Why Do Hawks Hate Our Allies?

Following last week’s humiliating defeat over extending the arms embargo on Iran, Pompeo encountered more resistance when he illegitimately tried to invoke the so-called “snapback” provision contained in the Security Council resolution (UNSCR 2231) that endorsed the nuclear deal. He responded to this with his usual mix of condescension and disrespect:

Mr. Pompeo, sounding incredulous, again accused Iran of fomenting terrorism, destabilizing the Middle East and trying to hide its nuclear and weapons programs from international inspectors. But he directed some of his harshest words toward diplomats from Britain, France and Germany, whom he said “chose to side with ayatollahs.”

Pompeo’s accusation is nonsense, but his decision to present the allies’ actions as treachery was significant. According to the standard hawkish view, allies are supposed to do Washington’s bidding, and when they refuse to go along with a U.S. plan because it is contrary to their interests or simply deranged they are charged with joining the “other” side. Meanwhile, the U.S. is free to breach agreements that it has made, make threats, and even impose penalties on the allies when it pleases this or that president to do so. If the allies object to this poor treatment, they are subject to ridicule, insults, and sometimes even retaliation.

The rift between the U.S. and its allies over the decision to renege on the nuclear deal stems from the willingness of hawks to betray the allies when it suited them, and it has been widened by their insistence on berating and lecturing the allies they betrayed over the allies’ supposed lack of loyalty. Like Trump’s one-way understanding of loyalty, hawks understand allied solidarity as running in only one direction. Very much like the Bush administration’s reaction to European opposition to the Iraq war, the Trump administration’s reaction to European opposition to their Iran obsession comes from the belief that allies should behave like vassals and should never challenge what the hegemon wants, no matter how insane it is.

In both of these cases, our allies have done us a favor in warning against terrible policies that would be harmful to the U.S. and international security. They were acting in their own interests, but they were also seeking to steer our government away from going over a cliff. They were seeking to prevent the U.S. from betraying itself through its own self-destructive behavior. If our allies really did want to harm us, they would stand aside quietly while our government jumped into the abyss. Hawks don’t understand this, and instead they hate our allies for pointing out how reckless and incompetent the hawks are.

Insofar as the U.S. seeks to “lead” in the world, smart leadership requires listening and paying attention to what others are telling you about your decisions. When so many allies are sounding the alarm and telling you to stop and reverse course, it is not because they have switched “sides,” but because you have lost your way so badly that you are liable to lead everyone into a disaster. It is typical of poor, arrogant leaders like Pompeo that they respond to this angrily and blunder ahead stupidly anyway. This is what comes of a U.S. foreign policy driven by self-righteous pride and contempt for the views of everyone else.