It’s official: “America’s unipolar moment has passed,” said Seumas Milne in Britain’s The Guardian. America’s loss of standing became embarrassingly obvious last week, when President George W. Bush demanded that Russian leaders reject their parliament’s call to recognize the independence of two Georgian provinces. Not 24 hours after Bush spoke, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev announced Russia’s recognition of the provinces. That Russia could so cavalierly ignore the U.S. is all the proof we need: “The days when one power was able to bestride the globe like a colossus, enforcing its will in every continent, challenged only by popular movements for national independence and isolated ‘rogue states,’ are now over.”

Unfortunately, that means instability for the globe, said Mohammad Ali Asgari in Iran’s E’temad. While Iran is no great fan of American hegemony, of course, the single superpower was at least a known quantity. Russia reasserting itself could be cause for alarm, given Russian and Soviet history of “bullying and conquering Iran’s northern territories, as well as colonialism and interference in Iran’s affairs.” And other powers, such as China, are growing stronger, too. “A transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world would be entwined with new wars, disputes, and conflicts around the world and could subject this planet to chaos and anarchy for years to come.”

But America could still exert a calming influence, said Kenya’s East African Standard in an editorial. It’s true that the country has squandered much of its influence. A multinational survey found that the Iraq invasion caused “a loss of trust” that the U.S. would “act responsibly in global affairs.” Many in the world “would like to see Europe grow as a rival power to it, precisely because of the legacy of the last eight years.” The coming U.S. presidential election is a chance to change that perception. A new president could restore American influence by repositioning America as “a more thoughtful superpower, less infatuated with militarism and open to diplomacy’s potential to bring about change.”

Only by embracing international law can the U.S. restore its reputation, said Malcolm Fraser in Australia’s The Age. After World War II, U.S. leadership “did so much to establish a law-based system to govern relations between states.” But over the past eight years, America has sneered at such multilateral forums as the U.N. Security Council and the International Criminal Court. It even scoffed at the most important international military laws, the Geneva Conventions. Reaffirming respect for treaties and laws “can give America real influence—and the rest of us the best hope for a peaceful world.”