The understanding of world affairs that is dominant in the US is very Marxist. I don’t use this word as a term of abuse but strictly in its scholarly sense. Marxism sees the economy as the basis for everything. “At the root of everything that happens lie economic reasons,” say classical Marxists. This is imposible to prove because it’s untrue, so neo-Marxists have modified this rigid adherence to the economic causes of everything.
But the US government is a lot less flexible than even the Marxists who aren’t exactly famous for their openness to new ideas. Every administration since Reagan has conducted its foreign policy in rigidly Marxist terms. Time and again, the US government tries to solve political, military, and cultural problems through economic means. And every single time it fails. Because the economy is important. But it’s not everything.
China didn’t become democratic once it was included in the global economy. Russia didn’t develop anything resembling democratic institutions once its economy was fully neoliberalized. Four decades of economic sanctions didn’t make Iran’s military industry any less of a threat. “Markets” don’t create political institutions. They don’t change totalitarian mentality. They don’t win on the battlefield. They are powerful in many ways but not in every way.