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American Allies Speak Against Restraint at CPAC

The decline of American leadership abroad took stage at CPAC this Thursday.

A breakout session titled “The State of Our Alliances” featured scathing reviews of the Obama administration’s treatment of the U.K., Israel, and Japan. But ultimately, this panel ignored any and all American interests in these alliances and offered the audience a lopsided argument. Worse, this is not a one-time offense.

Nile Gardiner of The Heritage Foundation defended on the importance of the U.S.-U.K. “special relationship” and American commitments to NATO. Gardiner highlighted how the American reputation of strength was faltering in the international sphere. An alliance with the U.S. today doesn’t carry the same weight as it did 20 or 30 years ago, he said.

Jeff Ballabon of B2 Strategic and Short Cove Advisors advocated for a renewed commitment to Israel. His policy suggestions included abandoning the two-state solution, tearing up the Iran Deal, and “going on the offensive” against potential threats. Ballabon argued that Israel has an image problem—that it is perceived as a Goliath when it is actually David in need of American assistance to survive.


Jikido Aeba of the Japanese Conservative Union pivoted to the Pacific to discuss the U.S.-Japan alliance. He argued, with the help of his interpreter, that although the alliance was created to counter the Soviet Union, it must evolve to meet today’s threats. Namely: terrorism, encroachment from China, and rogue states like North Korea.

The speakers drew heavily from the Obama administration’s engagements with Russia, Iran, and Cuba. They presented increased diplomacy with these nations as contradictory to America’s alliance obligations. An emboldened Iran and Russia, in particular, were portrayed as endangering the states that Obama should be prioritizing above all others.

All of the panelists explained why the nation they represented needed America’s help to solve its problems. Some even explained why the U.S. should strengthen their alliance from a moral standpoint.

None of the panelists argued the value of their alliance from a strategic perspective.

None of the panelists explained what the U.S. either already receives or would get out of increased alliance ties with their country.

More than that, Gardiner answered a well-posed question about states free-riding on U.S. military strength with the assertion that the withdrawal of American resources does not inspire European states to increase their own defenses. It seems the U.S. is stuck playing policeman to the world whether we want to bear that burden or have it shoved upon us by states that refuse to pay for their own protection.

“The State of Our Alliances” presented only a skewed version of alliance maintenance because the U.S. lacked an advocate of its own. It lacked a voice to argue for the benefits and drawbacks of each alliance. This panel proved asymmetrical because it only offered one side of a two-party partnership.

Unfortunately, this was not just one sub-par panel discussion, but part of a larger trend. Emma Ashford of the Cato Institute exposed this ongoing problem in her recent article, “Two, Three, Many Chalabis.” [1] Exiles and foreign representatives exert influence in Washington to advance their own agendas and dominate debates much like the one at CPAC yesterday.

Ashford points out that these representatives have “a strong incentive to mislead.” The panelists of “The State of Our Alliances” represented nations that reaped the benefits of American dominance in the past. Their countries have the most to lose from a new age of American restraint.

Audiences trust experts to be unbiased, but in reality they are often anything but objective.

Caroline Dorminey is an editorial assistant at The American Conservative.

7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "American Allies Speak Against Restraint at CPAC"

#1 Comment By AJ On March 4, 2016 @ 3:13 pm

You should have heckled them, “Since when is unending interventionism a conservative value?” We would have backed you up. 😉

#2 Comment By bt On March 4, 2016 @ 4:27 pm

So now it’s Conservative for America to fight other people’s wars for them?

#3 Comment By Clint On March 4, 2016 @ 7:48 pm

Real Conservatism isn’t this Neoconservative Foreigner influenced Global Cop Bastardization of Conservatism.

#4 Comment By Dan On March 5, 2016 @ 3:54 am

The issue is you need to look at who organised Thanet and what were they trying to achieve.

They were trying to pretend that these overseas nations were desperate for US support for very important strategic reasons, the truth is they are shills for the US military industrial establishment not the forign nations.

Nile Gardiner is a British citizen but he lives and works in the US for the Heritage foundation and has done since the 1990’s, he is wheeled out to support the army case that we must build more tanks and rather reduce the size of the army after withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan we must send troops to Poland. He argues that not supporting Europeans will not lead to an increase in defence spending in Europe, because the point is not to defend Europe, it is to justify a bigger US army, and more US military spending because that is what Heritage want.

Jeff Bellboom is a Jewish US citizen born in New York who is active in US republican politics and in favour of Likud type support in Israeli politics. He is in favour of more US support for Israel whether Israel needs it or not, partly he may genuinely believe Israel needs the support, partly Military contractors want to continue building more F-35 and bombs for Israel, and partly he is part of the Republican Jewish voters who want to paint the Democrats as unsafe for Israel so pull over Jewish voters to vote for Israel.

If there was a real threat to Israel, there are plenty of Israeli politicians and Generals who could have been invited.

Aeba is painted as part of the Japanese Conservative Union, but that is a lobbying group that was only formed in 2015, he is a leading player in the Japanese Hapiness Realisation Party, which has stood at the last 3 Japanese elections with hundreds of candidates and won the grand total of zero seats in the Diet, they want to rip up the Japanese constitution, rebuild the military, including creating a Japanese nuclear detterant, and denies the Nanking massacre was a Japanese war crime.

If the speakers were from the Governments of UK, Japan or Israel, Caroline would have a point, but the speakers are all from US lobbying interests.

#5 Comment By jk On March 5, 2016 @ 2:58 pm

I’m surprised they let TAC press in. What was your alibi? 🙂

#6 Comment By Will Wilkin On March 6, 2016 @ 12:28 pm

I am neither conservative nor liberal, or maybe both. For sure I am an American, and don’t see either end of the spectrum as having a monopoly on good or bad ideas. Certainly I agree with Patrick Buchanan’s arguments that our national interest should define our trade and diplomacy, rather than some globalization ideology (and its corporate interests and self-important imperial politicians) driving us to endless wars and treaties and de-industrialization all for the sake of some kind of “hegemony” that is destroying our economy and our republic. Perhaps liberal v. conservative is not the most important divide in American politics, perhaps we should see it as corporate v. populist or even globalization v. patriotic.

#7 Comment By Uncle Billy On March 6, 2016 @ 8:37 pm

Our relationship with our so called “Allies” should be one where they bear primary responsibility for their own defense, and the US promises to assist them. What we actually have however, is a scenario where we bear primary responsibility for their defense, and they promise to help us defend them.

Japan is a prosperous, technologically advanced nation. They have the tradition of the samurai, yet we are on the hook to defend them, even if they are not so hot to defend themselves. I served in the Marines in the 1970’s in Japan, and every morning at morning colors at 0800, we saluted the American flag as well as the Japanese flag. That was 40 years ago, and we are still there, and still saluting the Japanese flag. How long will this last? WWII has been over for 70 years. Why can’t Japan have a blue water navy? Why do the Samurai need gaijen warriors to protect them?