What Allies Want: Reconsidering Loyalty, Reliability, and Alliance Interdependence

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    Leaders believe that if their state abandons one ally during a crisis, then their state's other allies will expect similar disloyalty in the future. Thus, a single instance of disloyalty can damage, or even destroy, alliances with other states. Because of this belief in interdependence—that developments in one alliance will also affect other alliances—the desire to demonstrate loyalty has exercised a tremendous influence on U.S. policy. But is indiscriminate loyalty what allies want? The First Taiwan Strait Crisis (1954-55) case study suggests that allies do not desire U.S. loyalty in all situations. Instead, they want the United States to be a reliable ally, posing no risk of abandonment or entrapment. In the First Taiwan Strait Crisis, several allies worried that U.S. loyalty to the Republic of China increased the risk of unwanted conºict, and as the crisis persisted, these allies sought to restrain the United States and thus reduce the likelihood of war. Although U.S. leaders were reluctant to coerce the Republic of China into backing down during this territorial dispute with the People's Republic of China, other U.S. allies actively encouraged such disloyalty. These findings have significance for theories of alliance politics and international reputation, as well as contemporary alliance management.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)45-83
    JournalInternational Security
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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