America is exceptional - utterly and absolutely exceptional - because the rest of the world depends on American guns, American money and American mediation in a way that no other country or combination of countries possibly might replace. Any other power that suffered the setbacks that America sustained during 2010 under the Barack Obama presidency would have been pushed off the top of the hill. The reason America still has diplomatic currency to spend in Asia as well as actual currency to borrow demonstrates its indispensable role: no one, least of all Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao or Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, wants America to fail.
That is why a conspiracy of silence surrounds the observation that the emperor is naked. But the facts are depressingly clear.
Never before in the course of strategic events have so few done so much damage to so many in such a short period of time. The "few", to be precise, are Obama and the tiny coterie of advisors through whom he runs the government. Obama was true to his baffling words before the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2009: "No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation," Obama told the United Nations on September 23. "No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold."
America's competitors have seen the erosion of American power as if through a time-lapse camera, and they don't like it at all. Obama's self-shrinkage of American influence may give us a civil war in Iraq, a new Israeli-Hezbollah war in Lebanon, a nuclear-armed Iran, a replay of the Cuban missile crisis in Venezuela, an unshackled rogue state in North Korea, an ungovernable Pakistan, and - worst of all - another American recession as the US Treasury struggles to fund a government deficit in excess of 12 percentage points of gross domestic product. Confronted with the consequences of a naked emperor in Washington, the other powers of the world can only avert their eyes and hope he will get some clothes before it is too late.