America is the richest country and the most sophisticated high-tech military power in the world, and is spending more on defence in real terms than at any time since the end of the second world war. Yet it is being exhausted by insurgents armed with AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised bombs. With strong pressure on President George Bush to withdraw from Iraq, jihadist militants scent a victory as momentous as the eviction of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989—a defeat that helped to dissolve the Soviet empire.
“A superpower can lose a war—in Vietnam or in Iraq—without ceasing to
be a superpower,” says Mr Kagan, “so long as the American public
continues to support American predominance, and so long as potential
challengers inspire more fear than sympathy among their neighbours.”