In chess, there are circumstances that you could force your enemy into a position of no escape, and of course, if the enemy seizes the opportunity first then you would be the one who could not escape the trap. It could be your king which is the most important piece on the board to be forced into a position of retreating into a trap and cannot escape. I think it’s the same for bigger picture as in a national circumstance.
When a country got too many friends to please, too many problems to be solved, too many places to keep the peace, then it’s a lot harder for such a country to be able to be nimble and flexible. Without nimbleness and flexibility, stiffness could creep in and force a country into many weird positions that are unfavorable. Too many unfavorable positions could push such a country into a subtle death trap which eventually envelopes into the inescapable trap!
Then again we could also argue that when a nation is a hermit, it’s easier for others to gang up on such a nation. In today world, when there are so many powers that aspire to be more than what they’re yesterday, I think it’s a ticking timebomb of uncertainties. Like if you do you’re damned and if you don’t you’re damned still.
For an example, let’s say a fictitious country named Carol is making a lot of friends, and she knows that she hates Bob, the hermit, a lot. Bob though, he would love to inflict real damage on Carol, but he doesn’t have any friend to help him out in doing such a thing against Carol. Friends of Carol got a friend who is the only reluctant, casual friend of Bob, and they know this friend, for some strange reasons, doesn’t want Carol and Bob to have any confrontation. Let’s say Bob tried to tickle Carol in the most grotesque way, and Carol went on a rampage against Bob. Friends of Carol suddenly didn’t want to have anything to do with the whole madness, because Bob got a friend that prevented others from involving with Carol and Bob. But then this Bob’s mysterious friend suddenly teamed up with Bob to take Carol down. Now, Carol’s friends got a problem, because they don’t know if they should side with Carol or Bob’s mysterious friend!
Let’s say Carol and Bob both thought that they would be able to outsmart the other, but perhaps one of them didn’t know that a string of scenarios that came before and after their ugly feud could turn one of them into a mouse that got trapped in a rat trap. The inescapable trap is definitely easier to imagine for today’s geopolitical matter I think! Why? Too many countries got their own ambitions to worry about, and so they are making friends and enemies left and right all the time. Just take a look at Syria and various parts of the Middle East and we could see that sometimes we couldn’t know who is a friend and who is an enemy anymore — of course, it’s also depending on which side you’re on too!
Sometimes though, I think sitting pretty and only making move when it’s prudent and safe would keep a nation safe for a long time to come in a world like ours today! Why? The one who sits out the longest would be the victorious one in the end! I think it’s smart to save up energy and resources — while making gains in both energy and resources when you’re in a favorable position — for the right time! Of course, if you’re being forced into an unfavorable position, then sitting out may not be possible in the end. That would be unfortunate for sure.