Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Allies versus “guarantors”

In his sad, wise, detailed chronicle of the fall of the Troisième république, William Shirer amply deliniates the hypocrisy and fecklessness of the French military high command, and much of the government as well.   In that, they are outdone only by the quite contemptible performance of the Belgians, both King and military.

But our point here is not to rake over those coals (though the lessons should be borne in mind, as the European Union shudders and cracks under the strain of the migrants crisis);  rather,  simply to cite therefrom, a useful and interesting terminological dichotomy, insufficiently in use in our day, between allies and guarantors:

The fact that Britain had sent the only army it had, and the French the best army it had, to help defend Belgium, did not seem to mean to him [King Leopold] that Belgium owed anything to them.  As the Belgian writer Marcel Thiry later pointed out,
The thought of the King was that, even after the violation of our tettitory, we had no allies but merely guarantors.  This was much more than a nuance:  with allies, you make war to the end, cost what it may;  guarantors, on the other hand, have the unilateral obligation to aid you by all their means, without you assuming any obligations toward them.
-- Wm Shirer, The Collapse of the Third Republic (1969), p. 696

The distinction regains point during the current going pageant on in Washington, in which Obama and Netanyahu put on a pantomime of their respective countries being “allies”.
The United States and Israel are not allies -- never have been.  Rather, the U.S. is Israel’s guarantor.  And perhaps that’s a good thing, perhaps an excellent thing -- to taste;  but no-one should form any illusion that the relationship is reciprocal.  (It is what the French call a contrat léonin.)

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

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