A golden opportunity for President Obama
Richard Haass, the former US State department official in Republican governments, observes in his recent book, The Opportunity, that the time has never been better for an organisation of great powers to bring peace and stability to the world. For the first time in a very long time, the major nations are not engaged in a struggle for dominance.
A Barack Obama presidency in the United States could do what should have been done 17 years ago, at the end of cold war: secure a grand peace on major issues between the major and not-so-major powers.
America has its problems of self-identity. Committed to its principals of liberty, democracy, individualism and private property, the US has the weakness of seeming to need an 'evil empire' to feel fulfilled.
Now, instead of being motivated to be involved in the outside world by security threats, it is time for America to be involved because of moral challenge. This is certainly not the time to be isolationist; everything indicates that if Senator Obama becomes president he will not want to be, although clearly a first item of business will be to withdraw from Iraq and reconfigure the western involvement in Afghanistan (he has yet to be as thorough in his thinking on Afghanistan as he has been on Iraq).
But this will be, as the French say, the time 'to withdraw so as to better advance'. The contours of Senator Obama's foreign policy are already becoming clear. There will be an end to the rhetoric of 'the global war on terrorism'. Dealing with al-Qaeda will shift from the military and more towards intelligence and the police. There will be an almighty push to secure a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, even though it will mean profoundly upsetting the Israeli lobby in Washington.
There will be an end to unnecessary confrontation with Iran. And, although there will be no let-up in the effort to make Tehran come clean on its bomb-making activities, there will be a willingness - as is finally the case with North Korea - to reach out and offer American co-operation to end Iran's diplomatic and economic isolation.
There will be more of an effort to persuade the European Union to stop Turkey feeling like an outcast and having no choice but to become more Islamic. As for Europe itself, Washington will no longer play at divide and rule, but will work to unite Europe even more tightly.
Nuclear disarmament between the US and Russia, which has gathered dust during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will be renewed.
With China, links will grow and paranoia about its growing military strength will subside.
The push for human rights observance will be more consistent. No one will be allowed off the hook because they are a 'useful' ally. The turnaround in African economic fortunes will continue to be supported.
An agenda like this will certainly compel the world to rethink its present scornful attitude towards America. It may not decide to love America, but it will make it respect it.
Jonathan Power is a London-based journalist