Small states are vulnerable and have natural enemies more than big states. Every neighbouring state is a natural enemy of small states, and bigger neighbours make bigger threats. The geographic fate of states is like a congenital disease, like not having the choice of parents. That is the lot of states, and having to live with the neighbours is geographical no choice.
Other than the natural neighbours that can be friends or enemies, states may choose to have more friends or have more enemies. Sometimes such choices can be as congenital as in geography, in a way. Choosing friends in the international arena is as good as choosing enemies. Some states are forced into choosing friends, some willingly choose their friends and end up having a set of enemies delivered in a neat package.
Singapore has chosen to be a friend of the US, an ally. The choice comes along with a package of enemies, all the enemies of the USA. We acquired their enemies. The best that states like Singapore can do is to maneuver itself to be as friendly as possible with the USA’s enemies and not to paint itself into a corner. Singapore has avoided being a natural enemy of China or Russia through its association with the US. Singapore is also quite successful in some peripheral areas by walking the tight rope or round the fence to shake hands with Myanmar, North Korea and some other enemies of the Americans.
Not every situation is Singapore that lucky. When we join the big gang, we become part of the gang. And big gangster at times will want to dictate terms with the little gang members. And when big gangsters commanded that if you are not with me, than you are enemy, and demanded a stand, small states would have little choice but to join the fray, make enemies and become enemies of the American’s enemies. This is the American smear or sticky glue.
The state or the political leadership is clearly aware of the situation they are in and live with the compromise. At the same time they will do everything possible to minimize the risk and potential damage. What is troublesome and stupid is that the Sinkies embraced all these enemies of inconvenience as enemies. Imagine Sinkies talking about North Koreans as if they were arch enemies and will strike us with their nuclear bombs tomorrow. Or imagine Sinkies speaking bad about Iraq, Afghans, the Al Qaeda, the Talebans like enemies. Unfortunately they are, as we have joined the Dark Side. We have aligned ourselves on their enemy’s side.
States can claim permanent interest and temporary friends or temporary enemies. The mindset of people is difficult to switch sides so easily. And while enemies and friends of states are temporary, during the period of friendship or as foes, they can be rewards and there can also be harm, and we can be in harm’s way.
Do states have a choice in being neutral or not taking sides with the big gangsters? The ideal option is to be able to stay neutral in a multi polar world where the power is shared by several power centres. The lesser evil is to become a small gangster, but not to behave like small gangsters.