Is the US really the world's sole superpower?

I hear this all the time on talking heads shows, hear it from the pundits, read it in the papers, but the longer the Iraq situation continues, I have to wonder if we really are the world's superpower.

In one large way, we certainly are--we have more nuclear weapons than anyone else. We could destroy human life on earth several times over, and there's not a thing any other country earth, alone or in conjunction with others, could do about it.

But is that enough to make us a superpower? Is the possession of weapons that no reasonable human would ever use, even in a limited sense, really power? For all the blather from hawks about "never taking options off the table," the fact is that any politician who openly suggested using conventional nuclear weapons in either a tactical or strategic manner would be yanked from the public stage in a heartbeat.

So by what other standard is the US a superpower? It's true we have the most technologically advanced military in the world. Our tanks are the best, our fighters and bombers the fastest and most manueverable, the list goes on and on.

And yet we hear again and again that our military is stretched to the breaking point. Our military issued stop-loss orders months ago, and just yesterday, the news broke that the military is activating the Individual Ready Reserve. The next step, literally, is the draft.

Last year, when we were asked to send troops to Liberia, we could only send a token force and that took time. There's a call to send troops to the Sudan to stop genocide, and we don't have any to send. And forget about it if North Korea decides to get frisky. Or Iran. Or any of the other hot spots around the world.

So just how super are we? Are we just riding our reputation now? Is our superness based simply on our nuclear arsenal? And if so, is it enough?

I don't think so, and what scares me is that I can't be the only one who's come to this realization.

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