There was a book/mindset popular among boomers in the 90's as I recall along the lines of : "The most important things in life I learned in Kindergarten". It was epitomized in a phrase often mocked, but nevertheless asked by those who don't believe, as Pournelle explicitly reminded us with his anthology series, that There Will Be War, that goes "Why can't we all get along?"
That last dovetails perfectly into the end-of-history liberal global hegemonic mindset. The people who use that term unironically cannot imagine that there are circumstances where two normal, decent people - or nations - might have reasons to intensely dislike or fight each other. After all, nations that trade with each other don't fight, right? Only eeeevil people and people who don't believe in our version of history fight. They're on the wrong side of history, as Psaki recently said of India - a Marxist concept if there ever was one, that history is linear, and that one can be on the wrong side. The use of that phrase aside, and that it is implicitly baked into the "end of history" cake tells you all you need to know about its roots.
One theme that has come up repeatedly in the last few posts on Ukraine is the degree to which the NPCs and the hegemonists either cannot see, or will at best not acknowledge as they lead others astray, that anyone may want something different. I've run into more than a few people that cannot believe the al-quaeda newsletter posting on why they hate us actually expresses their real thoughts and intentions.
Aside : I respect John Wright, but contrary to his statement - and he concedes people may disagree in good faith - an expansionist power that has stated it will remake the world in it's vision, demonstrated that it will do so "or else" and abuses it's own citizens and other nations that don't kneel, taking active steps to set up shop on your doorstep and put a knife to your country's throat and belly in terms of access to energy and trade as well as uncorking an easy invasion path to a nation's heartland, is a justification for war. NATO and the western liberal hegemonists have been playing a huge game of "I'm not touching you" with guns, while putting themselves in a position to do a beatdown. Anyone observing the glee with which the west has attempted to economically destroy Russia and anyone who doesn't bend to their will (India, forex) can't help but understand the intentions in trying to take Ukraine geopolitically were not friendly, and that would have been one step too far for Russia to defend against. His later reposting of some of the background to his conflict is well worth a read.
Back to the topic at hand - and Sun Tzu. Specifically, the old saw about knowing oneself and one's enemy.
I believe I can safely say that the hegemonists know themselves, more or less - at least the ones who've achieved any position of leadership. Whether by cynicism or instinct, they know that the virtues they espouse are but clubs to be used as convenient, and to be just as conveniently ignored. Power is their expressed aim, all else is justified. The NPCs , at least the better "educated" ones who don't see George "Rape Rape" Mountain's ASoIaF series and similar works for the sludge they are, tend to view everything as a lie. But one reason for the inability to believe AlQuaeda or Russia when they tell us what they want and why. Among others is the inability to see the world in any terms but the end of history, that liberal democracy has won, and to conceive of any obligations one has to anyone but oneself and one's own happiness. The latter especially in the feminist sphere. Many have written and talked at length about how much damage that has directly done.
What I'm talking about instead is "why couldn't they see this coming."
As I noted in the first of my Ukraine posts:
Because if we actually gave any credence to what the Russians repeatedly told us their motives were, everything else was inevitable as the tides.
As I said then, it's almost certain that Putin's stated goals are to a large degree self-serving, and it doesn't matter. Even if one takes the cynical "evil overlord list" approach, Putin can be individually well off living high on the hog like a cartel drug lord while abusing his people, for a limited time. Always looking over his shoulder. No, for Putin to succeed to an even greater degree, to wield power over people, and stamp his place into the scrolls of history, he has to be a good and effective leader, and help his people - who in turn can then grant him real power, and a much higher degree of personal security. Escobar knew this to a degree, which is why he went to great lengths to ingratiate himself with the Colombian people, as it offered him protection from the government, if not so much his direct competitors in the drug trade.
In short, even in looking out for himself and his ego and place in history, Putin is preserving his power base, the nation of Russia.
Which means that the stated goals for going into Ukraine, for drawing the line of allowing them into NATO, for fucking with Russia's lifeblood and ability to feed/protect itself on the world stage, have a lot of truth to them.
And so, what else did anyone think was going to happen, if they actually gave any credence to the concerns Putin expressed? If they could even conceive of any interest but one's own selfish desires and material comfort?
Sure, even from a cynical "he's doing it for himself" outlook, as well as the logic of bullies, there's a degree to which this was predictable as well. Perhaps our leadership is at least that cunning, has at least that level of understanding. But truly understanding Putin's warnings as we would? Maybe not. The NPCs? I doubt it. Time after time I've seen a complete inability of those educated at our best and brightest institutions, the kind of people who'd say "as smart as you are how can you believe that?!", fail to even comprehend what people from other cultures are saying, as they interpret it all through their own projection and lenses, never deigning to try on another set.
But then, most of the NPCs don't even understand their own side.