Tom Friedman writes:

When Britain went into decline as the globe’s stabilizing power, America was right there, ready to pick up the role.

Alternatively, the British Empire was a force that destabilized many of its colonial possessions, and its relative decline among the European powers during the 20th Century coincided with two devastating world wars. Only after the latter ravaged Europe did the United States emerge as a clear superpower, and far from doing so alone, the Soviet Union rose too, dominating half of Europe.

Myths matter, of course. One will recall the gem from Tony Blair's speech to the Congress after 9/11, when he pointed out that America had always stood by Britain, even during the Blitz, and that Britain would always do the same. In fact, the US had not entered the war when Britain fought its core battle for national survival.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.