I was helping my daughter with her homework--throwing drills from her college ultimate team--this afternoon, and I was reminded of something that may (or may not) apply to IR.
As we were leaving the field, a small boy and small girl were running back to the playground, having dodged our disks. The girl was ahead of the boy, so the boy shouted "we are not in a race."
Why? Because he was behind and was going to lose the race, so he declared that the competition did not exist. The person behind often declares it is not a race, and the person in front tends not to listen to the person that is behind.
How does this work in IR? The most obvious application would be arms races (races are races?). The current arms race between China and the US is kind of like this: China accumulates and the US insists that it is not in an arms race. That increased numbers and some increases in technology do not affect the game. Of course, China is in the same position with its neighborhood, as it insists it is not in a race as pretty much everyone else is buying submarines, to provide some anti-access/area denial capabilities of their own.
The same goes for the international economy: that as China rises, the US denies that there is a race for economic supremacy.... Maybe.
Anyhow, I was inspired on the playground, and like any good kid, I have lost my train of thought. So, any better examples of this "I am winning the race--it is not a race!" phenomenon?