It is time to rethink both the purposes of U.S.-alliance relationships and the character of the partners the United States needs in order to address the threats of a new international environment. The unity of the West in the face of collective dangers can no longer be taken for granted. The United States needs to consider a major revision in its security strategy that takes into account the limits of current alliances and the need to create relationships with allies of the future.
In addressing the questions of the future of alliance relationships and the desirable characteristics of future allies, it is important to recognize that there are limits to the extent current and prospective allies can or cannot collaborate with the United States. It appears that many traditional allies have neither the capability nor the will to act as full partners with the United States in countering the new threats to global security. This does not mean that they are of no value as allies or coalition partners. Rather, the changing locus of 21st Century threats and new political and decision- making forces means that there will be real limits on how and when other count ries will act in concert with the United States.
The criteria by which the United States judges the value of its current relationships and assesses the virtues of potential allies has changed with the end of the Cold war and the rise of new threats. What the United States prizes most in its allies, current or future, is not obeisance, nor even simple deference. It does not seek the inevitable lowest-common-denominator consensus that arises from alliance structures directed more at preserving an internal balance of power among the members than achieving common purposes. Rather, it is their consent, freely given, to join with America in the pursuit of common security objectives. This collaboration must derive first from a common view of the threat, and second from an agreement on a strategy by which to address that threat.
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