The Importance of Allies

By | September 6, 2019

[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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Draw upon preexisting, 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “The Importance of Allies

  1. Georgie B.

    Somehow missed this article. I just wanted to note that this idea of the importance of allies is really based in the basic human need for companionship. Our larger organizations are a reflection of our needs at the individual level. Just my thinking out loud.

  2. Dale Paul Fox

    This idea should be common sensical but it is not. Too many folks want to go it alone. That does not work out very well.

    1. Doc Blackshear

      I was thinking the same thing. This should be obvious. But ‘obvious’ has to do with experience and training. Most people these days have little of it. Just look at the administrators at our Universities and you can see a complete lack of commonsense.

  3. Karl J.

    Hi everyone, I’m new to this leadership blog and I see there is a very active comment section. I hope to make a future intelligent (and not embarrassing comment at some point). I’m from Toronto Canada, married, and work in the government (please don’t laugh). Good day!

    1. Kenny Foster

      Welcome Karl. We are happy to have here, anyone that can make an intelligent contribution. So far we have a great group of people from all walks of life that give different perspectives on leadership. Good to have you on with us.

  4. Lynn Pitts

    #2 “Changes in the dynamics of those not in the alliance” is an interesting item. For one, I never thought of it. Of course, it makes sense when you put it up for us. Perhaps another blog post in the future that deals with this item alone. I would be most interested in how senior leaders function, especially when alliances are in a state of flux or when a “coalition” (like a temporary alliance) is created.

    1. Albert Ayer

      Yes! The dynamic of coalitions and alliances would be a great topic. I’ll throw my hat in the ring for this topic too.

  5. Eric Coda

    I have to admit that I never thought of “allies” this way before today. Good education on this type of leadership helps me understand better the dynamics of international relations. 😊😊

  6. Wilson Cox

    Gen. Satterfield, I am looking forward to your next article that deals with the DISADVANTAGES of allies. I can see plenty of them … like slow decision making processes in war that worked well in peace. Great job with your leadership blog. Keep these articles coming our way. Oh, and the guest bloggers do a good job but we like your articles much better.

  7. Crazy Dude

    Wow, another great article to start my morning. I also like – being a new guy here on this website – the comment section that really gives me some good ideas and helps often clarify.

    1. ZB22

      Yes, Crazy Dude (wild name). I am too a ‘newbee’ to Gen Satterfield’s leadership blog and reading backwards to some of his old articles, I found them extremely educational. I can even see his style changes over time. His storytelling is getting better.

      1. Tracey Brockman

        Good to have you both on this site. We are always looking for new people to help pass the word on what REAL LEADERSHIP is all about. Leadership is not about doing stupid stuff for yourself but for everyone.

  8. Delf "Jelly" Bryce

    Allies are formed in all spheres of life. For example, the FBI, CIA, and DIA come together frequently to share info on certain types of criminals. Now that legal barriers have mostly been removed and oversight insured, we are sharing things and communicating than ever before. Very good article that applies far beyond nation states.

    1. Scotty Bush

      Hi Jelly. We haven’t heard from you in a long time. All the best to you and your family. Any time you want to make a comment, you have plenty of fans here that want to hear what you have to say. Also, if you want to write an article for Gen. Satterfield’s blog, please do so.

  9. Doug Smith

    Agreed. Whether in peace or war, family or friends, work or play, allies (of all sorts) will always be needed for these reasons.

    1. Ronny Fisher

      This why we are wired thru biology to be social creatures. The loners are always the ones who perish.

    2. The Kid 1945

      We can never deny that allies are needed. That is what makes us human; whether learned or inborn behavior, we are creatures of an alliance structure through and through. Great article that hits home.

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