[September 6, 2019] “United we stand, divided we fall” is a common phrase meaning without each other we are condemned to fail. The consequence of the idea is strong; going back to before recorded human history and used in some form across all cultures and across all time. Based on this idea, formal relationships are created during peacetime between nations to gain an advantage; we refer to them as allies.
While this article is not about alliances among people, small groups, or companies, a common theme can be found. This is not a trivial difference. There is a school of thought that relationships among nations can mirror those formed over the history of humankind at the individual level.
We refer to state-level alliances as “strategic,” and the importance of having those allies is largely self-evident. What I would like to do here is articulate the major advantages. Disadvantages to allied relationships are not so obvious; I’ll spell them out in another article. Here are five of the more important advantages:
- Greater resources: There is strength in numbers. When faced with a threat, allies can mutually support one another by drawing upon the manpower, financial, diplomatic, and political strength of those they share interests. It is easier to share a burden when others help.
- Changes the dynamic of those not in the alliance: When nations ally with one another, those outside the alliance are immediately subject to a different calculus (usually negative) of international affairs. For example, those nations wishing to trade with others in an alliance will find themselves at a disadvantage because they will not enjoy beneficial trading-partner arrangements.
- Draw upon pre–existing, proven decision-making structures: Allied relationships are most frequently created during peacetime and are based upon mutual interests. These nations are able to share and improve upon their decision-making makeup by drawing upon the expertise of others. This serves allied nations in all aspects of national development; often in the military and economic sphere.
- Expertise in coordinated action: Being in an alliance is not easy. Although there are mutually shared interests, there are differences and with experience comes an ability to work through obstacles common in any relationship.
- Creates a greater mutual awareness of one another: Cultural awareness brings advantages in all areas of international relationships. What one nation may see as a problem that another has already developed a solution, workaround, or has an awareness that can be of value.
Nation-states have always formed alliances because they work. Not unlike having a friend, two or more is better than one.