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Clinton Speaks, The World Reacts

Today our editorial team looks at responses from global media to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Kenneth Weisbrode: Why Foreign Policy Slogans Matter

So much has been written about the decline of American power that the adherents to the idea keep turning to new ways to describe the phenomenon. Now, it is not the case that America is declining, per se, but that other powers are rising. This variation may be true, whatever the political reality is on the ground. The ways by which so-called declinism affect the collective mindset is another matter. Already we see the emergence of a more subtle and broad-minded American approach to global issues. Some would say this is a consequence of an America in decline or in the words of Dick Cheney—a finite, "existential" power. That is—so far as power goes—use it or lose it. In truth, the opposite tends to be the case. When a nation relies on its existing power to get its way, that power strengthens in direct proportion to the extent to which it is not used, or at least not used badly. Weakening or insecure powers, like Wilhelmine Germany or the United States of the late 1960s and early 1970s, tend to crave the appearance of power for its own sake while becoming badly demoralized in the process. Today, we measure power at face value for what it is without much reference to abstractions. In retrospect, abstractions—like Francis Fukuyama's case for the end of history (one that he now claims only made sense at the time)—would seem to be a luxury of what the French blithely called a "hyperpower," or a hegemon.

Dr. Sulaiman Al-Hattlan: It’s the Age of Obama!

If you have ever lived in Washington, DC, you will clearly see, if you visit these days, that America is living in a new era—the Obama era. America is changing, and American society, with its lively and ever-renewing nature, is renewing itself yet again. Today, you barely can find a table in a restaurant or café that doesn’t have a political discussion underway with Obama’s name in it. Sharp criticism of the last administration is now explicit optimism for the new administration. There is a consensus, in most of the circles I visited in Washington, that “change” is the theme of the current period. This change, led by Obama from the moment he launched his campaign, “Yes, we can,” was not purely a political need for America necessitated by the circumstances of world affairs. It also has resonated with the transformation of American society—stages of change, renewal, and self criticism. America’s demographic composition is also different than ten years ago. Spanish is forcing its way next to English in most of the places I saw in my recent visit. Americans’ colors, features, and accents are diverse but harmonious in daily life, as if Barack Obama formed a new symbol for uniting America in face of the internal and external challenges. In the 1990s, I lived for six years in Washington, whose corridors continue to witness the creation of the most important world decisions. Back then, there was seldom a day that passed without someone asking me, "where are you from"? In my recent visit to Washington, for a whole week, not a single person asked me that question or about my ethnic heritage. With the current economic crisis and the optimism about the Obama era, which has just begun to unite the America body politic, it’s as if this society today is constantly challenging itself, to prove for itself and for others that America can rise again, rid itself of and solve the crises of the previous administration.

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