Human beings need enemies -- sometimes for good, other times for ill. But having an easily definable enemy is often very helpful.
Organizations need enemies to send you mail and call your home asking for donations. The March of Dimes was established by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to combat the crippling disease of polio. With the advent of the Salk and later the Sabin vaccines, polio was effectively wiped out in the United States and the March of Dimes needed a new cause. It found one in preventing birth defects and later expanded into helping women have healthy pregnancies.
During World War I and World War II the enemies were easy to identify. They wore uniforms that clearly showed their allegiances, and combatants generally stayed on their side of the battlefield.
Sometimes friends can become enemies. Hitler and Stalin signed a pact to carve up Eastern Europe and leave each other alone, but Hitler decided that his empire just didn't look tidy without the Soviet Union, so he wheeled his troops around to the east and tried to defeat Stalin.
On the other hand, sometimes enemies become friends and allies. After starting two world wars in thirty years, Germany decided it was better to outwork its competitors rather than outfight them, and now is among the most influential nations on the planet.
I raise this because, as we head into uncharted waters in Syria and with a newly elected president in Iran, enemies are harder to identify and friends are harder to retain.
A great deal of the weaponry we provided to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan (friend) when they were fighting the Soviet Union (enemy) fell into the hands of the Taliban (enemy) and have been used to some effect against NATO forces (friends) over the past decade or so.
There is some concern that, if we provide weapons to the Syrian rebels (friends) and they win, they may be overtaken by a branch of al-Qaeda (BIG enemies) and we will have, in effect, provided weapons to our most virulent enemy.
Egypt used to be a good, good friend even though we were a little uneasy about the way President Hosni Mubarak spent the billions of foreign aid dollars we sent him.
Now that Mubarak is out, Egypt (sort of friend) is being run by a government largely made up of members of the Muslim Brotherhood (neither enemy nor friend).
While all that is going on, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (friend) has his hands full with young Turks rioting Erdogan's continuing efforts to turn Turkey from a secular nation (good) to an Islamist nation (not-so-good).
Given that Turkey (friend) shares a borders with Syria (enemy), you would think this is an easy call on our part, but the failures of the Arab Spring have complicated things.
Domestically, there would be no Republican Party without a Democratic Party.
When he took office, President Obama had Democratic (his friends) majorities in the House and the Senate. Look what happened when he had no Republicans (his opponents) to push against in the 2010 mid-term elections.
Republicans (our friends) won control of the House by such numbers that it is doubtful the Democrats (our opponents) can win it back within this decade.
As the Senate works through the immigration bill, look at what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (opponent) has been up to. He has largely stayed on the sidelines - although he did stroll onto the pitch Wednesday, saying that "he will not allow the Gang of Eight immigration bill to require stricter border security measures merely in order to attract Republican votes."
Why? Doesn't he want Republican votes?
Not so fast. If he can blame the defeat of immigration reform on the GOP (friend) then he prevent them from using immigration to attract Hispanic voters (would-be friends) down the road.
Reid needs the GOP to stay the enemy of Hispanics.
See how simple this is?
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