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Alliances are No Longer Automatic
An Essay by NPR's Daniel Schorr

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Daniel Schorr
Daniel Schorr

Nov. 1, 2001 -- Before Sept. 11, the Bush administration was ready to break out of the ABM Treaty, and Russia and China were ganging up to prevent that. Now the American government is holding up on anti-missile tests that might violate the treaty, and appears to be headed for an agreement with Russia that would permit missile testing. Less important than the terms of the deal is the determination on both sides to make the deal.

Now, as in the past, a war is leading to a realignment of international relationships. World War I gave us the Wilsonian principle, drawing a line at democracy. That foundered with the fascist Italian invasion of Ethiopia and the Spanish civil war. World War II was followed by the drawing of a communist/anti-communist line that gave us the Cold War, stretching from a coup in Guatemala to a “hot” war in Vietnam.

"Now we are witnessing the early stages of a realignment around anti-terrorism. It's visible not only in a changing big-power relationship, it could be seen in the parade of government heads through the White House."

Danield Schorr

After the Gulf War, the mantra was stability. Human rights violations in Saudi Arabia were to be tolerated, Iran contained, and even Saddam Hussein allowed to stay in place.

Now we are witnessing the early stages of a realignment around anti-terrorism. It's visible not only in a changing big-power relationship, it could be seen in the parade of government heads through the White House. If today is Thursday, this must be Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel.

It is visible in changing attitudes toward the Middle East and Central Asia. Pakistan, valued as the staging area for the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, now raises concern because of its pro-Taliban leanings, even among some of its nuclear scientists. Saudi Arabia's long protection vying flirtation with Osama bin Laden no longer goes unmentioned. Iran, long a pariah state, is now getting transshipments of American winter wheat for Afghanistan. Yemen, Sudan and Libya seek better relations with the United States.

The changing pattern of America's international relationships is a work in progress. What seems clear is that alliances keyed to oil and ideology are no longer automatic in this time of terror.

Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst for NPR.