But here's a fact of our times (and Obama seems to have a grip on this, perhaps because he's not so immersed in the diplomatic subculture): A presidential visit is not the cherished commodity that it once was, because the United States is no longer the superpower that it used to be.
When the Soviet Union imploded, so did the Cold War system whose existence bolstered our power and influence. After a while, many leaders—who once turned to the United States to permit, enforce, and legitimize their dealings in the world—began to go their own way, pursue their own interests, build their own alliances, not necessarily against the United States (though sometimes it worked out that way) but, more to the point, without giving much thought to Washington's feelings about the matter.
Those that argue against meetings between the President and leaders of countries like Iran and Syria point out that the prestige of the office of the President of the United States would by default bring prestige to our counterparts in Damascus and Tehran. Slate argues that this is a fallacious arguement because the office no longer holds that prestige because we are no longer the super power we used to be.
This statement is rather stunning. For instance, our GDP is just over 13 trillion dollars yearly and that is as much as the next four, Japan, Germany, China, and England, combined. We maintain bases all throughout Europe and Asia in order to protect those countries. That's because our military dwarfs any other military in the world. In fact, in his book, America Alone, Mark Steyn argues that one of the reasons that it is easier for Europe to create socialized medicine is because it is the U.S. that provides its military power. Certainly out terrorist enemies don't perceive the U.S. as no longer the super power that Slate claims it used to perceived to be. It is the U.S., not France, Germany or even England, that is their number one target. It is the U.S., and its military might, that has been leading the response to the GWOT. It is the U.S., not the rest of the world, that lead the charge to bring freedom and democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq.
This arguement from Fred Kaplan is not merely fallacious but frankly just downright dumb. The U.S. wasn't perceived to be a superpower because of its stand off with the Soviet Union. It had a stand off with the Soviet Union because the U.S. was the only country strong enough to take the Soviets on.
Now, I will give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt and assume that he doesn't believe this nonsense. I will assume that his meeting with Iran will take into account the prestige that its President would have in meeting with the President of THE ONLY LONE SUPERPOWER. Let's however try and limit just how much nonsense the MSM will spew. The U.S. remains a super power and that status is not due to some misguided perception but reality.