At a turn of the year dogged by the unsolved fiscal cliff
spending and taxation issue and deeply clouded by what actions
should be taken in the gun control and mental health areas to block
off a repeat of the Newtown slaughter of our children, it is hard to
focus on what foreign affairs issues the United States will face in
On the other hand, as certain as it is that America exists in an
interrelated world inevitably preoccupied with international
political, economic and security issues, it is necessary at the dawn
of that year to look at what they might be. Two bright points, one
probably facetious; the other, concrete and constructive: We
survived the Mayan rumored end of the world Dec. 21; President
Barack Obama nominated Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the 2004 Democratic
presidential nominee, as his new secretary of state Friday. Mr.
Kerry should win Senate confirmation easily even though the Swift
Boat morons are still out there.
The likely issues for 2013 are as follows.
1. The United States will face a crisis of credibility in the
world because of the ghastly weakness in our governing process
revealed by the inability of the White House and the Congress to
resolve the critical spending and taxation problem described as the
fiscal cliff. Anyone attempting to speak for or to commit the United
States to a course of action in international relations will be
plagued by the negotiating partner's -- correctly -- looking over
the American representative's shoulder at the clown show of
contending politicians, lobbyists and celebrity-seekers that
Washington is composed of and wondering if the American rep can
deliver on what he says.
2. The United States is not engaged with a number of critical
partners necessary to address the serious problems of the world.
Some of these are cases where U.S. political considerations stand in
the way of America opening fruitful dialogue. These include Cuba,
Iran, North Korea, the increasingly dominant Palestinian group
Hamas, and Venezuela. The United States is far too big and powerful
to worry about losing face by reaching out to people.
Another group where new efforts are required are the new leaders
of some important countries. These include President Xi Jinping of
China, President Francois Hollande of France, Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe of Japan and President Park Geun-hye of South Korea.
A third group where some "re-setting" would be useful in Mr.
Obama's second term include Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany,
given her country's central role in stabilizing European finance;
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who seems to be busily
looking for ways to annoy the United States, including the banning
of U. …