Daunting Set of Crises Face First “Wartime” Transition Since 1968

President-elect Barack Obama will be the first United States President inaugurated during wartime since Richard Nixon won the 1968 presidential election in the midst of the Vietnam War. And while the Pentagon says that they are prepared to make the transition as smooth as possible, the new administration faces a myriad of challenges both foreign and domestic that won’t lend themselves to the new president taking his time getting comfortable with his new position.

Technically, of course, neither was a “wartime,” as neither was a declared war. The last time Congress issued a formal Declaration of War was on June 5, 1942, when they declared war on Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.

Obama will work to repair the harm done to trans-Atlantic ties by the Bush Administration and seems eager to increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan as soon as he can. As for Iraq, however, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker says the US policy there will not change on January 20.

But the challenges don’t end with Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama will also be expected to tackle growing unrest in Pakistan over the unilateral US strikes he has been a staunch advocate of. He will face decisions on improving diplomatic ties with North Korea and Cuba. He will likely also have to do something about Syrian relations harmed by a US raid just nine days before the election.

And then there’s Iran. President-elect Obama left open the possibility of talks with Iran, though not without preconditions, during the presidential debates. But he’ll also struggle with his promise to ratchet up sanctions on the nation, and may face decisions on whether or not to back a new Israeli administration that may wish to launch an attack on the Iranians.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.