It's quite fashionable these days not only to demean American foreign policy but to lament that the United States has become the most hated nation on Earth. In fact, a headline in this week's New York Times Sunday Book Review read: "They Hate Us, They Really Hate Us."
No doubt, the arrogant, unilateral foreign policy that has characterized the Bush administration is responsible for a big chunk of the negative feeling about Uncle Sam. It's hard to fathom how this administration turned all the sympathy and positive feelings about the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks into the utter disdain we now see so freely expressed. Indeed, that disdain has spread to wide swaths of American public opinion, too. These guys not only have been wrong in many of the decisions they've made, they've been arrogantly wrong. It's a dynamite combination. But there is another view to all of this, and it's worth considering. In his latest book, "The Case for Goliath," Michael Mandelbaum argues that although there is a lot of bellyaching about the inordinate power of the United States and how it uses that power, most of the world's leaders really want Washington to be the world's dominant force. The alternative, writes Mandelbaum, a more chaotic world, is not in anyone's interests - and most of the world's leaders know it.
Mandelbaum, a professor of American diplomacy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Study (and a frequent contributor to these pages), says that in many ways the United States acts as the world's government by providing reassurance and enforcement of norms that make the world more stable. And only the United States has the economic and military power to perform that role. The United States is the strongest nation on the globe, and there is nobody in second place.