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April 08 , 2011

The Eagle's Shadow

Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World


What America looks like to the rest of the world

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Americans rarely used to think about the outside world. As the mightiest nation in history, the United States could do as it pleased. Now Americans have learned the hard way that what outsiders think matters. When terror struck last September 11, author Mark Hertsgaard was completing a trip around the world, gathering perceptions about America from people in fifteen countries. Whether sophisticated business leaders, starry-eyed teenagers, or Islamic fundamentalists, his subjects felt both admiring and uneasy about the United States, enchanted yet bewildered, appalled yet envious.

This complex catalogue of impressions – good, bad, but never indifferent – is the departure point for a short, pointed essay in the tradition of Common Sense and The Fate of the Earth. How can the world's most open society be so proud of its founding ideals yet so inconsistent in applying them? So loved for its pop culture but so resented for its high-handedness? Exploring such paradoxes, Hertsgaard exposes uplifting and uncomfortable truths that force natives and outsiders alike to see America with fresh eyes.

"Like it or not, America is the future," a European tells Hertsgaard. In a world growing more American by the day, The Eagle's Shadow is a major statement about and to the place everyone discusses but few understand.

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