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In May 2008, when I took the helm of World Policy Journal, the world was in a very different place than it is today. In terms of leadership, George W. Bush had eight months left in his final term as president. Barack Obama had all but sewed up the Democratic nomination in his battle with Hillary Clinton, and promised to present a strong challenge to the Republican ticket headed by Senator John McCain. Nicolas Sarkozy was just a year into what would turn out to be his only term as president of France. Hu Jintao was five years into his 10-year rule as president of a China, whose unparalleled growth seemed to hold no bounds.

At the same time, the United States was fully involved in two wars—Iraq and Afghanistan, with no end in sight after five years and...

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