America in search of an enemy | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 31, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:19 PM, July 31, 2019

America in search of an enemy

Roberto Goizueta, the legendary CEO of the Coca Cola Company, once said that to thrive every business must “get an enemy.” He postulated that “if you don’t have an enemy, the best thing is you create one.” Why? Because “that’s the only way you can have a war.” For Coke it was Pepsi; for Kodak it was Fuji; for McDonald’s it was Burger King; for GM it was Ford.

The US defence policy seems to thrive on the same principle. In the last one hundred years, the US has always had an arch-enemy. First it was the Nazis, then the Communists, and when the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving the US as the lone superpower in the world, they first nurtured and then demonised the al-Qaeda, and after it no longer fit the bill of an arch-enemy, they nurtured fringe groups in Iraq and Syria under the guise of counter-terrorism. That snake then reared its ugly head as the new arch-enemy, aka ISIS. And now that ISIS is largely on the run, the US is scrambling to find a new arch-enemy.

There are certainly many candidates that can fulfil that role but an incoherent US president is going after perceived enemies like wisps in the air as he publicly contradicts his own intelligence agencies and rails against unsubstantiated threats from Iran, Syria and Latin American caravans, while appearing to wilfully ignore telltale signs of real geopolitical threats emanating from nuclear and expansionist ambitions of Israel, North Korea and Russia. Nonetheless, it seems the US defence policy is rudderless in the absence of a perceived arch-enemy at the moment.

It is quite interesting to see that the US defence doctrine takes cue from the war policy of a sugared beverage company. One can only wonder what other idiosyncrasies lurk at every fold of the Pentagon—the pentagonal monolith housing the top honchos of the US defence establishment.

It is quite interesting to see that the US defence doctrine takes cue from the war policy of a sugared beverage company. One can only wonder what other idiosyncrasies lurk at every fold of the Pentagon—the pentagonal monolith housing the top honchos of the US defence establishment. Just as Goizueta relentlessly went after each product and territory of the arch-enemy to dominate them, the US defence establishment with its massive war machine targets every nook and cranny of the operation of its perceived arch-enemy and tries to emasculate them. But without a worthy enemy, the attack dogs soon lose interest and start bickering amongst themselves.

America’s most ferocious attack dog is the state of Israel that is continuously flouting every rule in the book for international cooperation as it creeps deeper and deeper into Palestinian territory, thumbing a nose to the world. Instead of tugging on its leash, the US is expressly encouraging it by giving it more treats like moving the US embassy to Jerusalem even though the city is claimed by both Israel and Palestine. Although the US is the single biggest benefactor of the state of Israel—Israeli defence literally feeds off of US taxpayers and the US defence technologies—the present US administration, instead of being in command of their proxy in the Middle East, seems to be rather in complete control of their protégé! Instead of going after the real nuclear threat of a belligerent North Korea, Israel has manoeuvered the US to pull out of the multinational agreement with Iran on nuclear containment and poked the US into a military confrontation with Israel’s avowed nemesis in their neighbourhood. In other words, the attack dog is trying to command its master into the role of a ferret! How the tides have turned.

Of course, the US could level its gun on its conventional arch-enemy Russia, which has given many a cause to ratchet up the rivalry—from encroaching into Crimea to propping up the Syrian strongman Assad. But the current US administration has no interest in taking on Russia, its perceived benefactor through their online election meddling in the US.

So while the US is ignoring real threats to its way of life, its espoused values of individual freedom and its long-established moral leadership in the world, it seems to be hell-bent on finding enemies where there is none. Add to this mix the new Brexiteer prime minister in the UK, who literally could pass off as a Trump twin, and the geopolitics across the north Atlantic is already a heady brew. As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for,” America’s time-tested friends may soon become adversaries if not outright enemies.  

If the current administration continues for another four years, which is quite likely if a populist challenger fails to materialise from the unusually large palette of presidential candidates from the opposing political establishment, it is quite conceivable that the US may pull out of NATO creating a non-aligned mainland Europe and a Trump-Johnson-Putin axis running amok in the world.

That still does not resolve the age-old US need for an arch-enemy it can target-practise on. If Israel keeps calling the shots, the US may soon be embroiled in a naval warfare with Iran and the US may very well then get an enemy it can contend with. No, I am not thinking of Iran. One only needs to look up the other fossil-fuel-hungry signatories to the Iran nuclear deal. Too far-fetched? Just think about the fact that four years ago, nobody imagined that Trump twins would rule the roost on either side of the pond.

Instead of fighting over dirty oil and destroying the planet, the Trump twins would be doing the world a favour by fighting over which sugared water to drink!

Habibullah N Karim is an author, policy activist, investor and serial entrepreneur. He is a founder and former president of BASIS and founder/CEO of Technohaven Company Ltd. Email:

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