Like the "man who wasn't there" in the famous 19th-century poem, they simply brush by him now as if he were a ghost. Germany, Russia and France ignored President Obama completely in Minsk, Belarus, as the prime minister of Israel did when he took the stage in Congress. Sen. Tom Cotton (R) of Arkansas and 47 senators (supported by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal [R] and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry [R]) address the ayatollahs directly in a letter, bypassing the president entirely, and 26 states follow Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in an unprecedented states' rights legal challenge to the president's initiatives on immigration.


But if discord challenges America internally, Washington faces greater loss of control on the outside. Last week, Britain, reportedly without warning or consultation, broke with American leadership and became the first Western country to team up with China's new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

"Joining the AIIB at the founding stage will create an unrivaled opportunity for the UK and Asia to invest and grow together," said U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

But of course, the West already has a bank, the World Bank. Two in fact. There is also the Asian Development Bank. Recent leaders of the World Bank included President George W. Bush's friend, Paul Wolfowitz. The current president is Friend-of-Bill and former Dartmouth College president, Jim Yong Kim. Beyond NATO and the U.N., there is no greater symbol of America's status as dominant leader than these two groups, intended to identify America and Japan as the leading authorities in the Pacific region.

But China understands symbolism better than most.

"The U.S. sees the Chinese effort as a ploy to dilute U.S. control of the banking system, and has persuaded regional allies such as Australia, South Korea and Japan to stay out of the bank," the BBC reports.

But now that Britain has signed on, Australia is likely to as well, and possibly South Korea. Commonwealth members India, New Zealand and Singapore have already signed on.

"Thanks to China, Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Jim Yong Kim of the World Bank and Takehiko Nakao of the Asian Development Bank may no longer have much meaningful work to do," writes William Pesek, a Bloomberg View columnist. Lagarde's and Kim's shops are looking at a future in which crisis-wracked governments call Beijing before Washington, he writes. And why "would Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam bother with the IMF's [International Monetary Fund] conditions when China writes big checks with few strings attached?" he asks.

So much for Obama's heavily promoted "pivot" to Asia.

Et tu, Canada? I asked Irvin Studin, founder of Global Brief magazine, who worked a number of years in the privy council Office (prime minister's department) in Ottawa.

"Of course Canada should play a role in the new bank," he said. "China is our neighbor to the west, and we should be aggressively pivoting thereto. This century, Canada will have four neighbors — not just one: ACRE, that is America, China, Russia (to our north; Canada and Russia are the Arctic giants), and Europe."

If Britain goes first and paves the way for the rest, a tectonic shift could occur in Western leadership and influence.

"If Britain walks through that door, others will follow swiftly. I am sure Luxembourg and the French are next," Jörg Wuttke, he head of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, told The New York Times.

Quigley is a prize-winning writer who has worked more than 35 years as a book and magazine editor, political commentator and reviewer. For 20 years he has been an amateur farmer, raising Tunis sheep and organic vegetables. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and four children. Contact him at