I've been combing through the GOP debates and candidate speeches looking for the word "ally." There's a lot about adversaries -- Iranians, Chinese, Russians, Islamists, jihadists, even Venezuelans -- but not a lot on the other side of the ledger. Much of it takes the following form: "Israel is our greatest ally" -- Michele Bachmann. Or: "You don't allow an inch of space to exist between you and your friends and allies." This from Mitt Romney, who went on to accuse President Barack Obama of -- surprise! -- throwing Israel "under the bus" by publicly criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, Romney also accuses Obama of betraying U.S. allies Poland and Colombia.
Is it a coincidence that the Republican candidates identify as allies the very few countries whose citizens just might vote for one of them if given the chance? Did I mention that Rick Perry has accused the Obama administration of selling Taiwan down the river? If only Newt Gingrich could come to the defense of plucky, supercapitalist Georgia, the candidates could assemble a complete list of right-leaning nations. It's as if they map America's own ideological divisions onto the world, dividing the globe into red and blue countries -- six or seven on the good side and the other 185 or so on the bad.
Perhaps this also explains Romney's strange allergy to Western Europe. You would think that the two and a half years Romney spent in France working as a Mormon missionary -- enough to fake his way through the language -- would predispose him on the continent's behalf. Of course, given the religious obligation to abstain from pretty much every fun thing Europe had to offer, he may have had a lousy time; maybe he even blamed it on the Europeans. He certainly has nothing good to say about the place.
"Europe," for Romney, does not conjure up the United States' steadfast allies in World War II and the Cold War, or even the cultural category known as "the West," but rather a failed economic model that deluded liberals continue to pursue. In the speech announcing his candidacy, he asserted that Obama "seems to take his inspiration not from the small towns and villages of New Hampshire but from the capitals of Europe" -- and we know what color that continent is.
Let us concede, for a moment, Romney's bizarre premise that Western Europe doesn't share America's values, even if that's where those values came from in the first place. An ally is not a country that shares your values, but a country that shares your interests. The two categories overlap plenty, of course, because values play a powerful role in shaping a country's interests abroad. NATO is an alliance of democratic nations born in the great moral, political, and military struggle against Soviet communism. But when President Harry Truman famously declared that the United States would "support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures" -- the Truman Doctrine -- he was talking about Greece and Turkey, countries that were not then democratic but were prepared to resist Soviet expansion.