The Value of Allies – It’s Personal | Charles Duelfer

The Value of Allies – It’s Personal

In his resignation letter, Secretary of Defense General Mattis called out the importance of Allies for US national security.  I expect his eloquent statement will be long-quoted by those involved in foreign policy.  But I bet it resonates even more with individuals who have  served the US in almost any capacity overseas–military, intelligence, diplomats, Peace Corps, USAID, etc.  It’s personal.

I’ve worked with the French in Chad, Brits various places, Aussies in Iraq, etc.  The value of having kindred spirits who can be called upon (or vice versa) when the unexpected happens is invaluable.  Out in the field, you need friends.  Whether its another embassy that can help or other views to inform decisions or reports.  The US and allies who share overarching principles are invaluable.  In a pinch they can save your life–and vice versa.

Remember the role Canada played in helping some of our embassy staff escape from Iran during the revolution.  They took a big risk.  There are lots of other examples–some will never be public.  Some probably never known at “policy levels” of either government.

If you have served the US abroad–it’s blindingly obvious allies are vital.

In Washington, perhaps other short term arguments may obscure fundamental points.  Mattis reminds us that alliances of governments who share long-standing ideals and principles are the core to international security.  Maybe we pay more in NATO, but don’t for a second think we don’t get a lot of benefit.  Sure we should argue for greater contributions when others begin to take things for granted.  But the benefit we get should be remembered.

Lost in the news yesterday was an example. The US Justice Department indicted two Chinese individuals for theft of data by hacking.  It would be meaningless but for the fact that several other countries stepped forward with similar steps.  We have been attacked for over a decade by the Chinese is this way.  We will need allies to effectively turn this around.

Maybe something good will come of Mattis’ resignation if it serves to remind everyone of the elemental need to have as many on this planet who share our common ideals.  For those who have served abroad, its also personal and obvious.

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