UNITED NATIONS – As the 2012 presidential election enters its final weeks, foreign affairs have moved to center stage and the next White House, regardless of the occupant, will need to address several major foreign policy challenges which could make or break a president.
History has numerous examples of international events overtaking a U.S. leader.
John F. Kennedy was faced with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and George W. Bush had to contend with the 9/11 attacks less than nine months into his first term as Commander-In-Chief.
In both instances, the events eventually defined the presidencies.
They became “signature” events which drove the direction and character of the occupant of the Oval Office.
WND.com quizzed a noted U.S. foreign policy expert on the current state of affairs.
Just what awaits the president in 2013 was the topic.
Ambassador John Bolton has served three presidents, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.
Currently, Ambassador Bolton is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and advises the Mitt Romney campaign on foreign affairs.
Previously, Bolton served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, Assistant Attorney-General and more recently, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
The occupant of the Oval Office is likely to be tested early in the new year, says Bolton.
A wide-ranging “minefield” of political events is likely to present itself, he said.
From Iran to the Middle East to North Korea, the landscape is unpredictable and world-wide, explained the veteran U.S. diplomat.
“Number one is the continuing war on terrorism. manifested in Afghanistan, Libya and the Middle East. … The nuclear proliferation issue, as manifested both in Iran and North Korea. … Relations with Russia (and new President Vladimir Putin) and the approach to the U.S. intelligence budget” are all major issues the president is likely to face short on,” he said.
On Sunday, published reports from Moscow had President Vladimir Putin “personally overseeing” the most extensive “tests” of Russia’s nuclear arsenal in over 20 years.
Other reports, later refuted, had Cuban President Fidel Castro near death.
Bolton, who believes that Castro retired “in name only” and still “calls the shots,” said his eventual death will “prove pivotal” in U.S. – Cuban relations.
On Libya and the events surrounding the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, which left four dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Bolton said:
“Events are outpacing them (the White House). … The narrative out of there (on the status of al-Qaida) is a lie. … the veil is coming off the administration’s effort to obscure what is really going on internationally.”
“The attack in Benghazi shows at least that al-Qaida has incredible operational capabilities. … A recent State Department briefing explained that the attack on the consulate was by a large number of people, that they have not seen anything like it in recent memory. It was a para-military operation which isn’t anything like the public line that al-Qaida was defeated.”
In recent campaign appearances, the line “al-Qaida is on the run” has disappeared from President Barack Obama’s speeches on foreign policy.
Iran and its nuclear “research” program will likely remain a major focus of the White House in 2013, too.
Tehran insists its nuclear efforts are peaceful.
The U.S. and the U.N. Security Council strongly contest that and have imposed a series of punishing economic sanctions to stress their concerns.
While Bolton does not dispute that the sanctions pursued by the White House have taken their toll, he hastened to add:
“The nuclear program continues, it (the sanctions) has had little impact on their drive to build a (nuclear) bomb.”
While most eyes are focused on Iran and its drive to obtain a nuclear bomb, Bolton pointed out that North Korea, which already has a nuclear arsenal, has been largely shunned over the past four years:
“North Korea has continued to build its nuclear arsenal. Kim Jong un is still largely an unknown commodity. We just do not know what he is up to?”
Recently, the Pentagon has agreed to sell South Korea new long-range missiles to enhance their defense against any prospective North Korean incursion.
Conversely, reports from North Korea cite army sources which claim that Pyongyang now possesses missiles capable of hitting targets on the U.S. west coast.
Two additional events likely to occupy the White House in 2013 are elections in two critical U.S. allies.
Israelis will vote on a new parliament (Knesset) Jan. 22, 2013.
New elections in Japan are expected by mid-2103.