The rise of China and other powers, such as Brazil and Turkey, serves as a reminder that the US is increasingly operating in a multipolar world. Obama will probably still chafe against the diminishing capacity of a US president to shape events around the globe.
One important exception is the Middle East, specifically the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The US’ alliance with Israel gives Obama a powerful lever he can pull to influence the course of events, but he has so far balked at using it.
In his second would-be transformational speech on foreign policy, made in Cairo in June, 2009, Obama pledged to change the US’ role in the Middle East, and Arabs took that to mean more US pressure on Israel to accept a peace deal that left Palestinians with a viable state based on 1967’s borders. However, in a standoff with Netanyahu over Israeli West Bank settlements later that year, Obama blinked, mindful of the imperatives of re-election in a strongly pro-Israel country.
The question now is whether the president has the stamina to try again.