Resolution: Make 2011 an opportunities year, not a crisis year
Why he should: Between the international economic crisis, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the continuing bloodshed in the Middle East and a brewing currency war, the Obama administration's foreign policy in its first term has largely been a series of responses to crises, either new or inherited. Even what should have been a relatively uncontroversial arms control treaty with Russia turned into a knock-down, drag-out fight with Senate Republicans.
In the coming year, major progress on these pressing issues is unlikely, so Obama should take the opportunity to focus on the positive in 2011. That means fence-mending visits to regions like Europe and Latin America, which have felt left out by the administration's Middle East- and Asia-centric agenda. Obama should give human rights hawks within his administration, such as Samantha Power and Susan Rice, freer rein to call out abuses. He could also take advantage of one of the few perks of a Republican Congress and push to ratify trade agreements with close U.S. allies like Colombia and South Korea.
Why he won't: The crises aren't going anywhere. U.S. troops are still under fire in Afghanistan, and Obama is likely to come under criticism whether or not he honors next summer's self-imposed deadline to begin withdrawing troops. And the longer Israel-Palestine goes without a settlement on final borders, the less likely a two-state solution becomes. Obama's still going to be troubleshooting this year.
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