Alliances, Coalitions, and Ententes

Warren F. Kimball

During the end of the 1990s, globalism for most Americans meant an exhilarating combination of political security and economic prosperity. The Cold War had dissipated, while wages and profits seemed on an endless uptick. Intervention in a new outbreak of the Balkan wars came in association with some of the major western European states and partly under the aegis of NATO, but the reaction against the U.S. bombing of Belgrade illustrated just how tenuous alliance policy really was. For the administration of President Bill Clinton and most Americans, globalism did not mean becoming the world's police officer, or even joining a police force with worldwide responsibilities. The United Nations was not an alliance.

But on 11 September 2001, globalism took on a new meaning. The suicide attacks by nineteen Muslim terrorists on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in the District of Columbia demonstrated that America's comfort zone, that sense of political security originally fostered by time and distance across oceans, no longer existed—not even as wishful thinking. The long-held belief in American invulnerability, enhanced by modern technology and dreams of Star War–like defenses that could not be breached, collapsed along with the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

The initial response by the administration of George W. Bush was to seek revenge under the guise of "infinite justice." But that quickly gave way to the realities of identifying, locating, and either capturing or executing those who planned the hijacking of the commercial aircraft that flew into the towers and the Pentagon and their use as fuel-laden missiles. The implications of what could appear to be a "crusade" against Islam, particularly for U.S. oil policy in the Middle East, had a chastening influence, and American opinion seemed to move slowly but firmly against rash action. The administration acknowledged the difficulties and began the process of preparing the public for a long-term "war against terrorism."

Diplomats, led by Secretary of State Colin Powell, fanned out around the globe in an attempt to persuade, cajole, and even bribe (with foreign aid) other states to join the war effort as allies. Two old Cold War alliances, NATO and ANZUS, each formally declared the terrorist actions an attack on the entire alliance—invoking for the first time the "an attack on one is an attack on all" clause in each treaty. Even France, seen so often as hypercritical of the United States, praised President Bush for acting in a measured, responsible fashion. The Russian Federation, with its own history of concern about Islamic political influence (Afghanistan, Chechnya), led the way for new partners in the alliance against terrorism. And the United Nations Security Council passed an emergency resolution mandating that all members assist in the international effort against such terrorist attacks. Even China agreed. Islamic nations likewise condemned the attacks but backed away from allowing the United States to launch military operations from their territory against terrorists, while in Indonesia and Pakistan there were organized public demonstrations against the United States. Clearly, nearly all states recognized that terrorism posed a deep and frightening threat to the nation-state. The immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks was history's most remarkable example of global cooperation. But for how long? During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood that the Soviet Union was indispensable to victory, but that alliance did not survive the end of the common crisis. How the United States came to the point of making its twenty-first-century decision on globalism is buried, but not hidden, in the past.


Barnet, Richard J., and Marcus G. Raskin. After 20 Years. New York, 1965. Argues that the alliance has outlived its usefulness and was, by the mid-1960s, contributing to increased world tension.

Beale, Howard K. Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power. Baltimore, 1956.

Coolidge, Archibald C. The United States as a World Power. New York, 1912.

DeConde, Alexander. Entangling Alliance. Durham, N.C., 1958. Investigates the French Alliance and its role in both foreign and domestic American politics during the 1790s.

——. The Quasi-War . New York, 1966.

Esthus, Raymond A. Theodore Roosevelt and Japan. Seattle, 1966.

——. Theodore Roosevelt and the International Rivalries. Waltham, Mass., 1970. Both Esthus works amply illustrate the president's search for closer relationships with the other world powers.

Gilbert, Felix. To the Farewell Address: Ideas of Early American Foreign Policy. Princeton, N.J., 1961. Stimulating group of essays that emphasize the intellectual and ideological attitudes of the Founders.

Goetzmann, William H. When the Eagle Screamed: The Romantic Horizon in American Expansionism, 1800–1860. New York, 2000. Short but stimulating essay dealing with nineteenth-century Anglo-American relations.

Goldgeier, James. Not Whether But When: The U.S. Decision to Enlarge NATO. Washington, D.C., 1999.

Graebner, Norman. "Northern Diplomacy and European Neutrality." In David Herbert Donald, ed. Why the North Won the Civil War. Baton Rouge, La., 1960.

Hinton, Harold C. Three and a Half Powers: The New Balance in Asia. Bloomington, Ind., 1975. Studies the Sino-Soviet rift as it relates to American foreign policy.

Iriye, Akira. After Imperialism: The Search for a New Order in the Far East, 1921–1931. Cambridge, Mass., 1965. Puts forth the concept of an informal system.

Kaplan, Lawrence S. Jefferson and France. New Haven, Conn., 1967. Imaginative discussion of Thomas Jefferson's willingness to consider alliances as well as his overall efforts to work within a world dominated by European power politics.

Kimball, Warren F. Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War. New York and London, 1997. Examines the wartime Anglo-American alliance.

Kissinger, Henry. The Troubled Partnership: A Reappraisal of the Atlantic Alliance. New York, 1965. Defends the continued utility of a revamped NATO and is helpful for understanding the later policies of the Nixon and Ford administrations.

Louis, William Roger, and Ronald Robinson. "The Imperialism of Decolonization." Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 22 (September 1994): 462–511. Discusses U.S. support for British military bases.

McNeill, William H. America, Britain, and Russia: Their Cooperation and Conflict, 1941–1946. London, 1953; New York, 1970. A remarkably perceptive study of the anti-Hitler coalition, only slightly outdated by the vast amount of documentation that has become available since it first appeared.

Neustadt, Richard E. Alliance Politics. New York, 1970.

Osgood, Robert E. NATO: The Entangling Alliance. Chicago, 1962. The standard historical study of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, although it must be supplemented by more recent studies.

Perkins, Bradford. Prologue to War: England and the United States, 1805–1812. Berkeley, Calif., 1961. Explains how the United States managed to enter the Napoleonic wars without joining either side.

Sherwood, Robert E. Roosevelt and Hopkins. New York, 1950. Perhaps the best study of Anglo-American relations during World War II.

Wolfers, Arnold, ed. Alliance Policy in the Cold War. Baltimore, 1959. Essays examining the broad sweep of alliance diplomacy.

See also Armed Neutralities ; Balance of Power ; Civil War Diplomacy ; Collective Security ; Consortia ; Containment ; Domino Theory ; Foreign Aid ; Internationalism ; International Organization ; Isolationism ; North Atlantic Treaty Organization ; Post–Cold War Policy ; Treaties .

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