Too many of our politicians retain the now outdated broad exceptionalism-oriented mindset that prevailed in the immediate aftermath of World War Two. Our nation then was the only super power left standing and could pretty much dictate terms to the war-torn international community. Emerging relatively unscathed and prosperous from the global conflict, we essentially inherited the role of the world's lone policeman and rehabilitator, roles for which we were equipped at that moment to handle.
For those stuck in the time warp of the 20th Century, it hasn't registered that while we still wield great influence and possess the world's most powerful military, we are no longer guaranteed the last word. Our will cannot be imposed solely by armed might, and we lack the resources to function as the world's sole policeman. We can still lead in tactical foreign intervention. But the reality of affordability necessitates that we act in concert with international coalitions to achieve a sustainable favorable outcome.
If the 21st Century tells us anything, it is that no nation any longer is self-sufficient enough in resources to survive unilaterally. Modern technology, population growth, and depletion of crucial natural resources have created environmental problems and geo-political tensions that are global in scope. Enduring solutions thus can only evolve from international cooperation, creating an increase interdependency among nations.
Time has also been something of an equalizer, narrowing the material gap between us and many other countries, making them less amenable to accede dutifully to our directives.
Yet some of our politicians pay no heed to the changing geo-political universe. They suffer from an antiquated lone super power syndrome in which compromise is considered a sign of weakness, and lengthy diplomacy evidence of appeasement. If the world does not acquiesce completely to our terms, we'll simply soldier on alone, with no adverse consequences.
This mentality translates into contempt for the United Nations and an inclination to sever ties with the organization. There is the nonsensical conspiratorial notion that the UN is plotting to merge us into a world government (For the record, no country to date has been asked, much less agreed to relinquish its sovereignty to the UN.)
Politicians suffering from Post World War Two Syndrome favor bilateral agreements with the few countries that see everything our way. The same cannot be said for multilateral treaties that require considerable give and take.
There is a reluctance to disburse foreign aid unless the recipients are willing to follow our marching orders to the letter. The high seas are still considered a buffer against environmental degradation abroad, even though modern industrial pollution is transported around the world by wind and ocean currents.
Whether global warming or restraints on Iranian nuclear bomb-making, we cannot resolve geo-political challenges in the 21st Century without international collaboration.
There are politicians in both our major political parties who regrettably have yet to accept this reality.