Dr Rowan Williams criticised America for intervening overseas with a "quick burst of violent action" and claimed its foreign policy had created the "worst of all worlds".
The wide-ranging interview with a British Muslim lifestyle magazine included the Anglican leader's most outspoken criticisms to date of the US and the war in Iraq.
He also said that the modern Western definition of humanity was not working, and that there was something about Western modernity that "really does eat away at the soul".
Dr Williams said the crisis in Iraq was caused by America's misguided sense of its mission in the world and ridiculed the "chosen nation" myth in America and the idea that what happened there was God's purpose.
He claimed the US had lost the moral high ground since the September 11 attacks, and urged it to launch a "generous and intelligent programme of aid directed to the societies that have been ravaged; a check on the economic exploitation of defeated territories; a demilitarisation of their presence".
He added: "We have only one global hegemonic power. It is not accumulating territory: it is trying to accumulate influence and control. That's not working.
"It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources in to administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly, that's what the British Empire did in India, for example.
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"It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put it back together - Iraq, for example."
He described violence as "a quick discharge of frustration", adding: " It serves you. It does not serve the situation. Whenever people turn to violence what they do is temporarily release themselves from some sort of problem but they help no one else.
"A lot of pressure around the invasion of Iraq was 'we've got to do something, then we'll feel better'. That's very dangerous."
Dr Williams said he believed he had a role to play in the political arena in the UK by keeping before government "the great question of how you can actually contribute to a responsible civil society in a context where you've undermined most of the foundations on which that society can be built".
He offered only mild criticisms of Islam in the magazine Emel, describing the political solutions offered by the Muslim world as "not the most impressive".
He also said he was surprised that the small Christian community in Pakistan was seen as "deeply threatening by an overwhelming Muslim majority", and he condemned the Israeli security wall that cuts Bethlehem in two.
However, he also commended the Muslim practice of praying five times a day, saying that it allowed the remembrance of God to be "built deeply in their daily rhythm".
The Archbishop has been a persistent critic of the war in Iraq and said last month that the conflict had wreaked "terrible damage" on the Middle East.
© 2007 The Telegraph