May 2008

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"Are not trying to control the same limited natural resources."

Find me two non-third-world countries with economies that are not run almost exclusively on oil. For this reason alone, all major powers will eventually become enemies as oil supplies dwindle. Fear the future.

"Do not share a border"

In fact, sharing a border is a usually an incentive to get along. After all, who wants a murderous enemy bumping up against your land? It's easier to demonize an evil empire when it's on the other side of the world.

Sorry, I think "half-baked" is the best description of your theory.

Bruce Harrison

Interesting post, Scott. I think it overlooks some things that are contrary to your theory, however.

First off, as George Washington once said, countries always operate in their own self-interest. To think otherwise, said Washington, is naive. So the natual allies theory holds when your own national self-interest is served by being allies with the other, and by competition up to and including war when it doesn't.

Where our liberal pals get confused is in failing to realize this fact. They think that if the US unilaterally puts aside its self-interest in favor of something like John Kerry's "Global Test," then everyone else will do the same. If we refuse to fight them, the thinking goes, they'll stop fighting us.

Doubtful. This is like telling a woman that the best way to make a rapist stop raping is for her to give in to him. It doesn't work that way; a man doesn't rape a woman for sex, he does it for power. Ask any feminist. Giving a rapist sex will not stop him from raping, and giving in to the demands of terrorists will not make them stop being terrorists. As Ronald Reagan once said, it's easy to have peace; you can have it today. All you have to do is surrender. For me, that is not an option.

Now, you might point to the old (well, not so old) saying that there has never been a war between two countries who both had a McDonald's. This implies (your point #3) that economic interconnections lead to alliances. Perhaps, but that only lasts until one side decides they can find a way to take what the other side has, rather than pay for it.

Your points #4 and 5 indicate that you may not realize how the terrorist Jini got out of the bottle. Saudi Arabia is, basically, a dictatorship under siege by a bunch of religious fanatics. It's response to stay in power has been to fund the Madrossas, hate-filled "Islamic" schools that preach jihad. They have also provided funding for terrorists. At the same time, they are absolutely dependent on the industrialized nations needing their oil, and to some extent on the US military to maintain their power structure (Saddam's next target after Kuwait was Saudi Arabia).

So to stay in power, they make deals with the devil. They give money to the Mullahs, and allow the "Religious Police" to patrol their streets and whip women for not covering their heads, or for wearing lipstick. They allow families to murder their female children for having sex, and punish women who report a rape by imprisioning them, beating them or in some cases killing them.

Congress between nations is a complex, many-faceted crystal, Scott. Simple platitudes that ignore the fact that there are truly evil, power-mad people in the world does not go very far toward "world peace." Supposed five-point solutions that ignore those complexities and facts may make you feel good, but will have about as much effect as standing in front of a rabid dog and asking it to stop charging you because you truly believe it would be better for it to do so.

But I really appreciate posts like this one, Scott. It lets me provide a counterpoint to your proposals that I think might be enlightening, so keep it up. And have a Happy New Year.


I'm not a political expert, but I think any country of the British Commonwealth are allies. But does it really have a meaning since there a no real colonies now?
Canada has Great Britain and France as allies since they where the two countries who colonized it.
Would that kind of link be a good reason: a former colony?


hmmm, but we both seem to be competing for OIL, that's why we went into that region in the first place


havabun! [+]


Some points of your theory have real-life example that contradict it. For example, the USA and Canada seem to be allies and they share the longest unguarded border in the world. Spain and France also seem to have had a relatively peaceful alliance for many a few centuries.

Sometimes a good ally is one that has your back (think of the end of the movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith).

Alliances are usually formed for mutual protection.

Backpacking on Little Money

This is journalism at its best. Or better yet . . . these new pre-2008 well penned DilbertBlog posts are "Friggin' cool!" I'll vote for Scott for president anytime.

jerry w.

Who wrote this and what have you done with Scott Adams?

Scott, if you can read this, don't sign off on the anal probe agreement!

At least not until you can verify the size of the probe.

Remember, feeling a hand on each of your shoulders is not a good thing.


The US and Canada seem to be allies, but fail on #'s 1,4, &5.


I think terms such as "natural ally" are dangerous. Humans, for the most part, are illogical, unreasonable creatures who are easily influenced through linguistic manipulation. If a government announces to its citizens that they have natural allies, it's a short step away from telling them that they have natural enemies, too.

"Of course we're allies with _______. We have always been their natural allies; they share our interests, and are our friends. And we have always been the natural enemy of _______; they do not share our interests, and commit unforgivable acts."

Switch "Eastasia" and "Eurasia" into the blanks (the order, of course, does not matter), and you have an Orwellian nightmare.

Captain Obvious

Um, Iran arguably fails the "Neither has a political philosophy that promotes conquest" test. Something about wiping Israel off the map.


"Are not trying to control the same limited natural resources" - perhaps that is why Russia and US can't be allies. In a word 'oil'.


Ok, the US fails points 4 & 5 right off the bat.

4. Neither has a political philosophy that promotes conquest.
5. Both have an interest in a stable world order.

So the United States has NO natural allies?

Harry Buttle

The problem with the theory is that it ignores observed reality.

Look where most of the worlds problems are now - they are where Islam meets any other religion (or lack of religion).

The resource they are after is the world.

Andrew Denny

Never mind 'natural allies', what about 'family'?

I'm a Brit, so I consider myself a citizen of Anglo-Saxonia.

I'm often surprised at how much I find in common with so many countries.

Noah Vaile

Actually the USA and Iran as natural allies is the same as water and fire being natural allies. If you want to boil your food, say. But as for coexistence? Iran is a marginal theocracy bent on conquest of first its region for control of oil and then the world for its religion. It does not give a fig or ham hock for human rights up to and including life itself beyond the furthering of its ambitions. If two nations have diametrically opposed world views and ambitions there can be no more than the shortest term alliances between them, if those. I will settle for the foregoing and not analyze the two nations in terms of actual policies so as not to upset and drive to apoplexy your generally liberal left leaning blog readership.


2. Are not trying to control the same limited natural resources.

This one is pretty much out of the window for everyone since everyone wants oil. Remember when the U.S. got control of Iraq it canceled some of the existing oil contracts with Russia (and China)?

4. Neither has a political philosophy that promotes conquest.

This one probably doesn't apply to the U.S. as well.


Iran and the US were actual allies. Not terribly long ago either. Then the whole supporting a despot thing that caused the US to be viewed as the enemy. It's hard to get that toothpaste back in the tube.

pay attention

Anyone who assumes that people act rationally in foreign affairs is headed for trouble. No one in 1914 wanted war, even before they knew how bad it was going to be.

But German wanted a fleet to rival Britain's, for reasons mostly of pride. Britain wanted to have a fleet twice as large as any other countries, because as an island they could be cut off and destroyed by someone with as good a fleet. So the arm's race began, and then someone shot Bhutto, er, excuse me, the Crown Prince of Austria. And 20 million died.

Britain is our ally (or lapdog as one of your "It's so cool to hate my own country," posters said, because we have a common heritage and a common interest in keeping down anyone who wants to enforce their way of life on us, be that Nazis, Communists or radical Jihadists. Plus we have the fleet they can no longer afford.

Russia has always been expansionist, before the USSR (see "the Great Game") and now after. Something about warm water ports.

A large number of Muslims believe that the holy Qur'an requires them to subdue those of us in the dar al-Harb (the charmingly named "World of War, as opposed to the Dar al-Islam, the World of Islam)until we are dead, convert to Islam, or pay the jizya like good, subservient dhimmis. Until Islam becomes a modern, as opposed to a 6th century religion, we will never be "natural allies," though we may at times have common interests. Since any attempt to update Islam is apostasy, punishable by death, that's not likely to happen while we live. We will only be natural allies when most Muslims accept the right of other folks to worship, speak, make films critical of Islam, and even draw cartoons as they please, without the threat of violence.


As far as governments go, most governments are in about 90% agreement as to their duties and responsibilities. Some citizens need help, the government usually pitches in to one degree or another to help. Some people/industries are extraordinarily profitable, and the government generally takes a cut of their action to help out those who need the help.

Then, there's the regulation issue, whose car is that, who owns what, and keeping the books straight.

Then, there's law enforcement, and most countries agree that stealing is bad and killing is worse, etc., and have police to catch the lawbreakers and courts to judge them and prisons to punish them.

Mail has to get delivered, trash has to be collected, clean water distributed, sewage kept out of the drinking water, roads built and maintained...

All this stuff is pretty much overhead, and almost every government has the same sort of structures in-place to provide the infrastructure.

All the administration of these functions (at-present) are accomplished by civil servants (who need to be carefully watched to make sure that they aren't taking bribes). It's all overhead, and that detracts from a government's revenues, precluding them from spending that money on things that need upgrades, like hospitals or irrigation programs.

My suggestion is this: Hire a software company to create a wide-area-network application that handles the administrivia. You can put a skeleton-government on a half-dozen CDs. When a country's leadership begs us to kick their butts, like Iraq did, twice, depose the despots and install the software government. And leave as soon as it's up and running. This would take a lot less time than arranging a democracy from the ruins of a destroyed country, and it's hard to get people too riled up over what number should be in which line of code.

The threat of being replaceable with a set of CDs should help keep the hotheads from declaring war on us. Everything is going software/computers/internet-applications, and governments are prime candidates for automation. Every bureaucrat can be replaced with a few lines of code.

It should be noted that from a citizen's standpoint, there's very little difference between a capitalist government and a socialist government. It's mainly a matter of how much taxes you collect from the paychecks. In a capitalist society, we get to keep more of what we earn than in a socialist society, where everything's already been subtracted out. One set of code could embody both systems, and people could vote on the parameters that make the system more capitalist or more communist. They'll probably settle on something in between, like what we have here with a graduated tax and a welfare safety net.

At some point, the efficiency of the software-based government will become attractive, and people will want their own non-software governments to become more streamlined like their software-governed neighbors. Good governments will eventually become software-like, bad governments will have it imposed on them.

Then, all that's left is the irrational aspects of culture and religion, like hanging a 16-year-old girl for losing her virginity prior to marriage, like Iran did in 2004.

Natural allies need to have certain cultural similarities in order to make your idea really work.

Michael Casey

Scott, do you realize that you have random women (possibly men) named Kristyn professing their love for you? If you feel the need to also achieve world peace in this lifetime (much less year), you're one ambitious motherfucker.

Rock on.

Then again, maybe "Kristyn" is your wife helping her hubbie raise the comment count on his Stick to Writing Comedic Blogs, Monkey-Brain posts. Maybe this whole blog comment thing is just you and your wife writing fake comments on your posts and acting out the characters of your worldviews. That too sounds like fun.

Anyways, world peace. I think "natural allies" is a highly marketable label. The trick will be moving from "axis of evil" to "natural ally," because most Americans would not want to be natural allies of evil, especially an axis of it. However, the phrase natural allies has an advantage over "let's be friends" because it swaps the perspective of the situation, replacing the emphasis of morality with that of practicality. "Of course the Soviet Union is our ally! Those communist bastards hate Hitler too!" etc.

Most people say kiling is bad, but once you define a situation as "war," the badness of killing ceases to matter anymore because it's war. End of story. You've thought of a figure of speech that may just get that "end of story" switch to click in people's heads.

C'mon, peace!


World Peace? Good idea...
I fer one, 'preciate your efforts...


See Scott, the problem with your natural allies theory is that it doesn't account for religion, and that is necessary. Of course, with you not being a religious person you don't understand how important religion is.

I will now go and secretly pray that you'll be just like me :}


All countries are natural allies. It used to be that it would benefit a country to take over another country. Now the price of war is so high it is no longer economically feasible. The best way to greater wealth is to create it, not take it. Maybe in the future we will run out of something worth fighting for (water, oil, etc) but for now the best reason to attack another country is because the people there have a different imaginary friend than your people.

Mark Thorson

No, we're not natural allies
because Iran is mostly Shi'a
and the rest of the Muslim
world is mostly Sunni,
including our closest Muslim
allies in the region, Saudi
Arabia and Egypt. We need to
stay on favorable terms with
the Sunnis a lot more than we
need to talk to the Shi'a.

This isn't so important now,
but once the Great Sunni/Shi'a
War gets going, our alliances
will be of utmost importance.

That doesn't mean we won't
sell weapons to both sides,
of course, as we did during
the Iran/Iraq War. But in
the long run our important
alliances are with the Sunnis.

Also, note where Israel fits
in the picture. The Israel
lobby has a large influence
in U.S. foreign policy, and
they're getting ready to bomb
Iran. Not very likely that
they would be favor a US/Iran
alliance, or that Iran would
favor such an alliance after
being bombed. Iran is still
sore about the CIA overthrow
of the Mossadegh government
in 1953. C'mon guys! All
we did was overthrow your
government and install the
Shah. Get over it!

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