The Challenge to U.S. Leadership

“It has been a long and hard fight, and we have lost. This experience, unique in the history of the United States, does not signal necessarily the demise of the United States as a world power. The severity of the defeat and the circumstances of it, however, would seem to call for a reassessment of the policies . . . which have characterized much of our participation.” This was the final message from Thomas Polgar, last station chief in Saigon, and while we are unlikely to see helicopters landing on the roofs of embassies in Kabul or Baghdad, his words again apply to the situation in which America may soon find itself. A postmortem of how we got here is useful only if it guides us in the anarchic world that America now faces.