Have America's muscles atrophied, or are they just weary from overuse? A physical exam would find her in relatively good shape, but a psychological probe would find sufficient deficiencies. Her military sinew is fit and prepared to perform as directed. Her economic strength needs further improvement but retains significant power.

However, temperament, determined by the attitudes and dispositions of her citizens and especially her leaders, also is critical in evaluating America's health.

Over the past decades, America has articulated her values, gaining respect from her allies and friends. Her detractors have exerted considerable effort to undermine the spread of these values, especially in less developed countries.

For the latter, there are no rules - the goal is mayhem and destruction. The antidote is resolve and dedication by rational and well-intentioned global members to repel this infestation.

Some advocate America's health would be best served by rolling herself in a cocoon, thus avoiding infections from external sources. Unfortunately, this possibility has long passed us by.

America is in a global economy and threatened by global malfeasants. Thus, one other facet needs to considered in pronouncing a proper diagnosis on America's health - diplomacy, which influences how she relates and performs on the world stage. As with America's military, she has a bevy of intelligent, dedicated, well-prepared and motivated men and women to safeguard her interests far and wide.

However, their effectiveness is conditioned on temperament. America's leaders, who determine the size of her umbrella, set the ground rules to accommodate their cognitive vision of what they consider is best for America. This power, if not used properly, can create considerable confusion in many sectors.

It can demonstrate reticence and lack of resolve, let our friends and allies know they are on their own, signal to others aspiring to achieve a measure of democracy that they cannot count on America, and encourage nefarious actors to continue and augment their wanton acts.

The world is on fire, and there is no one to lead the fire brigade. A void has been created by America's abdication, and unsavory elements are taking advantage of American perceived disinterest - Ukraine, Russia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Israel, Palestine, Taliban resurgence, Chinese hegemony, Muslim nihilists, etc.

Hopefully, some positive results will emerge from the U.S.-African Summit in Washington Aug. 4-6.

President Obama has stated, "I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world. ... That partnership [with America] must be grounded in mutual responsibility and in mutual respect." Good luck with that.

Africa is a continent that is overdue for some good fortune. It is populated for the most part not by rebels or savages, but by people who aspire to lives with values as exist in America.

William J. Boudreau

Foreign Service Officer (Retired)

Cobby Creek Lane

Seabrook Island