In this morning's (11/2/2011) New York Times, an excellent analysis by Helene Cooper under the odd headline "A Silver Lining to America's Waning Influence." She uses the European sovereign debt crisis and the upcoming G20 meeting in Cannes as pegs for a thoughtful piece on how Obama has altered the trajectory of American foreign policy. In part this was Obama's design from the beginning--to change the way America interacts with allies, rivals and bystanders elsewhere in the world. In part, it is dictated by America's straitened financial circumstances.
This is one of the most insightful pieces of its kind that I've seen anywhere. If I have a quarrel with it, it's the tone, which is almost despairing: "We ain't the big dog we used to be." To my mind that's a significant improvement. It will require more subtlety in our diplomacy, but that's not a bad thing at all.