Came across this excellent article by David Knowles on AOL. Thought to post here for those that dot not have AOL:
If you were looking for signs of the United States' waning influence on the world stage, you needed only tune in to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games. Beijing's spectacular coming out party was a mind-boggling feast for the senses. The synchronized precision of the show, which fused the latest (Chinese-made) technological marvels with the daunting manpower of a country whose masses are hurtling into the middle class at world record pace, was as beautiful as it was unnerving. Yes, China is the world's future. And the future is now.
Taking in the show were the representatives of two former world champions: The President of the United States, and the Prime Minister of Russia. During the parade of nations, George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin, with the aid of an interpreter, exchanged words about another world event taking place at a venue on the other side of the globe. Georgia, a sovereign nation and a staunch American ally, had just been overrun by Russian tanks -- and troop numbers reminiscent of the U.S.S.R.'s forays into Czechoslovakia in '68 and Afghanistan campaign of '79 -- and Mr. Bush let Mr. Putin know he wasn't too happy about it. The result of the impromptu scolding? The tanks pushed on farther, and Russian ships began a blockade. And Mr. Bush hit the beach volleyball court to ham it up with our bikini-clad athletes.
As the president revealed in his interview with NBC's Bob Costas on Sunday, there isn't really much that America can -- or wants to -- do about the injustices currently being perpetrated by China or Russia. Simply put, in geopolitical relationships, there are things you like about your trading partners, and things you don't like. You take the good with the bad. Here's a telling exchange:
Q [Costas]: But given China's growing strength and America's own problems, realistically how much leverage and influence does the U.S. have here?
The President: First of all, I don't see America having problems. I see America as a nation that is a world leader that has got great values. And leverage is -- I don't think you should look at the relationship as one of leverage. I think you ought to look at the relationship of one of constructive engagement where you can find common areas, like North Korea and Iran, but also be in a position where they respect you enough to listen to your views on religious freedom and political liberty.
In other words: Our leverage is gone. And who are we to go around trumpeting our moral authority, anyway? We, who have now joined the Russians and the Chinese on the podium of Human Rights abuses. But more to the point, you might imagine the amused reactions from Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao when America raises its "concerns." What's the United States going to do? With its military might otherwise occupied, its economy teetering, what influence, exactly, is supposed to make anybody the least bit anxious?
Back at home, the neocons are barking for the president to take a firmer hand in Georgia. To them, the military solution is always plan A. To that end, the United States began airlifting 2,000 Georgian troops from Iraq, where they serve in what's left of our "coalition of the willing," and dropped them back home to take on the Russians. This did not exactly go over too well with Putin.
Aside from logistical support, however, it remains unclear how involved our military will become. Fighting daily skirmishes with Iraqi militias and a dispersed Taliban is one thing, confronting the Russian Army is another. Trying to do all of it at the same time, madness. No wonder the president has been spending so much time in the bleachers.
Ah well, at least we still command respect on the beach volleyball court.