The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., November 2008
Jim Bourg / Reuters

American global leadership faces a crisis—not of economic vitality, diplomatic prowess, or military strength but of legitimacy. Around the world, polls and interviews show that publics and elites in countries that consider themselves U.S. allies harbor doubts about the state and direction of American democracy. They no longer see it as a model, and they worry whether the American political system can still produce trustworthy outcomes.

Such sentiments are cause for alarm. In the past, the U.S. image abroad rose and fell depending on who was in the White House or what actions the United States was

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