Graham E. Fuller, a former CIA official and author of numerous books on the Muslim world, explains what's wrong with America's imperial dreams in one paragraph.
The decline of US power abroad cannot be separated from many domestic failings: deadlocked governance, bloated military budgets and their huge opportunity costs, the rise of the military-industrial-security state and its massive cash infusions into Congress; an impoverished political spectrum that begins on the moderate right of center (Obama) and caroms on over into various degrees of crazy right. There is virtually no left of center—indeed the very word “left” borders on the obscene in the American political lexicon. And we have the intellectual isolation and distortion inherent in America’s vision of the rest of the world. A “mainstream” corporate-dominated media that shields the population from distasteful global realities. The belief that America itself represents “reality.” The security-state mentality that promotes paranoia and fear. The belief that the American imperium is ageless, on an eternal mission without bounds, fundamentally benign, and a universal good.
Throw in the fact that most Americans don't recognize any of these issues - choosing instead to believe that throwing our military weight around the world will make us strong again - and we can begin to understand our primary problem.
Simply put, most Americans are clueless and scared. So they've constructed a make believe world they believe can be controlled militarily by the United States. The military becomes at once our savior and the world's monster.
Ignorance coupled with arrogance has always been the first step toward history's graveyard.