By Bernard Rowan

In politics and human relations, today's friends may be friends for a long time, or not. They may be enemies in the future. This applies to current enemies and neutral parties. They may be the fastest of friends or bitterest of enemies in time. Sages have stated this maxim. I'm familiar with Plato's version in "The Republic."

Truth isn't necessarily comforting or convenient. The trouble with the claim about friends and enemies is it is dissatisfying. It means there is no certain, lasting refuge in politics. It means citizens and leaders face unknown changes in alliances and friendships. This also applies to opposed nations and powers.

Plato mentioned this in discussing war and international relations. The same equation plays out in domestic politics and various other settings. There are truths of human nature and society.

Today's allies of autocracy have tried to ramp their individual and collective muscles worldwide. They know their friends ― and make new ones. Look at Bolsonaro and company on Jan. 8, 2023, Trump and company on Jan. 6, 2020, or the thwarted "coup" in Germany. These efforts failed. However, turning to Russia, Iran and China, not to mention Pyongyang, the story is different.

Sizable parts of national populations in these countries worship or appear forced to bow at the altars of autocracy. There is a counter drive, witness the freedom fighters in Iran and those opposing COVID lockdowns in China, for example. Ukraine is perhaps the world's most progressive force for facing down autocracy. The "new stability" this century is a division between nations dedicated to autocracy and those dedicated to freedom.

The enemies of freedom favor unqualified and hyper versions of nationalism and ethnic prejudice. The cocktail that spawns autocracy often stems from the idea or goal of national development, growth, and progress. However, autocracies insist on scapegoating and ideological constructions of presumptive others. Autocracy invariably exits the grid of rationality and reasonableness.

South Korea under the Yoon Suk Yeol administration also is modulating its alliance trajectories. There is greater openness to military cooperation with the United States and a growing suspicion of Japan and China. The investigation into Chinese policing on domestic soil and the cool reception given to recent plans for the Japanese defense budget comes to mind. The administration has stood firm against the bluster and bluff tactics of North Korea, dangerous though they are in many respects.

Whatever the pretenses of the minority of elites in Japan who pine for days gone by, I say Japan is not South Korea's enemy. The United States, South Korea and Japan are the backbones of democracy in Northeast Asia. The collaboration must include a consideration of military development, given what the friends of autocracy continue to aim for.

The South Korean people choose their friends and enemies. However, "opposing Japan" lacks a certain amount of regard for national interests. Japan doesn't aspire to colonize South Korea and lacks the means to do so. The U.S. defends South Korea from any such bizarre scenario to boot. And South Korea has a powerful military and citizenry in its own right.

In 2023, facing the alliance of autocratic states won't be easy: domestic politics limit what Yoon, Kishida and Biden can do. European powers' domestic realities limit their responses. They provide support to Ukraine. They still organize under the "new EU" and without the EU scenarios. Putin and Xi bid time for the alliance for freedom to dwindle or split. More publicity should highlight the role of North Korea and Iran in their reactionary and backward teamwork.

Clear-sightedness about past evils and misdeeds foregrounds any reasoned alliance. Japan still has work to do to atone for its sins against many nations, including South Korea. Their economic and military potential remains important in the alliance for freedom. Democracies should widen and deepen their friendships now.

The United States and what is today the United Kingdom were enemies, and a bloody war occurred to decide their conflict. Enmity persisted until much later. The same holds for other international friendships and their opposites. Today's war between Ukraine and Russia finds former Soviet friends in bitter conflict. Peace requires reevaluation and constant and vigilant attention to alliances, for the good of peace and mutual interests.


Bernard Rowan (browan10@yahoo.com) is associate provost for contract administration and academic services and professor of political science at Chicago State University. He is a past fellow of the Korea Foundation and former visiting professor at Hanyang University.


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Friends and enemies

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24.01.2023

By Bernard Rowan

In politics and human relations, today's friends may be friends for a long time, or not. They may be enemies in the future. This applies to current enemies and neutral parties. They may be the fastest of friends or bitterest of enemies in time. Sages have stated this maxim. I'm familiar with Plato's version in "The Republic."

Truth isn't necessarily comforting or convenient. The trouble with the claim about friends and enemies is it is dissatisfying. It means there is no certain, lasting refuge in politics. It means citizens and leaders face unknown changes in alliances and friendships. This also applies to opposed nations and powers.

Plato mentioned this in discussing war and international relations. The same equation plays out in domestic politics and various other settings. There are truths of human nature and society.

Today's allies of autocracy have tried to ramp their individual and collective muscles worldwide. They know their friends ― and make new ones. Look at Bolsonaro and company on Jan. 8, 2023, Trump and company on Jan. 6, 2020, or the thwarted "coup" in Germany. These efforts failed. However, turning to Russia, Iran and China, not........

© The Korea Times


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