U.S. withdrawal from Iraq marks the end of America's great expectations

After Iraq, the future no longer bears the label “Made in the USA.” In places such as China, alternatives to liberal democracy stubbornly persist and show no signs of flagging. Where demands for democracy sound the loudest — as in the Arab world — the outcome may not favor liberal values. Across Asia, Africa and Latin America, the American model, today damaged and more than slightly tarnished, is only one among several.

Confidence that globalization will (or should) define the economic future has taken a nose dive. While we’ve been making war, rising economic powers have been making hay, frequently at American expense. At home, meanwhile, deference to the market has produced corruption, recklessness and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Furthermore, even if globalization works for the some, it’s by no means certain that it works for the many — a point to which Occupy Wall Street protesters insist on calling attention and one that political leaders ignore at their peril.

Only in the realm of military power has American dominance remained unquestioned, as politicians and generals constantly assert. Yet after years of fighting in Iraq, and with the Afghan war and other “overseas contingency operations” continuing, the value of that claim is fading. No doubt U.S. forces have matchless combat capabilities. Yet the sad fact is that they cannot be relied upon to win. Merely avoiding defeat has become a staggeringly expensive proposition.