Reassurance Kills Burden-Sharing
The U.S. cultivates allied dependence and then hawkish policymakers will cite that dependence as proof of America’s “indispensability.”
Justin Logan makes an important point about allied burden-sharing, or rather the lack of it:
As the United States rallies around the Chinese challenge, U.S. allies and partners in Asia are busily sitting on their hands. Japan, Taiwan, and other allies and partners have barely increased their defense exertions as a percentage of economic output. This suggests one or both of two possibilities: either these nations do not see Chinese power as being as dangerous as policymakers in Washington do, or else they are certain that the United States will defend them. Either possibility is bad, and their combination would be worse. No U.S. ally in Asia spends as much of its wealth on defense as the United States does. This reflects the enduring pathology of the U.S. alliance system in Asia. Asian states threatened by China should be spending more on defense than the United States does. That they are not suggests a conviction that U.S. citizens will handle their defense for them [bold mine-DL]. This is a bad deal for the United States, and it squanders the country’s national advantages.
One of the recurring problems for the U.S. is that it has proven itself to be such a reliable ally and protector that the states that benefit from this take it for granted that the U.S. will always be willing and able to fill this role. For all of the constant worrying in Washington about diminishing credibility with allies and clients, the truth is that allies and clients are far too comfortable with and certain of U.S. commitments. U.S. allies and clients are so confident of Washington’s support that they do too little to provide for their own security on the assumption that the U.S. will make up the difference, and our policymakers and politicians do nothing to discourage them from believing this.