The End of Friendship

Global politics, following World Wars I and II and especially during the Cold War, took place within the framework of alliances. Alliances such as NATO versus the Warsaw Pact, a coalition of countries in Asia and in Africa, all served as a formalized expression to the friendship binding groups of countries that shared common responsibilities and interests. The world of diplomacy cultivated friendly relations between states, and friendly relations were strategic assets to each state.

Such friendships resulted in spheres of influence, as various power relationships were the result of friendship between states. With the fall of the walls between East and West, and attempts to create new types of relations, friendships between states have dissolved and been replaced by financial ties and other types of agreements. Various states have attempted to develop relations with other states, and a type of race has begun, in which each state attempts to acquire the most friends, as if he were taking part in a Facebook popularity contest.

After the Soviet Union lost its superpower status at the end of the 1980s, the United States held the exclusive leadership position worldwide. However, the weakening of the United States and “resignation” of its role as global policeman has resulted in the seeds of militancy and terrorism to find fertile ground around the world. Violent forces have spread across numerous continents, and old friendships have been harmed or completely destroyed due to new types of interests.

Extremist Islam has been revived and is attempting to gain global hegemony both across the Old World and the New World, while the split between Shia’ and Sunna has further militarized each side. Various entities try to create interest based ties with actors from the U.S. to China, to Russian, Europe, and others. The “Arab Spring” has shown that the days of ethnic, religious, national loyalty are behind us. Cold interests have replaced the values of democracy, friendship, love, and respect, as various types of coalitions comprised of global terrorist groups undermine the global order.

The political world of the 21st century found itself unprepared for the phenomenon in which many of the borders drawn around the world following the two World Wars and the Crimean War that preceded them have been deemed inadequate for the reality of the 21st century. Several states that included federations of ethnic groups, such as the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, fell apart. States such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen have, on one level or another, become unwound, as the glue binding various groups in these countries does not hold, resulting in violent atrocities and uncompromising rivalries. Across Africa, attempts at friendship between states have been shown to be a façade, as realpolitik guides various entities in very tense and difficult rivalries and conflicts.

Currently, the final nails are being hammered into the coffin of various states and their ability to form friendships and alliances. America has been revealed not just a paper tiger, and few states take its promises and declarations seriously. Russia, too, which is attempting to return to its former status of influence, has not succeeded in imbuing confidence in allies and creating friendships and alliances. China, which has reached out economically across the globe, has not been accepted by others as a possible true friend.

A great threat to global order is the end of friendship between states as a value, the end of the belief that friendship can serve as an insurance policy in a threatening and challenging environment. Today, each state feels that it can only rely on itself.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center