American influence waning in the new world order

From the Vancouver Sun

Stephen Harper should take Barack Obama by the hand at their yet-to-be scheduled meeting and lead the president in a whole new foreign policy direction.
That's the thrust of an article in the latest Literary Review of Canada, which argues the notion of the U.S. as global leader is passé.

In "Help Wanted: Leader of the Free World; Can Obama fill the bill or have we all moved on?" Jennifer Welsh, born in Regina and now professor of international relations at the University of Oxford, argues that in fact we have all moved on.
When the U.S. initially pursued its policy of acting as the world's Big Cheese, global forces were different than they are now. Both Canada and the U.S., says Welsh, had better get with the program.

Obama, in his inaugural speech Tuesday, appeared to set a new and refreshing post-Bush course for U.S. foreign policy, one that would deploy military force more judiciously, ditch unilateralism and rely on a fuller appreciation of the needs of other nations.

U.S. power "grows through its prudent use," stated Obama. "Our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint." Still, the new president held tight to the notion that the U.S. continues to be the big man on campus.

"To all other peoples and governments who are watching today," intoned Obama, "from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that . . . we are ready to lead once more." But the world is not prepared to have the Americans lead as in the past, Welsh writes. Washington politicians are going to have to bury the "hegemonic mindset that has driven their policy-making since the end of the Cold War." In the new scheme of things, China, India, Brazil and the Persian Gulf countries all have become "important players in a changing dynamic of multilateral co-operation." The European Union, not the U.S, now provides the highest levels of development assistance.

Welsh recalls that when the U.S. first adopted its leadership posture around 1945, 50-odd states were operating in the international system, compared with nearly 200 today.

Even as the world has grown more fragmented, "an entire generation of policy-makers in Washington is still gripped by a hegemony complex that sees the U.S. at the top of a unipolar system." Moreover, "economic factors have the greatest potential to derail the U.S. project to resume global leadership." Americans are mired in deficit and in coming years will have difficulty financing their social programs, let alone their outsized military.

She suggests Canada should be helping the U.S. adjust to the changed global landscape.

Let's face it, Americans are likely to be the last to realize their star has fallen; they've traditionally had a more self-focused perspective than Canadians when it comes to foreign policy.

Obama, with his desire to use military might more sparingly and exercise more multilateralism, probably admires this country's foreign policy behaviour. He surely has taken note that Canada refused to join the U.S.-led effort in Iraq that he himself opposed.
I still think the U.S. will be world leader for a while, but here's the thing, to be a great leader, you have to be a great listener and also great at sharing! That is what is lacking in the U.S. If the U.S. gets with the program and listens to others, it can stay on top for a while longer. But yes, I do also see that things are changing, and the U.S. is far from being the only power now. The days in which the U.S. was far ahead of everyone else are fading. The U.S. may still be on top in many areas, but the gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world is narrowing.

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