Juan Cole has ten rather dark but thoughtful prophesies for 2006. A couple of points particularly caught my eye:
...7. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization composed of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan as members and India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan as observers, will follow up on its success in getting US troops out of Uzbekistan and on strengthening energy cooperation between Kazakhstan and China on the one hand, and Russia and Kazakhstan on the other, as well as security cooperation between Russia and Uzbekistan. The conjuncture of gas, petroleum, Islam, terrorism and great power jockeying will keep the new Great Game going, this time with Russia, China and the United States all playing. The US hand is weak...
10. The United States will continue to lose global political influence because its government is running large deficits and going ever deeper into debt. In the 1950s, President Eisenhower routinely used the threat of calling in loans from war-devastated Europe to get his way. ... Nowadays the US is a massive debtor nation, and has lost that kind of leverage with all but the poorest and most beaten-down countries. The US nuclear arsenal is relatively useless because it cannot actually be used, and the US military is bogged down in Iraq. America remains a superpower for the third and fourth worlds, but is often a helpless, pitiful giant as far as places like Western Europe and China are concerned.
I think Juan may overstate our present weakness, but the signs of decline are appearing. George Bush's most lasting legacy is likely to be that he came to power in the World's sole and totally dominant superpower, and left it a wounded, crippled, and morally compromised giant with uncertain future prospects.