Dave Noon Erik Loomis relates two anecdotes about the workings of US power. Both are a bit extreme. The US-Haiti relationship, in particular, is about as unequal as you can get in contemporary world politics.

Still, Loomis’ stories illustrate why some of us leave short-term stints in government with the impression that Washington is both much more powerful and┬ámuch weaker than US academics often assume.

US officials find themselves significantly constrained by America’s web of alliances and economic interdependencies, but that web also privileges their voices in day-to-day interactions throughout the globe.