The Age of Might is over

‘The adventure on the high seas is a blast from the past,’ writes Geoffrey Wheatcroft. ‘The US empire now faces the impotence of conventional force’

For the family of Richard Phillips, the captain of the Maersk Alabama, his rescue by special forces was the best possible Easter present. For Americans it was an exhilarating display of American power, and for Barack Obama it was a gratifying demonstration that he isn’t the wimpish pacifist the Republicans called him.

But to a detached observer, this gung-ho adventure in the Indian Ocean is the rule-proving exception. What we have recently seen far more often is what a New York Times headline on the piracy story said last Thursday: “US power has limit”. We’re dealing, that’s to say, with one of the most important discoveries of our time: the impotence of great might.

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