America bears much of the blame for its waning global clout.
But what was most unnatural of all about what we Americans did to ourselves was that we missed the grand opportunity staring us in the face. September 11 was an awful day, but in strategic terms it had a silver lining. The sympathy that the rest of the world sent our way post-9/11 was not just good fellowship, it was a recognition that virtually every country around the globe faced the same kind of threat. This was an extraordinary chance for American leadership to renew itself at a time when the international community was adrift. After the cold war some pundits were questioning whether the "West" would long survive the extinction of its main enemy, Soviet communism. Foreign leaders had the usual doubts about America, but even so polls still showed a remarkable degree of global consensus in favor of a one-superpower (read: American-dominated) world. Most U.S. presidents after 9/11 would have seized the chance to reaffirm America's role in overseeing the international system by achieving a global consensus. Terrorism of the Al Qaeda variety provided a "natural bonding agent" for this system, as the Yale scholar Charles Hill (later Rudy Giuliani's presidential adviser) said.