Image credit: Tom Page - Flickr, CC BY SA 2.0/

February 15, 2023

The Difference between an Ally and a Partner

By Rachel Tecott, Jason W. Davidson and Zuri Linetsky

“Allies and partners” are at the molten core of US defense strategy. The 2022 United States National Defense Strategy (NDS) uses the phrase “Allies and partners” 117 times and devotes an entire chapter to the imperative of “Anchoring our Strategy in Allies and Partners and Advancing Regional Goals.” It proclaims allies and partners a “center of gravity for this strategy.”

But what are allies and partners for exactly? And what is the United States trying to achieve through its alliances and partnerships?

Alliances and partnerships should not be treated as ends unto themselves. Washington should think carefully about the security goals It seeks to advance through its alliances and partnerships.

This is a gauche question in Washington, where allies especially have taken on religious valence (Close readers will note a quirk in the NDS text. “Allies” get a capital “A” to signal their pride of place in the hierarchy of US foreign policy relationships. Mere partners, in contrast, don’t get to be proper nouns). The value of US allies and partners is treated as self-evident, something too obvious to question. This is problematic because it creates an intellectual fuzziness conducive to goal displacement.

Read the full article from Inkstick.

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