America leads the world but does it rule it? And what should we feel about being part of the empire, if it is one?
AS THE civilian death toll in Iraq continues to mount at an undiminished rate, as the prison scandals of Abu Ghraib and GuantÃ¡namo Bay continue to undermine any claim to a moral high ground, and as America continues to be a deliberate laggard in adjusting its energy policy to take account of global warming, it has become steadily harder to find non-Americans willing to agree that on balance American leadership makes the world a better place. That doesn't make the notion wrong, however. Enter Michael Mandelbaum, a foreign-policy expert at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC. His previous, very compelling book, "The Ideas that Conquered the World" (2002), explored how peace, democracy and free markets had become the world's dominant ideals. Now, his new book argues that the country that stands most squarely behind those aspirations, the United States, also acts as a sort of surrogate government for the globe - and that we would all be a lot worse off if it didn't ...