During his recent talk with journalists about his foreign policy, Paul Ryan remarked on the skittishness of some of the client states he visited:
Our allies needed reassurance that we value these friendships and these partnerships.
Ryan was referring to the anxiety among some of our clients created by the president’s criticism of “free-riders” in the Atlantic article on the “Obama doctrine.” While some of the client governments may dispute the claim that they are free-riders, the main reason why Obama’s statements have been greeted with such alarm in some foreign capitals is that these governments are not accustomed to being called out for their dependence and uselessness in public. They know very well just how little they do for the U.S. and how much the U.S. does for them, but they don’t want anyone calling too much attention to that imbalance for fear that their racket will be shut down. The key to keeping the “reassurance” racket going is maintaining the illusion that the U.S. has great need of its clients, when the truth is that they are the ones that need us far more than we need them.
Note that Ryan automatically defaults to the misleading description of client states as allies, which inflates their importance to the U.S. and makes their “reassurance” seem much more valuable. These states always seem to need “reassuring,” because there is no better way to increase U.S. support than by whining to members of Congress and anyone else that will listen that they feel they are being taken for granted. Ryan is also helping out clients such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia by relaying their worries back to Washington, which will be cited by the administration’s domestic critics as proof that Obama is neglecting these client states. That will be followed by pressure to do more to “reassure” the clients that they are valued, and because the clients know that response will be forthcoming they can use their complaints to extract more and more support from the U.S. for as long as there are American politicians willing to repeat those complaints here.