In a quickly degrading geopolitical climate, the enemy of my enemy is still my enemy, simply because everyone is.
The media across the globe were shocked when, standing opposite Vladimir Putin at a one-on-one summit in Helsinki, Donald Trump placed equal blame on the US and Russia for the never-ending scandal of Russian meddling in US elections. Business Insider described “a bizarre press conference during which Trump stood next to Putin and spent more time denigrating his political opponents and intelligence agencies than he did a hostile foreign power.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
A term used to describe a foreign country with significant resources and a military establishment, whose interests do not coincide 100% with those of the United States
According to our definition, even the UK or France could be considered a “hostile foreign power,” which may explain why, days before the meeting with Putin, Trump himself called the European Union a “foe.” Glossing the word “hostile,” Oxford University Press explains that “Latin hostis meant ‘public enemy,’ in distinction from inimicus ‘one’s private foe.’” The adjective hostile came to English from Latin through French, where the meaning is identical: “of or belonging to an enemy.”
Business Insider and Trump seem then to agree that any nation outside the United States can be deemed a “hostile foreign power.” We thus discover a surprising truth about our newly globalized geopolitical world: All nations with regard to each other are different, foreign and hostile.
But are they? When we look more closely, we find that no one in France and Germany — traditional enemies — would consider the other country to be in any way hostile, even when their policies differ. So we are forced to assume that the question of general hostility only concerns the US, the one country in the world that believes it is competing economically and militarily with the rest of humanity, Canada included.
In recent history, we can find one exception to the new rule that every nation is a foe. There is a single country the US will never consider to be hostile: Israel. Any policy Israel adopts, any action it undertakes will immediately be approved by a majority of the US Congress, the branch of government that theoretically holds the power to declare war. Could anyone imagine Trump characterizing Israel as a “foe” alongside the European Union, Russia (a “foe in certain respects”) and China (“a foe economically”)? Trump moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem just to show how willing he was to have the US align with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies.
It’s true that Barack Obama dared to oppose Israel’s settlement policy, but Congress tied his hands and the best he could do was to refuse to use his Security Council veto to quash a UN resolution demanding an end to Israel’s illegal settlement policy.
The American-Israeli relationship has to be considered the exception that proves the rule. As regional groupings fragment and crumble — the most obvious example of which is the EU — the global community, like everything else in today’s hyper-capitalist economy, has become a pure competitive race, with every nation pitched against every other one. May the best nation win.
The whole world has understood the implications of this, the consequences of which are likely to be dire. But at least the Netherlands has showed how to turn tragedy into hilarious comedy with its version of the race among nations that all want to be first, which you can see here.
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
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