I think that most non-Americans - and more than a few Americans - miss the essential nature of America, particularly in their behavior towards other nations. Here is the quick and dirty guide to understanding American foreign policy:
If you leave us alone, we will leave you alone. Heck, we'll even give you money if we think you need it more than we do. Mind if we send some tourists your way?
If you trade with us, we will trade with you. The more barriers and annoyances you put in place, the more we will do so as well, and eventually we will trade less with you for it. On the other hand, the more open you are, the more open we will be. We would just as soon eliminate tarriffs and the like: we have the income tax now and don't really need them. Please, let us open branch offices and fast food joints.
If you are our faithful ally, trustworthy and honest, we will shower you with every benefit we can give. We will defend you against all threats. We will send our young men and women, if necessary to die, by the millions to aid you. We will spend our blood and our treasure freely on your behalf. All that we will ask of you is a plot of land to bury our dead.
If you pose an existential threat to us, we are the most ruthless bastards on the face of the Earth, and we will bend you to our wills, or we will kill you. Witness, if you will, the American Civil War, the way we fought against Japan in WWII, Dresden and so forth.
If you interfere with our interests abroad, we will be annoyed with you, and will attempt to marginalize and contain you, even to destroy your economy and culture if necessary. I'm looking at you, Fidel Castro.
If you threaten us (empty or not) and act to develop means to hurt us, see the point about posing an existential threat. After September 11, we are not going to put up with that crap any more. I'm looking at you, Kim Jong-Il.
If you think we are a pawn to play in your regional games, and in the process decide to interfere with our attempts to maintain our security, we will work to thwart your ambitions. I'm looking at you, Jacques Chirac.
We are large, rich, powerful and diverse. What other nations see as major acts of war (bombing our embassies, for example), we frequently see as annoyances and part of the price for being in the world. Eventually, we will notice if you keep it up. I'm looking at what's left of you, Osama bin Laden.
We are not always wise, but we are always intelligent. We are always kind and generous and loyal to our friends, ruthless and implacable to our enemies, and we generally ignore those who don't fall into either of the above categories as best we can. We make mistakes, but we correct them. We are repentant, but we are not guilt-ridden. We are religious, but we are not fanatics.