Even though the U.S. government rushed to restore trust, hundreds of billions of dollars in paper assets simply vanished. Friends and enemies abroad were unsure whether the irregular American heartbeat was a major coronary or a mere cardiac murmur. How strong really was the world's greatest economy? Was this panic the tab for years of borrowing abroad for out-of-control consumer spending? Had America finally gone too far enriching dictators by buying energy that it either could not or would not produce itself? Had the chickens of lavishing rewards on Wall Street and Washington speculators rather than Main Street producers finally come home to roost?

Allies trust that the United States is the ultimate guarantor of free communication and commerce -- and they want immediate reassurance that their old America will still be there. In contrast, opportunistic predators -- such as rogue oil-rich regimes -- suddenly sniff new openings.
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