President Barrack Obama and the United States government are in the middle of learning it the hard way. In Syria's prolonged civil war they always backed the rebel forces to oust hereditary (yet elected, and they all are) president Bashar_ al-Assad until they found out by their own (one could even suspect biased) analyses (?) that much of the anti-Assad forces comprised of members of ISIS -- Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, now Islamic State. Over the past fortnight there was an unveiled suggestion that in order to stop the much-feared Islamic State (ideologically leaning apparently towards al-Qaeda), which was gaining control of Eastern Syria and Western Iraq to carve a new State (!), US should befriend (foe) Assad. But, publicly at least, good sense dawned on them and, as Obama's popularity hits new lows, the US now have two enemies in as yet another far away land in the much relieved Assad and the rising Islamic State. As a result and thankfully so, there were no US strikes in Syria to arrest the advancement of Islamic State, yet, that is. Sadly, it seems that the Assad dynasty will continue as tyrannical monarchy in the guise of democracy. Well, he will not be the first. What a setback for the freedom-seeking people of Syria!
During our War of Liberation, India lent us a big and a generous helping hand; offering active refuge to over one crore terrorised, maimed and homeless Bangladeshi men, women and children, providing youth camps for war volunteers from barely teens to sexagenarians, helped establishing vast training, administrative and operational grounds for the Bangladesh liberation forces within its territory. Were the Indians helping a new friend? Or were they taking it back on their enemy Pakistan? Abraham Lincoln's “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” does appear rather naïve and romantic at best.
At a personal level too, we too often rush to the enemy of our enemy and unload a host of grievances (including best kept secrets) against our enemy, but there is never any guarantee that this will bode well for the complainant. Wishing for a shoulder to lean on is one thing, and being granted support is another. If particularly the enemy of one's enemy, the assumed friend, turns out to be a bad apple, the sharing of confidential information may turn out to be embarrassing and counter-productive. Mark Twain is quoted as having said, “It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart: the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you.”
Often enough a friend would be quite upset if you went and befriended his/her supposed enemy while also maintaining your mutual friendship. But how come? A somewhat immature person will usually insist that you cut off all your relations with that person's 'enemy', meaning someone who is no more a friend but once perhaps was. Now, is that person sitting on a high pedestal, or what? Friendship is his to his, her to her, it to it, but a person in rage (read state of stupidity) understands not. Sometime in life, he or she too gets paid by the same currency called bitterness, albeit unnecessary. Wrote Indonesian author Toba Beta, “If I ask God to punish my enemy with vengeful prayers, then He is fair to allow the enemy to do the same for me.”
It has often been observed in sport competitions of all places, even at the international level, that a team will let go a friendly (or easy opponent) to hurt a bitter opposition. Match fixing in Dhaka leagues was because of the same reason. Rules that threatened punitive measures hardly produced better sportsman spirit. The Disciplinary Committee would come up with the verdict that two teams played below par to give advantage to either of the teams or another. The teams would appeal that they played their natural game, and win, the appeal, that is. That is why you will have noticed that the last group matches, for example in the FIFA World Cup are played at the same time and on the same date. Obviously, there are cheats even at that level.
Needless to say, politics offers the best (pun intended) examples of yesterday's-friend-today's enemy syndrome, and vice versa. Charles Warner dubbed that sort of nefarious activities as making available 'strange bedfellows'. Politicians speaking foul of a leader have joined the foul leader's camp as soon as he (or she) sensed a parliamentary seat or some pecuniary handouts or some advantage, but then not always. There are some scrupulous beings in politics even today.
My friend's enemy is my enemy. My enemy's enemy is my friend. It does not always work out that simply. My friend's friend is my enemy. That too is happening all the time. Some people label it as jealousy.