A question about the US's place in the world
"so far the military action in Iraq has produced a modest improvement in American and global economic conditions; an intensified dialogue within the Arab world about political reform; a withdrawal of American forces from Saudi Arabia; and an increasing nervousness on the part of the Syrian and Iranian governments as they contemplated the consequences of being surrounded by American clients or surrogates. The United States has emerged as a more powerful and purposeful actor within the international system than it had been on September 11, 2001."
- from "Surprise, Security, and the American Experience" by John Lewis Gaddis
The quote above suggests that a purposeful and proactive America has strengthened our place in the world, not diminished it. But I have heard a lot of talk that America has squandered its goodwill in the world by going to war in Iraq, which hurts us in the war on terror. What exactly does this mean? Are countries like France and Germany refusing to try and stop terrorists because their governments are pissed at America? I don't believe that for one second. And for all of the complaints that countries will be less likely to support us militarily in the future, I would have to look at the results of recent wars and say that we don't need them much to begin with.
So, somebody explain it to me. How does losing the goodwill of nations who are unwilling to step up and do the right thing undermine US influence or goals?