Recently, an open mic caught French President Nicolas Sarkozy and American President Barack Obama jointly trashing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Sarkozy scoffed, "I cannot stand him. He's a liar." Obama trumped that with, "You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day."
In one of the most bizarre op-eds published by the New York Times in recent memory, Paul Kane suggested that the United States could literally sell out its support for democratic Taiwan for about a $1 trillion. He argued that the Chinese might be so thankful to us for letting them get their hands on the island that they might forgive much of what we owe them.
So why does the United States take risks in guaranteeing the security of countries such as Israel and Taiwan? Surely the smart money -- and most of the world -- bets on its richer enemies. The Arab Middle East has oil, hundreds of millions of people and lots of dangerous radical Islamic terrorists. China is more than 1 billion strong, with the fastest-growing economy in the world.
But President Obama should remember that America does not think solely in terms of national advantage. In fact, only the United States seems to have an affinity for protecting tiny, vulnerable countries. In two wars, and more than 12 years of no-fly zones in Iraq, America saved the Kurds from a genocidal Saddam Hussein.
Greece today has few friends. Its northern European creditors are furious with its profligacy and duplicity. Nearby, an ascendant Turkey is flexing its muscles over occupied Cyprus and new finds of gas and oil in the Aegean and eastern Mediterranean. In short, a bankrupt Greece of only 11 million people, residing in one of history's most dangerous neighborhoods, has few strong friends other than the United States. The same is true of Christian Armenia, which likewise is relatively small and near to historical enemies in Turkey and Russia.