Allies and Interests: A Test to Determine Who's an Ally


Jul 7, 2004

This commentary originally appeared in International Herald Tribune on July 7, 2004.

In the mid-19th century, the foreign minister (and future prime minister) of Britain, Lord Palmerston, famously asserted that "we have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies," and that Britain's interests "are eternal and perpetual."

To make Palmerston's proposition relevant to the United States today requires a modest adjustment and some elaboration. Changing circumstances can change national interests — progress in weapons technology as well as in the techniques of terrorism, for example, have altered America's vital interests. In the 21st century, for example, these interests include preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially among terrorists...

Charles Wolf Jr. is a corporate fellow in international economics at the RAND Corp. and a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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