In Norse mythology and ethical rules it is said that you cannot be a friend of your friends enemy. This was the thinking of the Vikings and their descendants, who lived in my homeland Norway a thousand years ago. That was before Christianity reached that far north, and more tolerant and kinder rules became common. Yet, still we probably have a streak of the same rules as the Vikings, or maybe it is a tribal culture, also accepted in urban cultures, it seems. Take for example, if Pakistan as a country becomes too friendly with Iran (or Cuba and Venezuela for that matter) would America like that? Pakistan is a friend of America, or so we say, and America is a friend of Pakistan. But can they choose their other friends freely? Well, it is not an issue for America, of course, being the superpower, so it can do what it likes. But for Pakistan and the other countries, which want to be Americas friends, it does become an issue. Obviously, all, or most of the countries want to be friendly with the superpower. Why the superpower wants to be friendly with certain smaller countries can sometimes be questioned. For example, why is it so important for America to be friendly with Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries in our neighbourhood, far away from their homeland? And for that matter, what business is it of the superpower and other great powers to be unfriendly with other faraway countries, and have opinions on certain countries ideologies and political systems? It is not true that 'might is right. Much of the Cold War was about ideology, or so we thought, but it was also about economics and control, as it always is when the powerful countries quarrel and compete for leadership. Take for example the fact that the all mighty USA can still not have normal relations with little Cuba. The two countries are neighbours and should be friends. It is a fact that America could have learnt a few things from Cuba, which would have been more productive than to work against the Cuban socialism. Remember that Castros Cuba was much better than the right-wing rule the island had before, and better than the regimes of several of the Caribbean neighbours have had till today. What does America have to fear from a little country like Cuba? It tried to find a more human and fairer model than the capitalist model. In any case, Cubas time seems to be over, much due to its neighbours propaganda and behaviour. It will join the rest of the West soon. The same goes for Libya, and that countrys development model. It will be shelved - by force and propaganda. I dont know too much about Libya, but I think there is an ideological aspect there. We should remember that Libya under Gaddafi, the politically wounded and outgoing President, did experience positive development in many fields, and that the country has probably been one of the more democratic in North Africa, with sharing of the oil wealth and other resources. There are probably a much higher percentage of poor and destitute people in America than in Libya. Participation in decision-making followed unorthodox principles, but the committees and other political groups were important for the peoples participation in the decision-making processes, and the civil service had many people who genuinely believed in the Green Revolution. On the other hand, much of the Libyan system grew stale and became outdated socialism, and the great leader himself lost his way in many fields - and he couldnt let go of power and let the transition follow democratic principles, not just propose his own son to take over. As a pacifist, I never agree on the use of large amounts of resources being spent on the military, often to control the population at home, not for defence, neither in Libya nor in other developed or developing countries. I would still maintain that we, i.e. the West, have demonised Gaddafi again, this spring, although he was accepted into the good company a few years ago. But we hadnt forgotten certain aspects of the regimes actions in the past. Also, we perhaps felt challenged by some of Libyas political earlier development actions at home, perhaps, creating more equality than in the rich countries, even with better support for the poor than what we find in the superpower, America, itself? So if Libya tried to become a friend of the West, maybe it was not really accepted back into the fold? And then we could not forget and forgive Lockerbee, not America and not UK? How many terrible situations caused by the superpower and the great powers have other small countries not had to forget and forgive? How many drone attacks, killing innocent civilians, poor people in the Pakistani and Afghanistan mountain villages, have we not seen? Most go unreported, nobody knows about the innocent children and adults who perish for no reason at all? But poor people and poor countries always have the short end of the stick. They cannot even afford to tell their 'friends, i.e. their masters, that such things are wrong and not based on true friendship. This week, I was disappointed when the American Senator John Kerry came to Pakistan to 'help repair relations, as it was called. He did not use the language of a true friend. Yes, he did use the word 'friend in his statement, but then in the immediate next sentences. He showed power by referring to his countrys Secretary of State and President, and, as usual, he said that Pakistan had to fulfil further tasks regarding terrorism and extremism. The comments did not have the language of a true friend. They were more from a master demanding certain behaviour from a subordinate. The more powerful should show greater respect, especially in public, otherwise we may wonder if the relationship is really a friendship, or a master-servant relationship, or just a business relationship. The same way as colleagues in an office can respect each other and work well together, the same way countries can work together, too. In an office, we often find it better if colleagues keep a distance, not being intimate friends (and relatives). And, for example, when foreigners come to Pakistan and say they are saddened when they see difficult living conditions for poor women and children remote villages in Pakistan, I dont really believe their concern. If they (we) really meant it, and considered those who suffer our friends, wouldnt we have done more to relieve the suffering? But then, there were also positive things happening this week. It was great that the two neighbours, the United Kingdom and Ireland, finally could acknowledge in public, too, that they are friends, not only neighbours. True, history should not be forgotten, and it is a fact that the Irish people have suffered from being a small country in a powerful neighbours backyard. But then, we should never only live in the past. We must all live in the present and plan for the future. The British Queens visit to Ireland this week helped symbolise that neighbours must be friends. The Vikings and their descendants were very bad neighbours and friends in northern Europe a thousand years ago when the Norse Empire existed. As a Norwegian, I am glad that we seem not to know too much about that time. People have long ago forgotten and forgiven, and the Vikings are more seen in humorous ways and they are even ridiculed. Yes, perhaps even today, whether we are powerful or the opposite, we should look at each other as human beings with faults, administering systems that are far from perfect. Friends know that the most powerful has as many faults as the less powerful, maybe even more. Friends should discuss in openness, and most importantly, they should try to understand the other. We all need to learn more about ourselves and each other, and accept differences. Then friendship can become true, worthy of the word. n The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist based in Islamabad.