do now.
The United States owes itself a clear-eyed assessment of which states have the political, economic and military capacity to stand shoulder to shoulder with us as we manage coming problems. Countries concerned about the kinds of problems that vex us; that defend their own territories and societies from those threats; and are willing to contribute effective military forces to defend societies upon which our common security depends. Countries where leaders build public support for difficult national security choices rather than hiding behind public opposition as a reason to shift more burden onto the United States. Countries whose values are consistent with our fundamental beliefs in individual liberty and representative government. And countries with material and political assets we lack but need. In short, countries that solve their own problems and reach out to help others are the allies we want.
Such countries are in short supply. Most of the obvious candidates, with the exception of India, are already major U.S. partners. But the key to creating alliances more amenable to American interests is building the allies we need. What countries have the potential to be as steady a partner to us as the United Kingdom? The elements outlined above can help identify which states might; but much work will be needed to help foster their success. That assistance is not principally military; a better way to think about it is strategic, because it encompasses thinking through problems together, identifying a plan to undertake common activities, and setting that ally up as the hub of a coalition whose success we underwrite.
We rarely put others in the center of our thinking about coalition politics. We ought to do so more often, thinking about what countries would be best suited to lead and how we can facilitate their success so that they become stronger and more inclined to play leading roles. That work needs to begin with breaking the hold of current multilateral alliance constraints and working more closely on a bilateral basis with governments that see the possibilities. By default we are the central actor in our multilateral institutions, where states look to us as the most capable, whereas when working bilaterally we often secure greater contributions with fewer constraints.
America has an important leadership role to play by helping countries grow into greater activism in managing common problems. Instead of continuing to overinvest in multilateral alliances that underperform in our portfolio, we ought to be identifying strong performers in emerging markets and working with their leadership to build the capacity for greater returns in the future.
1Memorandum of Discussion at the 284th Meeting of the National Security Council”, Washington, May 10, 1956, Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1955–57, Vol. XIX, p. 78; and “Memorandum of Discussion at the 285th Meeting of the National Security Council”, May 17, 1956, FRUS, Vol. XIX, p. 310. 2See James Kurth, “The Next NATO”, The National Interest (Fall 2001).3As A. Wess Mitchell and Jakub Grygiel suggest in “The Vulnerability of Peripheries”, The American Interest (March/April 2011). 4See, for example, Robert Strausz-Hupé, “The Balance of Tomorrow”, Orbis (April 1957).