Editor's note: We polled several friends of the Atlantic Council last week on the question What are the top foreign policy priorities for the next president? We'll be running their responses all week.
Aside from the obvious war priorities of Iraq and Afghanistan and managing the world economic crisis, I'd list (not necessarily in order) :
Iran and non-proliferation — There may be an opening for some real progress. If not there will be an early need for some very tough decisions on sanctions, defenses, Gulf cooperation, and (possibly) military action.
Russia — In the early months, the new team will need to figure out a strategic approach Russia, not just on the important specific questions of arms control, Georgia, and Iran, but more generally.
Nuclear weapons — What are they for in the 21st Century, what arms control measures should replace START II, what (if any) programs -- RRW, Deep Penetrator, etc. - are needed, what organizational arrangements to strengthen oversight and management?
Israel-Palestine — As soon as there is an Israel government, how to restart the negotiations process, and more relevant, how to build a capacity in the PA to suppress terrorism from the WB that will give Israel the confidence to reach agreement -- and to take the interim measures on settlements and movement that are likely to be needed for the PA to take hard decisions and make them stick.
The reality of the new President — if it's Obama -- there will be a boost, but also a let down when it turns out he puts Country First, and if it's McCain, there will be a let down, period, until he shows there is Change We Can Believe In. This is my formulation of the "restore America's prestige/reputation" question.
Walter Slocombe, secretary of the Atlantic Council board of directors, is a former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Debate word cloud from Flickr user EricaJoy, used under Creative Commons license.