The Skeptics

America: Thug for Hire

The United States once aspired to be a shining city upon a hill, an example to the world. What an example it has become. Today Washington is the place for other governments to go when they want a competitor roughed up. No one wants to do the dirty work themselves. Instead, they ask the United States to bomb, invade and/or occupy their adversary. At least, that’s what the WikiLeaks cables suggest.

Allies Incur Dubious Risks to Gain Washington’s Favor

During my recent conversations in Athens with Greek officials, it was apparent that they were extremely anxious to demonstrate their country’s valuable contributions to the policy objectives of the United States and NATO. In particular, several people stressed the importance of the large Greek air and naval bases at Souda Bay, on the island of Crete. And they had a point, since U.S. and other NATO forces have access to those installations. Souda Bay has played a crucial logistical role in numerous missions, including the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990s and the current U.S. operation in Iraq.

Indeed, when the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton considered which NATO military bases could be closed once the Cold War ended, a top Pentagon official reportedly stated that he could live with most possible closures—as long as budget cutters kept their hands off Souda Bay.

The desire of the Greek government to emphasize the value of that facility--and other contributions to Western strategic goals--is understandable. In particular, officials fret that Washington persistently regards Turkey as a more important ally. They want to make the case that Greece is also important, and that it is more reliable than Turkey. Given Ankara’s sometimes maverick behavior, such as the recent opposition to new economic sanctions against Iran, Athens is gaining some traction with that argument.

Is Everything Good for the U.S. Good for Georgia, and Vice Versa?

One of the tropes of the Washington foreign-policy commentariat that I, and I imagine other realists, find most vexing is the tendency to assume that All Good Things Go Together. What is good for Washington is also good, by definition, for all of Washington’s allies, for the spread of freedom, economic growth, and democracy throughout the world, and for a variety of other purposes.

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