Francis Fukuyama, of End of History and the Last Man fame (or infamy, depending upon one's perspective), who has lately expressed second and third thoughts about neoconservatism, is making a great deal of sense where the global (im)balance of power and the temptations thereof are concerned:
But the fundamental problem remains the lopsided distribution of power in the international system. Any country in the same position as the US, even a democracy, would be tempted to exercise its hegemonic power with less and less restraint. America’s founding fathers were motivated by a similar belief that unchecked power, even when democratically legitimated, could be dangerous, which is why they created a constitutional system of internally separated powers to limit the executive.
Such a system does not exist on a global scale today, which may explain how America got into such trouble. A smoother international distribution of power, even in a global system that is less than fully democratic, would pose fewer temptations to abandon the prudent exercise of power.
A few points are in order. First, it is unclear whether Fukuyama, in those last two sentences, argues for a reinvigorated global balance of power, or, perhaps, strengthened international institutions that might themselves act as checks upon individual nations that have grown 'too powerful' for the good of global stability. The phraseology of a "smoother international distribution of power" leaves the matter mired in ambiguity, as far as I am concerned. Nevertheless, if read with the former assumption in mind, the point is valid.
Second, this is not - though doubtless some will desire to read it in such a manner - an indictment of the United States as uniquely or solely perfidious; it is merely an observation that the numerous fortuities and exceptions of American history do not extend to the realm of character and judgment, ethics and prudence, and that American statesmen (cough, cough) are subject to all of the frailties of human nature. No Constitutional system, exceptional historical pedigree, or ingenious political traditions can ever fully compensate for defects of character, judgment, and morals.
Third, note the reference to the American system of checks and balances.... And meditate upon the melancholy fact that that system has been debauched, ever further, for quite some time now in our history as a nation, such that the executive commands and receives deference never envisioned by the Framers, and exercises powers that those same Framers would have regarded as usurpative and deleterious to republicanism - and that these corruptions are often justified by appeal to the very exercises of hegemonic power that concern Fukuyama. A tight little circle has been established, wherein the exercise of hegemonic power is invoked to justify novel readings of the Constitutional tradition, and these latter deviations are justified by invocation of the "necessity" of hegemony. Heads, you get an empire, not a republic; and tails, you can't have a republic, but they'll give you an empire instead. Or, in other words, lousy foreign policy and Constitutional declension are integral to one another; they are two sides of one clipped coin.