U.S. Must 'Ally-shore' to Reassure Partners, Reassert Power of Democracies | Opinion

When we first introduced "ally-shoring" in Newsweek (seizing on then-USAID deputy administrator Bonnie Glick's phraseology) as the most powerful path to rewire COVID-disrupted supply chains, it was in part due to anxiety that "onshoring" would carry the day. So many domestic leaders were trumpeting the need to make all our critical products and supplies in America, that we felt compelled to point out how impractical—and even counter-productive to our own economic health and the political health of the U.S.-led Western alliance—the narrow insistence on onshoring was. This does not mean that we should shy away from onshoring wherever it makes economic and security sense, but let's recognize that our global trading alliances with the right partners are a source of shared strength, security and resilience.

By leaning into what is, in essence, a highly machined, highly efficient global co-production system—but doing so with those countries that share our values and strategically ending overreliance on regimes that seek to harm us—ally-shoring meets more robust and interlaced economic, foreign policy and national security goals. It also offers a specific program to engage allies and demonstrate that by working together, democracies can trump authoritarian models of extraction, opacity and dependency-building like China's Belt and Road initiative.

We are delighted that ally-shoring was not only picked up, but explicitly named as a preferred path both in President Joe Biden's critical supply chain review and among a growing cadre of international political, business and thought leaders.

The messy exit from Afghanistan has thrown a spanner in the works of the careful restoration of U.S. leadership and alliances President Biden worked so diligently to promote early this summer at the G-7, EU and NATO meetings (with the message "we are back"). The chaotic retreat and less than perfect coordination with our allies revived the worries about America's constancy as a partner and leader first raised during the Trump administration. Then another key ally, France, responded in fury to being blindsided by the U.K.-U.S.-Australia submarine deal.

Joe Biden UN speech
US President Joe Biden leaves after addressing the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly on September 21, 2021 in New York. Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images

Now more than ever, it is time to demonstrate U.S. leadership and resolve by making ally-shoring a centerpiece of the president's upcoming democracy summits. The White House can more explicitly offer U.S. commitment to other nations, and define what ally-shoring means in practice. Even in the case of Afghanistan, the U.S. should hold the Taliban accountable to a commitment to a rules-based order and inclusive government. International funding (now frozen) and even recognition as a government can be conditioned on Afghanistan participating in the global economy and community of nations, playing by our rules. And we need to be there to counter China's immediate offers of humanitarian and other aid. Even in the most difficult circumstances, an ally-shoring pathway is desirable and possible.

While speechwriters and diplomats can hone the language, the basic message from the U.S. to other countries should be this: "If you agree to support an open, rules-based international economic and political order, we will engage at a high level politically and economically. We will facilitate dialogue between our countries' business leadership (as we already did with Mexico)—to identify critical supply-chain reworks and co-production arrangements that can grow new businesses and provide jobs in both our countries. We will work with you to provide a counterweight and send a message to authoritarian regimes that we and our allies are serious about not only maintaining but reinvigorating an open, transparent, rules-based economic order. We will offer you a better alternative for development than the corrupting and dependency-building 'help' on offer from China."

So many issues, including the race for global technological leadership, are tied up in this contest, as former Senate Foreign Relations Committee adviser Jamil Jafer has rightly pointed out. The U.S. and President Biden need to move forward with some tangible programs and partnership-building, both to get off the ropes after the Afghanistan sucker punch, and to counter the aggressive moves and offers to countries from China.

For economic growth, international security, global political stability and the protection of our democracies—the time for ally-shoring is now!

Elaine Dezenski is a Senior Advisor at the Center on Economic and Financial Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Chief Growth Officer at Blank Slate Technologies. John Austin Directs the Michigan Economic Center and is a Nonresident Senior Fellow with the Brookings Institution and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.