International voices have been suggesting recently that the United States is mistaken to imagine itself at the center of world affairs.
"It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote in a New York Times op-ed last month. "There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."
And earlier this month, China's state-run news agency Xinhua carried a commentary arguing a similar point:
"Moreover, instead of honoring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas, instigating regional tensions amid territorial disputes, and fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies."
The case for what the Xinhua writer called a "de-Americanized world" was strengthened by the recent U.S. government shutdown and threatened default on U.S. debts, which would have meant trouble for the world economy.
Author and journalist Zachary Karabell observed, "The fact that these two powerful critiques of America's place in the world were written by the United States' historical adversaries should not be an excuse to dismiss their substance."
What would the world look like without U.S. leadership? Might a reduced American role benefit the United States?