I have a bloggingheads with Jacob Heilbrunn of The National Interest here on various foreign policy issues; one of the most interesting of which we never got around to debating. A bunch of Democratic foreign policy types, which once included Susan Rice of the Obama campaign, have come out with a new document, the so-called Phoenix Initiative. Now in one sense, manifestoes like this are ten a penny at this stage of the election cycle – they’re the calling cards that foreign policy elites use to try to sell themselves to a potential incoming administration. But what’s unusual about this one is the near total lack of self-congratulation about the US as the one essential nation, leader of the free world etc. Instead, the document’s main message is that the US’s military predominance doesn’t count for as much as it used to, and in a globally connected world, not only are other forms of power becoming more important, but other countries are going to take the lead on many key issues, and the US should get used to this. I’m a little surprised to see so little of the usual bombast in a document like this – even liberal internationalists used to talk a few years ago about how the US needed to create the institutions for a global system that would ensure US soft hegemony. Now, this group at least, isn’t talking in these terms, but implicitly suggesting that the US is just one large power among several. It’s an interesting change in rhetoric.