Ahead of Us: The Big Piracy Game?
If we make a wrong prediction about ourselves, we also encourage the enemy to
make a wrong prediction about us.
In international relations, like poker, you play your opponent, not your hand.
In the interwar period of the 20th century, there was a feeling that great powers would play a less important role in world affairs:
After the First World War it was possible to believe that the Great Powers had lost
something of their former primacy in the international system, because of the mul-
tiplication of small states on the principle of nationality and the new attempt to
constitutionalize international politics through the League of Nations.3
This situation did not last: In the 1930s, the great powers came back on the world scene with renewed vigor.
There may be a lesson worth studying for those living in the second decade of the 21st century. At first sight, the empowerment of small powers, filling a void created by the end of the East-West confrontation and armed with the most destructive weapons ever available to mankind, is striking. However, the great powers may reassert their predominance. Numerous signs already point in this direction, the most ominous being China’s military modernization, its assertive behavior on the world scene, and its bullying of neighbors on vital sea lanes. Another is Russia’s perception that it is still in geopolitical competition with the United States in the states of the former
1 Brodie, 1958, p. 6.
2 Daniel Freedman, “Crocodile Dundee Diplomacy for North Korea,” Forbes.com, May 24, 2010.
3 Martin Wight, “The Balance of Power,” in Arnold Toynbee and Frank T. Ashton- Gwatkin, eds., The World in March 1939, London: Oxford University Press, 1952, p. 508.