THE idea of loving an enemy takes on a whole new meaning in the political context.An enemy helps the nation, the community and the party unite behind a leader, making that leader look strong and decisive. Changing leadership suddenly looks risky both for the political party and for the voters. The reality is that it is great to have an enemy.
In the horrific tragedy of MH17 Prime Minister Tony Abbott and President Barack Obama capitalised on a political opportunity to strengthen their own leadership positions by pointing the finger at the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin.
Abbott is at his best when he has enemies. He demonstrated this in opposition and the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister looked strong and were certainly effective in persuading the UN Security Council to unanimously adopt a resolution calling for an international investigation into the air disaster over the Ukraine.
On the other hand, he was also strident in his condemnation of Putin and Russia. His voice conveniently joined others who were accusing the Russian leader of complicity and of having “blood on his hands” as the supplier of missiles most likely used by the Eastern Ukraine separatists in the downing of the passenger aircraft.
Journalist and commentator Nile Bowie, recently calling for objectivity in the situation, wrote about the support of the West for the right-wing, nationalist government in Kiev and the outcome of toppling former President Viktor Yanukovych.
He argued that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko leads a government staffed by figures who toppled the previous democratically elected regime in February “known for their pejorative anti-Russian viewpoints”.
The separatists from the “industrialised south-east of the country either support greater autonomy from Kiev or a peaceful integration into the Russian Federation following the example of Crimea,” says Bowie.
In contrast, most of the Western media has picked up the nationalist Kiev government’s rhetoric of the separatists as “terrorists” and “Russians”. They are not Russians – rather they are Ukrainians who speak the Russian language in the same way as we are not Americans although we use the same language.
The irony is that the conflict in Gaza could be easily framed in the same way. As Israeli troops invaded the Gaza Strip they have killed more innocent women and children than died in the downing of the Malaysian aircraft. Does this mean that Obama, who provided sophisticated weapons to the Israelis, has blood on his hands?
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu understands the same advantage of having an enemy. The risk of his seriously seeking a peaceful two-state solution is that the right-wing elements of his constituency, and the citizens generally, will withdraw support from his government.
The importance of enemies in politics is not new.
Before April, 1982, Margaret Thatcher was polling as the UK’s most unpopular Prime Minister. She then assembled a British task force that retook the Falkland Islands from Argentina’s military junta’s Gen Leopoldo Galtieri. The following year she won a landslide election, continuing as PM until 1990.
The enemy is sometimes within, as with the “war on drugs”. A similar approach was taken by Treasurer Joe Hockey in his erroneous claims about welfare recipients taking a month’s wages from hard-working Australians.
Using enemies for political advantage means a politician or a party does not have to have a vision, policies or effective governance – they can simply continue to fire real or metaphorical shots at an enemy to gain the attention and support of the media and the population.
Nile Bowie blogs at nilebowie.blogspot.com.au and his call for objectivity is at rt.com/op-edge/174336-downing-flight-mh17-objectivity/