The BBC has unpinned John Gray's grenade of an article about the end of American global leadership. Suggesting that US superpower status is shaken, the BBC's Paul Reynolds presents Gray's argument about America's fall to the most hawkish of Republican hawks, John Bolton, the former Bush appointee to the United Nations. Not surprisingly, Reynolds managed to simultaneously shake and stir Bolton, who told the BBC's world affairs correspondent:
If Professor Gray believes this, can he assure us that he is selling his US assets short?... If so, where is he placing his money instead? And if he has no US assets, why should we be paying any attention to him?"
Yes, Reynolds certainly managed to stir and stake Bolton whose childishly destructive reply reflects the myopia amongst America-firsters on the lunatic right of the Republican party. As Reynolds discovers, however, not all Republicans are quite as radioactively reactionary as Bolton. McCain foreign affairs advisor Robert Kagan, for example, acknowledges that today's multipolar international system is more like the 19th than the 20th century and thus needs to be managed responsibly by America and her allies. And Kagan reminds us that the 19th century's multipolar system ended in the carnage of the First World War:
To avoid such a fate, the United States and other democraticnations will need to take a more enlightened and generous view of their interests than they did even during the Cold War. The United States, as the strongest democracy, should not oppose but welcome a world of pooled and diminished national sovereignty.
Yes. But Kagan might have added that the United States also needs to convince the rest of the world to take a more "enlightened" and "generous" view of global American leadership. Fortunately, Republican tyrannosauruses like John Bolton don't matter anymore. In contrast, America's almost certain next President, Barack Obama and his brains trust of foreign policy experts do very much matter -- both here and abroad. As the BBC's Reynolds reminds us:
With the US presidential election looming, it will be worth returning to this subject in a year's time to see how the world, and the American place in it, looks then.
A year's time... By October 2009, America's global leadership might be not fully restored, but a confident President Obama might well have begun to successfully defuse John Gray's "historic geopolitical shift" grenade.