It is important to note that major power conflict does not necessarily translate into direct conflict between the world’s major powers. Indirect conflict was the name of the game during the Cold War, and the rule still applies today. Thus, both China and the United States – which are now the two parallel poles of the international system – can employ a set of proxies in order to demonstrate their political will vis-à-vis one another. But some proxies are more powerful than others. For instance, Iran will not talk to Israel directly because Iran sees Israel as an extension of the main power in the whole situation, namely, the United States. Thus, if the United States were taken out of the power equation between Iran and Israel, the dynamics of Middle Eastern politics would be different than how they stand at the moment.
For instance, the Taliban never took the Afghan government seriously. The Taliban saw the Afghan government as an extension of the United States. And in the end, the Taliban bypassed the Afghan government to talk directly to the United States and push the Afghan government out of the picture within the span of ten days. Thus, Iran sees Israel as an extension of the United States and as a “paper tiger” which is buoyed by nuclear weapons in contravention of international law and by American weaponry. And as Mao Zedong famously said: “The atom bomb is a paper tiger which the United States uses to scare people. It looks terrible, but in fact it isn’t.”
Moreover, Afghanistan – as well as the broad-reaching consequences and effects of going into Afghanistan for the United States – largely affirmed Mao Zedong’s suggestion that the American neocon and neoliberal elite is a “paper tiger.” Mao Zedong framed the current state of the international system astutely, by stating:
“It is my opinion that the international situation has now reached a new turning point. There are two winds in the world today, the East Wind and the West Wind. There is a Chinese saying, ‘Either the East Wind prevails over the West Wind or the West Wind prevails over the East Wind.’ I believe it is characteristic of the situation today that the East Wind is prevailing over the West Wind. That is to say, the forces of socialism have become overwhelmingly superior to the forces of imperialism.”
Thus, the liberal “paper tiger” is now running into a new international reality which is defined by “equilibrium” in the military and economic domains. And the liberal reaction to this new international reality has largely been anxiety and hysteria. One has to simply avoid liberal provocations in order to maintain a steady hand over one’s situation. As Mao Zedong said: “Despise the enemy strategically, but take him seriously tactically.”
A major dimension of indirect conflict between the two parallel poles of the international system is the “information wars” of the 21st century. At the forefront of this indirect conflict is information and psychological warfare rather than conventional and nuclear warfare, given the growing equilibrium in terms of the conventional and nuclear dimensions. Thus, in addition to provocations, the strategy of the liberal “paper tiger” amounts largely to censorship, denial of reality, and suppression of information in order to shape a notion of reality that is convenient and comfortable for itself. Censorship, denial of reality, and suppression of information is most explicit in cable and satellite providers in the United States.
The strategy of censorship, denial, and suppression used in today’s information wars stems from the corruption, decay, and rottenness of the political institutions in Washington, and these conditions will have adverse effects on American society which go beyond just politics and the nature of public discourse. One must keep in mind that culture never remains static. Human beings are creatures who thrive off information and lifelong learning. Also, information shapes perception, and in turn, perception shapes reality. Broadening one’s reality means broadening the sources of information one receives. Thus, instead of broadening the scope of America’s reality, Washington is narrowing America’s scope of reality, which in turn will inflict significant damage on economic, political, and social life in the United States. The damage is suggested by statistics from McKinsey and Co., which shows that America’s share of global GDP has gone from an all-time high of 50 percent after World War II to just 15 percent in the coming years. On the other hand, Asia will wield 40 percent of global GDP, and Europe will wield 20 percent. Moreover, as Heidegger argued, liberal discourse and mentality can never be taken seriously as long as it continues to deny the centrality of death and an afterlife in human life. Thus, in the information wars of the 21st century, America’s liberal elite has gotten off to a very slow start.