Can American foreign policy be fixed? First, the United States is nowhere near as powerful as it was five years ago, or as many within the Bush administration believe it to be. The disproportionate military and economic might that this country brought to bear in the 1990s lulled a lot of people into a false sense of security: we measured power on an old-fashioned, twentieth-century abacus—according to gross domestic product, advantageous trade deficits, or unsurpassed military and technological supremacy. The memory of how the Cold War was allegedly won further fueled this idea. We outspent and outgunned the Soviet Union, the story went, and our freedoms won the affections of repressed peoples.
But what we recognize now, as the Bush administration tries to exert American will around the world, is the degree to which the old power metrics are anachronistic.