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Barack Obama and the new place of American power

A new spirit of humility is clearly evident, but will the Obama administration agree to expand the 'Big Five' on the UN Security Council?

By John Hughes / April 24, 2009

Provo, Utah

History is the story of nations and empires that rise and fall.

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Some think that the United States – stressed by economic problems at home and strained by two current wars abroad – has come to the end of its dominant role in global affairs.

The post-American era is not yet here. The US remains the strongest military power on earth. Its economy is still by far the largest.

But it now must operate in, and cooperate with, a multipolar world of nations that are rising around it in stature and influence.

As President Obama put it at the G-20 summit in London earlier this month (once upon a time it used to be the G-7), no more Churchill and Roosevelt stuff, sitting in a back room together and deciding the future of the world. "That's not the world we live in," said the president. So the world today must be less influenced by American fiat, and more by American persuasion.

The US needs Russia, a Russia intent on resurgence after the loss of Soviet satellites, to help curb Iran's nuclear ambitions. The US needs China, a China increasingly robust economically and conscious of its new global influence, to restrain North Korea's nuclear ambitions. The US turns to the European Union to bolster antiterrorist forces in Afghanistan. The US urges India, fast becoming an economic superpower, to calm the fears of its old enemy Pakistan about another Indo-Pakistan war, so that Pakistan's military can concentrate on the Taliban and Al Qaeda within its borders. The US needs the help of nations such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia to smooth relations with Syria and negotiate with Hamas and Hezbollah.