The 1991 Gulf War and the implosion of the former Soviet Union caused a triumphalist euphoria in the United States as typified by political scientist Francis Fukuyama's bold projection of 'the end of history'. The Clinton years, therefore, were spent essentially for worldwide mop-up operations to pave the way for the ultimate global victory of liberal democracy and capitalist economy.

However, the Sept 11 terrorist attack on Washington DC and New York in 2001 has since changed the American view of the world as well as the world's views of the United States.

First and foremost, the attack has shown that even the homeland of the sole superpower on earth in the 21st century is vulnerable to war-like devastation caused, not by another superpower or any state, but merely by a tiny group of smart and 'dare-to-die' non-state actors of international politics. The American response in the form of an expeditionary war against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, while empathised by most of the responsible states in the world, also triggered off the fear of a 'clash of civilisations'.

The Huntingtonian fear was further exacerbated by the 2003 US-led war against the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq which itself cause a worldwide explosion of anti-American feelings, sentiments and opinions not only in the Islamic world, but also amongst a large portion of non-Islamic Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Meanwhile, quieter shifts in the geopolitical balance of power seem to be taking place in Northeast and Central Asia.

Is the United States really as strong as it appears to be? Have the American leverages and statecraft for its diplomacy and conduct of international relations lost their traditional effectiveness?

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