Greg Scoblete notices Obama’s “eternal alliance” remark:

What’s important about the president’s remarks today, though, is less the strategic history than with his assertion that the U.S. and Israel have an “eternal alliance.”

I suspect we’re going to see a lot of debate centered around that phrase in the coming days.

The obvious problem with claiming that there is an “eternal alliance” with any other state is that it’s complete nonsense. Israel could be a treaty ally, which it isn’t, and it would still be a silly thing to say. Like any other human institution or structure, alliances are ultimately transitory, because nothing in this world is eternal. Even alliances by treaty usually expire or the conditions that brought them into being cease to exist. Whether it is because of domestic politics or international events, the most long-lasting alliances sooner or later come to an end, and it would be foolish to perpetuate them when they have outlived their purpose. An alliance exists to serve the interests of the states in it and not simply to be an end in itself.

The interests of different allies are never identical, and they can and will sometimes diverge over time until they cease to be aligned at all. This is why it is unwise to permanently tie one’s own country another in an alliance, since the alliance may one day cease to serve the national interest. At that point, the alliance becomes redundant and may even be burdensome to one or all parties. There can no more be an “eternal alliance” than there can be an “eternal peace.” The rhetorical overkill here certainly doesn’t make the relationship with Israel more like a normal bilateral relationship, but instead just reinforces all of the worst aspects of the relationship in which uncritical U.S. backing enables reckless and self-destructive behavior. If there were any reason to think that this kind of flattery would have a salutary effect on the latter, it might be excused as a necessary diplomatic fiction, but in all likelihood it just the sort of fawning approach that has made the relationship as dysfunctional as it is.