I always teased my students with the notion of Canada being a great power. If so, then the concept of great power includes Canada, it has been stretched to the breaking point. For the concept to mean anything, it has to only include those that bear the characteristics that define the concept.
Why am I mentioning this today? Because in my twitter-feed, there was discussion that the Obama flight to Afghanistan is to lead to an agreement where Afghanistan is a "major non-NATO ally." The problem is that this category includes Australia, Japan, and South Korea that the US has sworn to defend and other significant allies that the US is supposed to help out (Israel, Pakistan). A pretty vague category I guess, but Afghanistan is not = Japan and almost certainly not = to Israel. Perhaps Pakistan is similar. When Pakistan gets involved in wars, we try to stop them. But we cannot rely on Pakistan when push comes to shove as it did a year ago today when the US violated the hell out of Pakistan's sovereignty by flying into the country and killing Osama Bin Laden.
So, perhaps Afghanistan fits the Pakistan category of unreliable ally that also cannot entirely count on the US. Which is distinct category from the Australia, Japan, South Korea category.
Thus, we must keep this agreement with Afghanistan in perspective. It comes far closer to the "pie crust promise" end than the "unbreakable vow" end of alliance spectrum.