2011/02/05

Alliances and guarantee of independence (II)

.
Years ago I wrote just for myself a list of restrictions for national security-related foreign policy that should be observed in order to prevent the repetition of severe mistakes. I wrote it in the style of 22 constitution articles (just for fun).

It was interesting to re-read this old document; I felt almost no need for changes.

One of these rules was that no guarantees of sovereignty should be given except to states which were demilitarised.

Why should any nation feel that it's a good idea to guarantee another nation's sovereignty if said other nation isn't ready to return the favour (thus establishing a proper, formal defensive alliance)?

One motivation that I can think of is the intent to use this to become involved in a conflict. That's what warmongers do.
Another motivation could be a missionary desire to establish world peace by deterring potential aggressors. On the other hand - why not ratify a real alliance in this case? The guarantee of sovereignty already includes all disadvantages of a defensive alliance.
NĂºmero tres finally could be a guarantee of sovereignty to a state that's not really threatened by a third nation, but needs to be convinced that ours is no threat. Italy can easily guarantee the sovereignty of San Marino and South Africa can easily guarantee the sovereignty of Lesotho without any disadvantage, for example.

Such guarantees of independence are in fact unidirectional alliances; one power pledges to defend another without getting the other's pledge in return. This does usually not make sense in a national security context for it could draw the protecting country into an otherwise avoidable conflict, but it makes a lot of sense in a "let's meddle in distant regions' affairs" policy.

In other words: I'd never advise to offer guarantee of sovereignty to another state except in rare and very special circumstances. One such exception would be if a small country saves the expense of a military which would be ineffective anyway and becomes demilitarised. It makes sense for France to protect Monaco and Andorra, for Italy to protect San Marino, for the U.S. to protect Costa Rica. Many small countries would be well-advised to maintain combat proficiency only in a Gendarmerie.

S O

PS: Part I
.

6 comments:

  1. Security guarantees could only work with severe restrictions of the foreign policy of that "protected" country. That's called a protectorate.

    The only construction I could accept security guarantees is when a group of nation states guarantee each other's security. And the logical end point of such a development are supranational troops, with the nation states only providing the financial resources. Which, of course doesn't mean that these "Reichstruppen" are exclusive, as the contributing members could (and probably should) maintain a militia.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Why should any nation feel that it's a good idea to guarantee another nation's sovereignty if said other nation isn't ready to return the favour (thus establishing a proper, formal defensive alliance)?"

    Idealogicaly, it shouldnt, pragmaticaly, because it makes sense.

    The US guarenteed (and still does) the independance of a great many states, simply because its in its interests.
    If Western Europe had fallen under Soviet Dominion, The US would at best have been ground down as well. The US couldnt hold middle east oil if it was based in Australia.
    The unified Americas couldnt hope to stand against everything else.

    The UK always backed the weakest in Franco/German Wars for much the same reason

    ReplyDelete
  3. TRT, you mix up alliances and guarantees of independence. The U.S. was and is allied with European countries, it's not a one-sided affair.
    Many of their guarantees don't look wise to me -exactly because they are not mutual.

    Likewise, English balance of power was about alliances, not about long-standing guarantees.
    The one I remember (Belgium 1839) pulled the UK into the ruinous experience of the First World War.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sven
    "The U.S. was and is allied with European countries, it's not a one-sided affair."
    Who exactly threatens the US in the Northern Atlantic?
    Iceland? Pharo? UK?
    We promise not to be conquered by Russians as long as the US promises not to let us be conquered by Russians.
    Its a guarentee of Independance, dressed up as an alliance of equals.

    "The one I remember (Belgium 1839) pulled the UK into the ruinous experience of the First World War."
    But had we not fought, France would likely have capitulated in 1914, it certainly would have during the mutiny of 1916.

    That would have left Germany in command of almost all of Europes heavy industry west of Moscow, not to mention vast swarthes of its population.
    It would still lack ocean access, but would have the resources to overwhelm the Royal Navy in the 1930 Anglo-Prussian War.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Alternate history is not fit for debate.

    The Belgium guarantee example shows how such a guarantee can lead to disastrous unintended consequences.

    The Americans certainly felt threatened by the Soviets, and by the Soviet fleet (the huge Soviet SSK fleet of the 1950's is mostly forgotten now).
    NATO is furthermore clearly a two-way alliance. The Cuban Crisis could have pulled us into WW3, while a unidirectional guarantee of sovereignty would not.

    ReplyDelete
  6. SO
    Belgium wasnt unintended. It was absolutly intention.
    It was an excuse to get involved, not a reason.
    The reason was exactly as I said, a unified Europe was a threat to UK security, and had been considered such for several hundred years.

    If we didnt fancy it, we could have stood out, its what the Germans were expecting.
    What would a conquered Belgium have done?
    Phoned the World Police?

    ReplyDelete

Use a nickname and stick to it! I may block anonymous comments. Offensive comments may also be blocked, in part due to the duties of a blogger in Germany.