I must admit that I did not know that the category of “major non-NATO ally” even existed before Hillary Clinton declared Afghanistan to be one on Saturday in Kabul. At first I thought that she might be talking about something like “Animal House’s” double-secret probation, but according to press coverage, “The list of major non-NATO allies includes Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand. Notably, these countries are eligible for priority delivery of military hardware and can get U.S. government help to buy arms and equipment. But the designation does not include the mutual-defense pledge that is at the heart of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance.”
If that is the list of major non-NATO allies one has to ask who the minor non-NATO allies might be. Fiji? Samoa? The list is interesting in that it includes five nations that host U.S. military bases, two with which Washington has defense agreements, while the rest are presumed to be friendly most of the time which means they can buy U.S. weaponry. But none of them is an ally, in that they are not required to come to the aid of the U.S. if it is attacked, even if Washington is obligated to protect South Korea and Japan and would presumably do the same for Israel. Hillary’s use of “ally” is therefore meaningless, as there is no reciprocity or obligation and no actual alliance. What Hillary is really saying is that the U.S. will not abandon Afghanistan after 2014, which might not be an out-and-out lie but is pretty close to it. The U.S. abandons everyone eventually. Clinton’s designation of the Afghan nation as an ally will also obligate the U.S. taxpayer to pump more money into the sinkhole for reasons that are more domestic and political than strategic. President Obama cannot be seen as giving up to the Taliban in an election year. After the election he will likely cut a deal. No matter who allies whom, Afghanistan is and will continue to be the most corrupt country in the world, as well as the source of most of the world’s heroin.