Imperial overstretch, also known as Imperial overreach, is a hypothesis which suggests that an empire can extend itself beyond its ability to maintain or expand its military and economiccommitments. The idea was popularised by Yale University historian Paul Kennedy in his 1987 book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers.
An Overstretched Empire feels the pressure of its own inadequacies from all directions. Thus, it feels that it’s always the Strongest, and yet never Strong enough. The Overstretch causes a kind of internal bipolar self-identity, from which it views the rest of the world as inferior and yet simultaneously with great fear.
The Duality of Imperial Overstretch compels a true empire to continue to seek the source of its inadequacies to control/destroy them, endlessly, like a compulsive obsessive mental basket case, even when it is apparent to itself that such efforts are pointless and counterproductive.
Why? Because to acknowledge its true bipolarity of inadequacies, is to acknowledge that both its identities are false and morally unsustainable.
The true identity of a nation is usually that it is no more exceptional than any other nation, all subject to rise and fall of history’s whims.
It is this humble reality, that the West failed to learn when its Imperialist era collapses, because they barely acknowledged the falseness of their 1 bipolar imperialist identity, the STRONG ego, but desperately clung onto the other Paranoid fear of not strong enough through the Era of the Cold War.
Thus, when the Cold War passed, the strong EGO identity returned with a vengeance.
The West “won” the Cold War. They were Superior again! And still simultaneously paranoid again!! Bipolar, Neo-Imperialist, AGAIN!
No more evident of such bipolarity is in the 1980’s US fear of Japan’s rise of economic power, and today’s fear of China’s resurgence. In public and in private, the West simultaneous fear and ridicule the rise of the “other”.
No more evident of such is in the coverage of China in the Western media, where similar sets of facts can mean completely opposite things.
For example, if a bunch of protests occur in China, depending on the situation, it can be interpreted (or reinterpreted) as either that (1) the Chinese government is completely losing control of its population, or that (2) the Chinese government is brutally and inhumanely efficient in controlling its population (planned protests).
Another example, by above example, it can be interpreted (or reinterpreted) as either that (1) the Chinese people yearn to be “free” and cannot be controlled, or that (2) the Chinese people are mindless “drones” so easily controlled.
How can 2 completely opposite conclusions be concluded from the similar sets of facts by the Western media??
Because they depend on which bipolar neo-Imperialist identity is looking at the facts.
Consequently, how the West reacts to the rest of the World is either of Paternalistic Condescension (along with denigrating “conditions” attached), or Militant threats.
There is no balance in this. No Smart or Balanced hard power vs. soft power. It is just two sides of the same Imperialist “value”.
The trouble with dealing with such Bipolar Psychopathic powers is, No one, not even the Empires, can predict which side will be in charge in the next minute.