Foreign Policy Challenges Domestic Issues Can't Be Allowed to Shift the Focus of What the U.S. Must Do in 2013
Simpson, Dan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)
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 2013.
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. …