Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Be Careful in How You Use Language
We need to be careful. Last time I checked, we had no binding treaty with Kyrgyzstan, a defense pact, mutual assistance accord, etc. We had and still have until it is terminated an agreement for the lease of a base and for associated rights to move personnel and equipment.
"Ally" is a strong word. Many in Georgia heard Americans throw that word around and assumed that when push came to shove with Russia, they would have the support of their American "ally." It didn't happen.
We have the equivalent these days of grade inflation in diplomacy. Everyone is now a "strategic partner" of the United States so to distinguish "partners" we start throwing the term "ally" around to signify a greater level of cooperation.
We have to go back to being crystal clear. An "ally" for America is a country that has a treaty relationship with us--either via an organization (NATO) or via a bilateral pact (Japan). Perhaps other states can be termed "associates" of America--and perhaps this is the better term for Kyrgyzstan vis-a-vis our efforts in Afghanistan. But don't throw the word "ally" around lightly--and certainly not in Eurasia.
The world is changing. This change could be extremely hard for us if we continue with our superciliousness.
Regarding the possibility to mislead, I think the choice of partners is probably more important than the choice of language. Saakashvili's government wanted to be misled so much that Americans would probably need to avoid showing up in any vicinity of the country and prohibit using its name in order to prevent being wrongly interpreted.