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As it prepares to release a new national-security strategy, the Obama administration is working to counter the growing conviction that U.S. influence in international affairs is receding.While assessments of declining U.S. influence are exaggerated, few would dispute that it is experiencing relative decline. Strategic missteps have contributed, as have systemic economic weakness and a perception that the United States is increasingly incapable of competent self-governance. A more sensible foreign policy course for the United States would proceed from a simple but powerful proposition: America's pre-eminence is inextricably linked to and contingent upon the health of the liberal international system whose creation it nurtured after World War II.Integrating rising (and, in some cases, risen) powers into a system that overwhelmingly bears a U.S. imprimatur will be daunting.The United States must be bold and imaginative as it undertakes to strengthen emerging powers' stake in preserving today's system. Are their choke points in the global maritime commons, for example, that the United States can safeguard in partnership with China and India, rather than alone? To those who fear that U.S. leadership in the world is imperiled, consciously nudging other countries to play a more active role in international affairs might seem self-defeating.
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