Global Politics

Foreign policy challenges for Obama

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(Image: Steve Jurvetson, Flickr)

Outside the White House today, President Bush congratulated President-elect Obama on his victory. He said that Washington is embarking on a period of change; but President Bush added on thing will not change: "The United States government will stay vigilent in meeting its most important responsibility: protecting the American people. And the world can be certain this committment will remain steadfast, under our next Commander-In-Chief.

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The challenges facing President-elect Obama are steep. Take one look at the to-do list facing Obama and you start to ask yourself, who in their right mind would want this job at this time in American history.

If Jessica Mathews had to write that first memo, she says the problem at the very top of the list would be the global financial crisis. Mathews is the President of the Carnegie Endowment for National Peace: "I would start with the question of the international financial architecture, and the question of whether ad-hoc collaboration is adequate to solve the problems that this crisis has uncovered or whether we're going to need more institutionalized form of coordinated policy, if so, what that is."

Mathews says the economic crisis can't wait, and Obama should not wait either before assembling his team of economic advisors: "What we will see is more is his key appointments will be made early, and I believe he's going to revolutionize the transition period in the same way he revolutionized the campaign."

The economic crisis isn't the only urgent problem facing Obama, of course. John Noggle at the Center for A New American Security says the war in Afghanistan could be the toughest of all: "The Taliban is getting stronger, the commander on the ground ... has requested additional U.S. forces, but frankly, we don't have them readily available. So what President Obama is going to have to do is draw down in Iraq as rapidly as he responsibly can in order to free up more resources for a counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan that is frankly not going very well right now."

Up till now, Obama and the Democrats have been able to blame President Bush and the Republicans for set-backs and mistakes in U.S. foreign policy, but those days will soon be over, and Obama's political opponents will be ready to pounce.

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