US, friend or foe?
Published: Jun 29, 2024 09:09 AM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

When former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, famously said that "it may be dangerous to be America's enemy, but to be America's friend is fatal," he probably had not expected that these words would ring even truer half a century later.

Anyone familiar with the common talking points of US officials will notice that they almost never finish a speech without mentioning the phrase "allies and friends." But a reality check of US actions shows that its. definition of "friends" reeks of awkward hypocrisy. 

Wolf in sheep's clothing

The Philippines, under President Marcos Jr., clearly sees the US as a friend. The country has opened four new military bases to the US, and has been at its beck and call in stirring up trouble in the South China Sea. Yet such acts not only risk undoing the hard-won momentum of peaceful settlement of disputes among relevant countries in the South China Sea, but they could easily boomerang as well. In his remarks at the latest Emergency Press Conference of the Schiller Institute, Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector and US Marine intelligence officer, sharply pointed out the US is "using the Philippines to create the conditions of potential conflict with the Chinese" and that for the Philippine people, "this is a recipe for disaster." In the case of the Philippines, seeing the US as a friend is just like a sheep seeking protection from a wolf.

Paying a high price

If anyone thinks that the US can be a friend that provides protection, look at Ukraine. Having been told to "fight to the last blood," the Ukrainians have been left on their own to see their fellow countrymen die by the hundreds of thousands on the battlefield since 2022, while the US has shown no interest in trying to bring about peace for its "friend."

If anyone thinks that the US can be a friend that helps your economy thrive, look at Japan. In the 1980s when Japan became the second-largest economy in the world, second only to the US, Washington forced the infamous Plaza Accord down Tokyo's throat, leading to Japan's "Lost Decade" of sluggish growth and deflation. 

If anyone thinks that the US can be a friend that brings freedom and democracy, look at Vietnam and Afghanistan. When intervention fails and the situation gets out of control, the US is the first to flee the scene. The one thing in common between Saigon in 1975 and Kabul in 2021 is that during hasty evacuations, the US had no regard for human life. In their moment of chaos and despair, the local people who climbed up US airplanes in a desperate attempt to flee were ruthlessly dumped by their American "friend."

Domestically, the US itself is mired in troubles. Its military-industrial complex is becoming more powerful than ever. Gun-related deaths go up year after year, and serving the interests of the American people has become a mere slogan used by politicians to win over voters. Former Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani is right when he said that the US has become a plutocracy, where the government is "of the one percent, by the one percent and for the one percent." How could such a country, with too much on its plate, be willing to find more time and energy to be a genuine and reliable friend to others?

If history is any guide, it shows that it is time for countries to give up the illusion that they can count on the US to protect their interests. When countries finally realize that the US simply sees them as a tool and another course on the menu, it will be too late and the consequences too great. 

The author is a Beijing-based international affairs commentator. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn