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I think - and at this point a guess is all we have - that Obama has greater mental flexibility than Bush/McCain on the subject of foreign policy. Read: He'll be able to understand and more or less accept when a country has clearly and unequivocally left the US sphere of interest.
Bush/McCain seemed to have no willingness to concede loss of territory. And if you have a major power trying to enforce its will on what is clearly another major power's turf... Bad Things Happen. Think Georgia or Lebanon. Or a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, for that matter.
Yes, a US empire that flails out desperately at a variety of lost causes would weaken itself faster than a US empire that cuts its losses and manages more or less orderly retreats from its former colonies... But flailing about would hurt a lot of people on the way.
Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.
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