"Once America steps in, the process will be smooth and simple; the nightmare will end," said another Monrovian resident, Stephen Scott.
Americans, too, are ambivalent about American power. Our military might was born not of some aristocratic will to power but of deep-seated American virtues: a powerhouse economy built on freedom, creativity, entrepreneurship; a profound and, to jaded Euros, naive patriotism; a commitment to our own national story and national institutions that (unlike Europe's) have proved themselves spectacularly worthy of respect over 200 years.
But the characteristics that built the American empire make us particularly ill-suited to running one: Unlike the Romans, the American people have little interest in empire-running. We love our military might because we love our country, not the other way around. There is something both disturbing and endearing about a superpower whose people would prefer following the latest Kennedy scandal to military glory.
The truth is America will continue to be drawn into conflict all around the globe, because the world will insist on it. And the world will hate us, both for intervening and refusing to intervene. Get used to it.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.