Americans now realise that we live in a small world, one in which they do not have exclusive right to meddle in other countries’ affairs, and that what they do to others can be done to them.
It should be a sobering discovery. The surprising thing, however, is that they are baffled and shocked by it.
Both the realisation and shock are the result of several things. The principal one is the hacking of US information systems by Russians during last year’s presidential election.
Linked with this is the idea that the hacking was meant to influence the election in favour of a particular candidate. Then there is the associated misinformation also aimed at tilting the outcome of the election.
This is not the first time US information systems have been hacked into. The United States has regularly accused the Russians and Chinese of hacking. The US is itself guilty of the same. Indeed all countries do it. So why are the Americans making so much noise about this particular case?
That they are crying foul is not strange. In fact it is a typical American response.
Americans have always projected their political system as the best in the world. The very idea of anyone seeking to manipulate it is unthinkable. Never mind that they are always doing it themselves.
It is no secret that sometimes it has been made particularly difficult for some groups suspected of leaning to a certain political party to register to vote. There have also been issues with vote counting in the past.
In other instances congressional districts have been demarcated in a way that ensures that candidates of a particular political party will always be returned.
But of course, this is they messing up with their thing. So it is acceptable.
Americans have also been made to believe that they are the greatest in the world in practically everything. To learn that their systems can be hacked at will and information extracted and put out for all of us to see is difficult to take,
It is even worse that it has been done by Russia. This is a country that all prominent Americans, except Donald Trump, have declared their number one adversary.
For the last few years, Russia has been put down as a small, weak power, no longer the equal of the United States. And so for it to do this to the United States is unimaginable.
This idea of the superiority of its systems has given the United States a certain amount of arrogance that makes meddling in the affairs of other nations a right, a mission even.
That is perhaps why they are shocked. Yet they should not be because they have been doing the same to others for a long time.
Interference in elections in other countries is an integral aspect of US foreign policy. They have been doing this through funding of their preferred political organisations or pouring in money to undermine those considered undesirable.
The United States and other western nations have sponsored the proliferation of civil society organisations that often set themselves up in opposition to sitting governments.
When none of these works, old-fashioned bullying and intimidation will do.
Now they have been given the same medicine and they find it bitter and do not like it.
Whatever the reasons for it and whether they are accepted or not, the hacking will have significant impact.
It puts doubts in the minds of most people, Americans included, about their assumed greatness and near invincibility in most matters.
In a related way, it is a boost for Russia and President Putin. They are making the statement: See. You cannot dismiss us as puny little fellows. We have the ability to poke you in the eye and cause you no end of discomfort. So you had better take us seriously and treat us with respect and as equals.
The Russians have been making the same point more forcefully in Ukraine and Syria.
Whether intended or not, this makes the argument for a multi-polar world order. The bipolar world that was destroyed a quarter century ago may have been dangerous but it kept the peace.
Its unipolar replacement has been equally dangerous and has not kept the peace any better. Perhaps an arrangement where there are a number of equally powerful nations might be a better alternative.
Finally there is the recognition, as one US Senator put it recently, that the world is one huge glass house and that it is dangerous to throw stones. It is doubtful whether the Americans, with their own version of infallibility will stop throwing stones.