Victor Davis Hanson

When it comes to intervening in international affairs, the United States is damned when it does and damned when it doesn't. Critics of U.S. policy are always quick to pounce — and in this age of globalization, they're only getting more impatient.

It's not just the global geopolitical map that has changed; people everywhere have, too. Globalization has enriched the planet beyond belief, leading to ever-increased demands of perfection. And thanks to 24/7 communications, we all instantaneously know when these expectations aren't met.

The world’s public expects that frightening problems, whether an earthquake in Pakistan, an Indonesian tsunami or a war in Darfur, will be resolved as quickly as a cell phone can transmit a digital photograph or a computer can retrieve information from the Internet. And fingers are pointed at the U.S. when, inevitably, this doesn't happen.

Yet no one, not even the all-powerful United States, can easily foster democracy in a country that suffered from 30 years of atrocities — and is now bitterly divided as a result of those atrocities. There is no super-ray that knocks down Korean or Iranian nukes with the touch of a finger. And the tragedy in Darfur sadly may remain a bloody mess whether the U.S. preempts, goes it alone or brings in an enormous coalition.

In many ways, the global reliance on the U.S. has only increased since the fall of the Soviet Union. While no one would wish to revisit the Cold War, Moscow, ruling with an iron fist, put down tribal and religious malcontents in its sphere of influence. Today, there are no superpower blocs; instead a multitude of freelancing killers have been unleashed with nothing much to fear from anyone.

How, after all, can one arrest Osama bin Laden hiding out in an Islamist and nuclear Pakistan? How does one entice nuclear China to force allied, communist and nuclear North Korea not to threaten a free, rich and rival Japan?

And at exactly the time the world has become more complex, the wired global audience is more impatient, demanding — and inconsistent.

Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.