Now, even if there actually is a real and viable challenge and threat to Western power – like Russia, for instance – calls to address the challenge and threat will amount to a case of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” amongst the international community and international society because of a lack of credibility and legitimacy on the part of Washington. Why the “American Unipolar Moment” has ended is not because of anything material. Rather, the “American Unipolar Moment” has ended because of a lack of credibility and legitimacy more than anything else. Thus, the true source of power in international politics and international relations is credibility and legitimacy more than anything else.
“Egypt” is often used in Sufi poetry as an allusion, image, or symbol to denote empire or worldly power. But once the actual underpinnings of such an empire or worldly power are elucidated through truth and logic, then the insistence on one’s superpower status begins to ring hollow. As Rumi wrote in a poem titled “An Egypt That Does Not Exist”:
I want to say words that flame as I say them,
but I keep quiet and do not try
to make both worlds fit in one mouthful.
I keep secret in myself
an Egypt that does not exist.
Is that good or bad?
I do not know.
For years, I gave away sexual love with my eyes.
Now I don’t.
I am not in any one place.
I do not have a name for what I give away.
Whatever Shams gave, that you can have from me.
Thus, the evisceration of empire and worldly power once the illusions of such power are dispelled are then backed by fear-mongering and a system of fear. But as seen in many instances, a system of fear does not persist for too long.
I mentioned the issue of “surprise attacks” or “sneak attacks” which confounds defense strategists and in turn is the major source of anxiety and hypervigilance in Washington. And as mentioned before, the late game theorist Thomas Schelling addressed this issue in his Nobel Prize winning book titled “The Strategy of Conflict.” Schelling wrote:
“We live in an era in which a potent incentive on either side – perhaps the main incentive – to initiate total war with a surprise attack is the fear of being a poor second for not going first. “Self-defense” becomes peculiarly compounded if we have to worry about his striking us to keep us from striking him to keep him striking us…The surprise-attack problem, when viewed as a problem of reciprocal suspicion and aggravated ‘self-defense,’ suggests that there are not only secrets we prefer not to keep, but military capabilities we might prefer not to have.”
Thus, transparency, dialogue, and negotiation are preferable and suitable even as it pertains to defense and intelligence issues. Moreover, in an age of ‘Mutual Assured Destruction’ (MAD), “second-strike capabilities” will exist even in the event of a surprise or sneak attack. One of the main questions I asked the instructor of a ‘Strategy and Policy’ course I took in the Summer of 2016 was whether Russia and China have second-strike capabilities. His answer was simply “yes.” Hence, the more we lighten the psychological load not only on others, but also on ourselves, the more we facilitate the “mutually beneficial outcomes” which are perhaps inevitable down the road.