WITH GREAT HUBRIS COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY. Cliff May makes a common conservative joke about the Bush administration getting blamed for problems that have no apparent connection to anything it's done, in this particular instance riots in Sao Paulo. The thing of it is that this mindset -- holding the United States partly responsible for everything that goes bad wherever one happens to live -- is a straightforward consequence of precisely the sort of foreign policy May favors and the Bush administration has implemented. The prevailing orthodoxy has it that the United States should be engaged everywhere, unrestrained by international organizations, and deeply concerned with the internal policies of other countries.

There are two ways you could try and justify that combination of hegemony and asymmetrical sovereignty. One would be purely in terms of the American interest: "The world should work like that because it's good for us." But if you phrase it that way, then the 95 percent of the world or so that doesn't live in the United States is going to view American foreign policy as a threat to them. Alternatively, you can phrase it in terms of American benevolence: "The world should work like that because it's good for all of us." This, though, really does involve taking the blame for things that go wrong. Nobody blames the leaders of Iceland or Belgium or South Korea or Brazil for things that happen on other continents, because the leaders of those countries don't purport to be solving all the world's problems or building up a massive security apparatus to serve the common good.

--Matthew Yglesias

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