IN THE aftermath of the Iraq War, it is clear that the United States possesses military power unequaled by any other combination of powers in the world. That military power is backed by an economy as big as, and more productive and innovative than, the five next economies combined. It is also backed by an overwhelmingly pervasive popular culture--and by a vibrant high culture, as repeated American success in capturing British literary prizes demonstrates. In the recent crisis, the United States was prepared to use that power in a distasteful but urgent cause.
And while one country has that power, many of those which do not have it have spuriously misused the United Nations to try to collegialize the power of the United States. The Americans have indicated they are prepared to pay something for international support. But what occurred was a chicken game. The French, Russians and Germans overplayed their hands and were exposed as ineffective, as well as disingenuous. They damaged the United Nations they claimed to be upholding. They ran the danger of partially dismantling the Western Alliance, too late to help the Russians and isolating Germany, which is the reverse of German desires and a status in which Germany's history is, to say the least, not encouraging. They also completely debunked France's masquerade as a great power. These countries can agree on little except their concern about the astounding power and success of the United States. They will not fashion anything durable or geopolitically useful out of mere envy.