The first verse to Oasis’ song “Where Did It All Go Wrong” contains the following line, which I wish to discuss in the context of how nations buy friends:
“Do you keep the reciepts for the friends that you buy?
And ain’t it bittersweet you were only just getting by .”
What the song is making the point of is that buying friends is a foolish policy, one that ends up being ineffective in ensuring friends (so you’d better keep your receipts) and it also means that we waste resources that we could use better sense if we refrain from wasting money on bribery and spent it more intelligently on or for ourselves (or simply refrained from spending it at all, which would be even wiser).
The Bible gives a similar warning to Israel, warnings that have continued relevance today. Hosea 8:7-10 says: “They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no bud; it shall never produce meal. If it should produce, aliens would swallow it right up. Israel is swallowed up; now they are among the Gentiles like a vessel in which is no pleasure. For they have gone up to Assyria, like a wild donkey alone by itself; Ephraim has hired lovers. Yes, though they have hired among the nations, now I will gather them; and they shall sorrow a little, because of the burden of the king of princes.”
What does this mean? Israel of old, like the United States today, purchased friends, trying to bribe nations through economic aid into being allies. The thought behind this was that the money and the arms trades (Solomon traded chariots, for example, and got foreign wives for alliances) would tie Gentile nations into dependency on Israel and allow Israel some sort of security by having friends rather than being alone and having to rely on God’s protection. Of course, the friends were faithless and ineffective against the threat of the Assyrians. And the foreign friends of the United States that we bribe are no more effective today. Pakistan actively helps terrorists while taking our money and considering us fools.
We would do wise to stop trying to buy friends. If people are genuine friends and we have a track record of mutual loyalty, certainly there are ways that we can help our friends. We need to be loyal to those who are loyal to us, to show ourselves worthy of trust as well as well as dealing appropriately with those we cannot trust. We cannot assume that all nations are trustworthy. We cannot overlook those who actively seek to help our enemies and who are treacherous and false. We must not be too craven to hold others and ourselves accountable for being societies of integrity and honor, and I’m glad at least some people are willing to hold countries accountable by having them show their worthiness and make their case before receiving any aid from us whatsoever.
I would like to close with a bit of a warning. The warning is that we have to be prepared to see the real hostility that our real enemies will have when they are no longer bribed. We have to understand that some people who pretend to be our enemies are going to be ferocious when they no longer have an incentive to pretend. I would rather face their real hostility than have them lie to us and seek to stab us behind the back, but we still cannot neglect the fact that we will face open hostility once we no longer bribe. Can we deal with that?