With Friends Like These

"It is better to make friends than enemies."

This statement is presented as axiomatic in a blog post at the Agonist, seemingly in reference to the recent US attacks in Pakistan, although it never mentions it by name, except in the category tags.

Despite the seeming obviousness of this rule, the author admits that much human behavior seems to contravene it:

"And yet, collectively our species seems to have missed this simple, obvious bit of common sense all throughout history. Go back as far as you want in chiseled rock or scraps of papyrus and you'll find evidence of kings and warlords making war on each other or exploiting each other as slaves or to build pyramids or other goofy shit."

I would employ two axioms in retaliation: One, that if you are absolutely sure that you understand what's going on, you've probably missed something, and two, when you can't square your assumptions with reality, then the problem is probably with your assumptions, and not reality.

It is NOT always better to make friends than enemies. It may not even be better most of the time. In many cases, the necessity of making friends is only created by the existence of enemies. One of the most important functions of any society is border maintenance-- defining who is "us" and who is "them". "Them" are often competitors and rivals... in other words, enemies. The definition of "friend" in this case is "the enemy of my enemy" and has no meaning when there are no enemies. A world without enemies has no friends, only unrelated third parties. One need not look much further for confirmation of this concept than the literary trope of ancient "enemies" uniting in the face of a threat from a new source. Most political alliances are of this kind, and that's the kind of friendship being referred to here.

So if the author is indeed referring to Pakistan, the question is whether or not Pakistan is the enemy of our enemy-- whether it is in Pakistan's enlightened self-interest to be a good friend to us. I'd say that is unclear at best. I hardly think the average citizen of Pakistan thinks so. I hardly think the military of Pakistan thinks so. I certainly don't think the ISI thinks so. Certain of these parties say so when it's expedient, but people say lots of things that aren't true out of expedience.