Home/Daniel Larison/The Absurd “No Light” Approach to Managing Allies and Clients

The Absurd “No Light” Approach to Managing Allies and Clients

Jeb Bush is all for it:

I think a better solution is to have a forceful foreign policy where we’re supportive of our friends, where there’s no light between our closest allies [bold mine-DL], like Israel, like our neighborhood, like NATO.

Bush is hardly the only hawk to favor this approach to managing relations with allies and clients, but I believe he is the first would-be candidate of this cycle to put things in these terms so far. The idea that there should be “no light” between the U.S. and its allies and clients might be superficially appealing at first, but it doesn’t take much scrutiny to understand why this is an impossible and undesirable standard to have. First, U.S. interests and the interests of other states, even close allies, are bound to diverge some of the time. It is impossible to avoid some “light” to come between the U.S. and these other states, since no two states’ interests are ever in such perfect alignment. Because of this, it is extremely unhealthy and even dangerous to try to deny it when these interests diverge, since that will mean pursuing a policy that isn’t in the American interest or compelling an ally or client to pursue a policy that is not in theirs. That could lead the U.S. to take on unnecessary risks and costs in order to satisfy a client, or it could force an ally or client to follow the U.S. into an unnecessary war.

If the U.S. never allowed any “light” between it and its allies and clients, that would mean letting those allies and clients dictate what U.S. policy ought to be. We have seen in recent years how some allies and clients in Europe and the Near East would prefer U.S. policy to be more in line with their preferences, and then they whine about supposed neglect when the U.S. doesn’t do just what they want. American hawks are only too happy to bemoan the “betrayal” or “abandonment” of these states so long as it makes it easier to promote aggressive policies in these regions, and so they echo the complaints of allied and client governments that the administration has not been giving them enough “support,” which is to say that it has not been behaving exactly as those governments desire. Though he doesn’t say it in so many words, Bush sees no problem with letting U.S. policies be driven by what our allies and clients want us to do for them, and presumably that is what he would allow if he were president.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment

Latest Articles