No insularity in the West, not even the English, has been so acute as the American: no international involvement, again not even the English, has been so deep.
Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America1
It takes little imagination to see that the events of September 11 delivered a profound shock to America's sense of its relationship with the outside world. Commentators inside and outside the United States strove to find words to express their sense of the enormity of the attacks. The attacks were a “wake-up call for Americans.” They constituted the “end of American innocence, ” a final blow to America's privileged position of detachment from the messy and violent conflicts that blighted less favored countries. America had now once and for all entered the “real world” of international politics, its “illusion of invulnerability” finally shattered. An important assumption behind these reactions was that America's stance toward the outside world could and must change as a result of these events. American isolationism (in so far as it still existed), its tendency to act unilaterally, indeed its famed “exceptionalism” itself must inevitably give way to an acknowledgment that the United States was just like any other power. What precise policy implications might flow from such a recognition were as yet unclear; it was enough that the events of September 11 constituted a turning point in American foreign relations. The world, it was said repeatedly, would never be the same again, and neither would America. 2
It is not surprising that a shock of this scale and immediacy should incline people to reach for the most charged language. It seems intuitively right that