The next two years do not bode well for the United States in relation to the rest of the world.
There have been lots of ominous developments abroad lately: the Chinese order for us to butt-out of their dispute with our ally Japan over contested territory; the Japanese dust-up with the Russians; the inexplicable twitter birthday wish sent to Ahmadinejad; the latest terrorist attempts originating from Yemen that perhaps have connections with earlier foiled attacks—along with the usual rumblings from North Korea, Syria, and Iran.
I would imagine that after 21 months a general impression, fairly or not, has been created that the U.S. is either unwilling or unable to offer its traditional allies the same level of support as in the past, as America seeks a more multilateral, UN-orientated approach to problems at precisely the time when regional autocracies seek adjustments and advantages in the perceived void. Now with Obama in a holding pattern after the midterm rebuke and considered wounded, I would imagine we will see a very different 2011, perhaps analogous to the annus horribilis of 1979, when the world sized up the therapeutic proclamations of Jimmy Carter between 1977-8, then and finally let loose—the Chinese invading Vietnam, the Soviets into Afghanistan, its surrogates expanding in Central America, the rise of radical Islam and fall of the shah, the taking of the American hostages in Iran, the boycott of the Olympics and on and on.
Just as Obama now seems petulant and miffed that voters did not appreciate his new statist agenda and impatiently and ignorantly pushed back, so too abroad Obama will become disappointed with the world that did not rally to his singular outreach, but instead interpreted his reset diplomacy as weakness to be exploited rather than as magnanimity to be appreciated. And looming behind all this is the specter of massive cuts in the U.S. budget and an anticipated curtailment of U.S defense posture abroad.