Are ‘enemies’ a political need in our world?

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi
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What many people perceive as their enemy could in fact be a fabrication used to manipulate them for political ends. Historically, it is no secret that many countries have formulated domestic and foreign policies to create “bogeymen” that would unite people and ensure political stability.

The United States, among others, used this strategy during World War 2 against Nazi Germany, then later labeled the Soviet Union as the “Evil Empire,” and is now involved in a “War on Terror.”


However, some see this creation of an enemy to be nothing more than an attempt by the purveyors of the “military-industrial complex” to make money out of armed conflict, with the principal stakeholders, politicians and public and private arms manufacturers.

Adolf Hitler united Germans by creating a common enemy that he effectively portrayed with his propaganda machine as those trying to destroy the country. Nazism helped Germany expand rapidly across Europe before its final defeat.

False talk

In the Arab world, there are many countries trying to portray themselves as “revolutionary” and “progressive” by labeling Israel as their enemy. These regimes have boasted of waging wars that would wipe Israel off the map.

In reality they have failed to shoot one bullet at the Zionist regime, and have simply used their so-called “noble struggle” against Israel to silence their opponents and remain in power.

It is vital to leave religion out of political disputes because this can lead to uncontrollable violence.

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi

Using this strategy, these regimes have blocked any real attempts to ensure democratic measures take root in their countries. Their media houses are guilty of colluding with them to create the impression they are engaged in a war, which has in fact never taken place.

Pierre Conesa, an academic and a former French Defense Ministry official, in his book “Fabrication of the Enemy: Or How to Kill People with a Clean Conscience,” explains how regimes extend their stay in power by keeping alive a manufactured enemy either outside the country or internally.

Bashar al-Assad in Syria has successfully used this approach to stay in power by creating the impression that ISIS is the only enemy, conveniently ignoring his regime’s terrorizing of the Syrian people.

It is now politically expedient for Assad to ensure the continued existence of ISIS, to divert international attention away from his crimes. Recent statements by politicians from some of the world’s leading nations show that Assad has succeeded in this strategy.

This strategy has deep philosophical roots, which can be traced to that age-old fight between good and evil. There are various manifestations of this conflict, which includes using notions of identity to separate people.

The late Edward Said, the intellectual and thinker on Orientalism, once said that crises of identity are more evident in nations struggling to modernize. As they try to adapt, people tend to hold onto perceived identities and create a defense against the perceived “others,” which is the ideal environment for conflict.

Politics is very much dominated by immoral opportunists. When these operators are allowed to create an enemy with religious affiliations, there is every possibility that these opponents can never be befriended. It then becomes a misguided nation’s sacred duty to eliminate these people.

It is therefore vital to leave religion out of political disputes because this can lead to uncontrollable violence. As they say, the only thing constant in politics is change, where today’s enemies can be tomorrow’s friends.

This article was first published in Arab News on Sept. 30, 2015.

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi is the editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines. A prominent journalist who worked with Asharq al-Awsat in London and Arab News in KSA, al-Harthi later moved on to establish al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in KSA, in which he rose the position of Editorial Manager. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Arajol magazine in 1997. He won the Gulf Excellence award in 1992. You can follow him on Twitter here: @mfalharthi

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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