With the election behind him, President Obama and the first family returned to Washington yesterday. While the GOP is struggling with the new US demographic and changing values of America, the president is faced with unprecedented challenges both at home and abroad.
The immediate priority is the fiscal cliff facing the the US. Faced with gridlock in Washington, the debt ceiling talks almost 18 months ago invoked an assurance for reducing the national debt and deficit. In order to raise the debt ceiling, the opposing parties agreed to sequestration of a $1 trillion across the board cut, half of which would come from defense spending.
Analysts believe that the across-the-board cut would cut growth approximately 5 percent. Canada's Finance Ministerbelieves that would move the US into an immediate recession and create a boomerang effect, taking Canada and the remainder of the globe with it. The results would be similar to the financial meltdown in 2008.
With unemployment hovering just under 8 percent, highest among youth, Hispanics and African Americans, there are one in six Americans living in poverty. The challenges for the president in the immediate future will be to unlock the gridlock that presently exists in Congress. Congress is virtually unchanged.
The challenge for the administration and Congress will be to improve the economy, create jobs, convince financial institutions to do some lending and try to ease the tax burden on the middle class. Add to that the quest for energy independence and implementation of the Affordable Health Act, it fills the plate domestically for the president and Congress.
House Speakeroffered a sort of olive branch yesterday for the resolution of the fiscal cliff. Although he did not agree on eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the rich, he send a signal that he is ready to discuss tax reform and eliminating loopholes, which in turn would create revenues. This will probably in the news often during the days moving to the Jan. 1 deadline.
There will certainly be a discussion on the US involvement abroad and its role as the world policeman, with particular emphasis on the Middle East.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has stated publicly that he will talk with Obama on the Syrian crisis, which has resulted in 32,000 or more killed and some 300,000 people displaced. Regardless of any decision, it will be daunting task to find leadership among the Syrian rebels that can be supported. Al-Qaida is said to have infiltrated the rebels.
There is also the two-state solution for Palestine and Israel still on the agenda. How will the president handle this issue, without appearing biased to one side or the other? This is a diffiuclt problem, but may be easier to deal with after the Israeli election in January.
There is also the issue of Iran, where the sensitivities of the region must be taken into account. Iran, after some tough sanctions, seems to be prepared to sit at the negotiating table. It may be smoke and mirrors, but attempts have to be made to stop Iran's nuclear development.
The war in Iraq has come to an end, but there are signs of the emergence of al-Qaida elements undermining the efforts of the Iraqi government. Add to that the Kurd problem, and Iraq is still a significant challenge.
After the removal of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, a myriad of challenges still remain. The fledgling new government in Libya appears to lack the control and security forces to effectively impose the rule of law in the country, particularly in Benghazi. There is also still the question of the events leading up to and after the US Embassy attack.
The war in Afghanistan is due to end in 2014, but public sentiment wants troops out of the war-ravaged country earlier. There are serious questions of any tangible results after 11 years of NATO involvement. Afghanistan also includes the drone attacks into Pakistan, NATO supply routes and on and one. The policy for the regions will have to be examined and there may be shift.
Difficult challenges for a second-term president
Obvisously the president and Congress, the National Security Council and State Department have a full plate as far as foreign policy is concerned. Domestically, there are immediate challenges to resolve the looming fiscal crisis.
The US, as has been demonstrated by the election results on Tuesday, is a deeply polarized and divided country. Despite its domestic challenges, the world expects the US to lead, but is the US really interested in leading or acting as world policeman? A decade of war and international involvement has been costly. The US, while not giving up too much international influence, will want to turn to its domestic issues.
How the White House and Congress handles these issues will affect the economic health of the world. The rhetoric of both sides says that compromise is not a dirty world and that they are all prepared to compromise. This message has been send by President Obama during his victory speech, by Senate leaderand by House Speaker John Boehner. Let's see them all follow through for the good of the country and the global community.
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