When this decade, which is now only a few days old ends, we will almost certainly be confronting foreign policy challenges that are hard to foresee right now. In January of 2000 few would have foreseen that a terrorist attack on the U.S. would so radically reorient and drive our foreign policy for most of the decade or that we would spend most of the decade embroiled in a seemingly endless war in Iraq. However, it is likely that some of the foreign policy issues confronting the U.S. now will not go away and will remain confounding problems throughout the decade. Some issues such as the problem of combating terrorism or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will remain, but may take very different forms over the course of the decade. These five are likely to remain substantially unchanged over the next ten years.
Thanks to the U.S. constitution and political realities, mercifully we will never know what a third Bush term would have looked like. But judging from the last year of the Bush administration, it’s possible to have some sense of what Bush would have done if he had stayed in office beyond January 2009. It’s not hard to imagine that Bush would have committed to gradual rather than complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and an increased effort — Bush might have used the term “surge” — in Afghanistan. A Bush-Medvedev summit in 2009 might well have resulted in a moderate commitment to reducing nuclear weapons; words, but no action, on democracy and the superiority of the American system to the Russian one; and an agreement to disagree about issues such as NATO expansion and Georgia.