After the Soviet Union fell, the United States had no strategic challenger. Its new fear was that such a challenger would emerge—this time from minor regional hegemons growing into major ones. The fear, once again, was that these would in time have the resources to challenge the United States globally.
Hmm. This was doing about as well as a thousand-word history of the US can do, until here. I submit: a) our fear was that "minor regional hegemons" which is to say China and maaaybe India would challenge us through capitalism, not geopolitics; b) he mentions the Balkans in the next breath but by no means did we only begin interfering in countries/wars beneath our notice after the Wall fell; c) his oversimplification is a little bit too tidy. I am fully behind his idea that if you look with hindsight at every foreign policy action this country has taken since the French and Indian War, it becomes pretty fucking obvious that Manifest Destiny did not stop at the Sierra Nevada. But if there's a paragraph which he's stretching it's this one.
The threat that emerged was not naval power, but terrorism. This is a lesser, yet still painful strategic problem that the United States must deal with today. It cannot tolerate potential hegemons like Russia and can effectively destroy their military capacity. However, it cannot deal with the consequences of its actions.
Worth noting that terrorism isn't much of a threat, it turns out. Global irrelevance is, and the neocons fear it. Hell, so do the progressives in a very different way.
Great article -- now I see it's Friedman. Of course.