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The United States produces more than 30 per cent of the world s goods and services. New York accounts for at least half of the world s capital market. And 70 per cent of the world s visual media comes out of America, and, in a large part, reflects an American view of things. Yet despite their awesome dominance, many Americans confess to an underlying fear and insecurity which makes it plain that the very exercise of their power, far from giving them peace of mind, has merely heightened their anxieties. They have become uneasy citizens of the world they bestride. "I d say there s a lot of anxiety and edginess about," said Fred Barnes, a well known Washington columnist and television personality. "We, for example, have bought duct tape for the windows, not to mention several days supply of water and canned food and my wife Barbara and I have agreed that, if something happens, we and our two daughters will try to meet at our other house in Middleburgh, which is 40 miles from here. We haven t been to that house for years, but I always keep the key in my pocket.

A lot of other people have taken similar precautions." Indeed they have. "My son, who is 10 and goes to school near the CIA s headquarters, always takes a biochemical change of clothes with him in case of attack," said George Will, a columnist who is syndicated in 490 papers across America. "All the family have little cell phones in their backpacks, so we can find out where everyone is and take the next step. Mrs Will says she would head for a motel in Pennsylvania." Nor is this merely a Beltway phenomenon. On the plane from Atlanta to Austin, Texas, I met Camille Brightman, a young nurse whose parents own a 50,000 acre ranch in the state. "I did say a prayer before we took off that we wouldn t be sabotaged," she said, "and I decided I d better make a will just as soon as we landed. I have an Argentinian boyfriend and I ve been wondering whether it wouldn t be safer for us to live in Argentina.

"Fernando doesn t want to go he thinks the US is great but I feel sure Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are still alive and will show up again pretty soon." "Since 9/11," said an elderly lady in the bar of the hotel at West Point, "I m just more mistrustful. I look at everybody in a completely different way. And they talk about the danger of terrorism all the time on TV, so you can t really be surprised if people like me are more frightened." Uneasy, indeed, lies the head that wears the crown. This unease is all the greater because, in their heart of hearts, many Americans find it hard to imagine why anyone should want to do them harm, still less hate them. The United States, they are convinced, is the first truly benign super power in history. Having developed what they believe to be the most enlightened form of society ever conceived, they see themselves as wanting nothing but to do good in the world, in particular by helping others in the nicest possible way to become more like themselves. One of the most revealing moments on my journey came over lunch with Irving and Bea Kristol in Washington. They are a delightful couple of high intelligence and sophistication. When I asked what kind of people made up America s imperial class, both strongly denied that there was any such thing. None the less, I said, America did seem to be behaving in a very imperial way. Bea looked puzzled and shocked. "But," she said, "the word imperial implies that there is something in it for America."

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