America and Her Allies: A Parable for Our Times

For several years, my family and I used to summer in the mountain hamlet of the small Greek island of Alonissos, where we had rented a house near the single village restaurant, run by a plump, bustling woman who went by the nickname of Kyratsoula. We and a couple of friends were generally her only customers until the brief tourist season arrived, when all nine outdoor tables would be occupied by a gaggle of passers-through. One memorable evening at the height of the season, a flustered Kyratsoula knocked on our door, explained she was behind schedule, and asked to borrow a potato peeler which she could use to prepare the supper fries rather than the standard, dull, slow-working knife. As we were about to leave for the restaurant ourselves, we brought the coveted implement with us, took our usual table, and ordered several plates of fries to accompany the meal, expecting to be served quickly since it was still early and we were the only ones there.

But within the next ten or fifteen minutes, the terrace had filled up, and one table after another was gradually festooned with heaping plates of French fries. An hour elapsed and still our meal had not appeared. More time passed, and both our kids were by now asleep on the banquette. We were in fact the last table to be served. Since we were long residents on the island, had known Kyratsoula for two or three years, were her steadiest clients, and had also provided the potato peeler—that is, since we were friends—we could be safely ignored and treated like interlopers, our hunger subordinated to the appetites  of strangers who would be gone tomorrow. After all, according to this way of thinking, what are friends for but to be scanted, exploited or abused?

Mutatis mutandis, this just about sums up the nature of American foreign policy on the world stage today. A Kyratsoulan America under the stewardship of Barack Obama practices outreach to non-client nations while, in the words of Richard Fernandez, “slapping around” friends and allies -- Poland, the Czech Republic, Honduras, Columbia and, most emphatically, Israel.