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United States: Tough International Challenges Face Next President

  • Julie Moffett

Washington, 1 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Political observers and experts have been arguing for months about the upcoming U.S. elections, but they all agree on one thing -- the next president of the United States will face a series of complex domestic and international issues with no easy resolutions in sight.

Whether it is Bob Dole or Bill Clinton who eventually wins the U.S.'s highest political post, there is no question that a variety of daunting issues are waiting to be solved.

Domestically, one of the most important issues facing the new president will be the federal budget. February 3, 1997 is the deadline for sending the administration's planned budget to Congress.

The president will have to determine ways to reconcile campaign promises with a need to reduce the deficit.

Statistics show that the deficit will climb after this year, initiating calls for deeper cuts and more conservative fiscal planning.

At the same time, big money drains on the budget like Social Security -- the nation's retirement program -- and Medicare -- medical care for the poor -- will have to be reorganized and restructured. Medicare is projected to go bankrupt as early as 2001 and Social Security in 2028.

The new president will have to quickly determine ways to reform these two organizations and make them fiscally sound.

Additionally, some political observers are warning of serious social consequences resulting from welfare reform that passed earlier this year.

The new welfare law goes into effect July 1, 1997, requiring that no one individual be on welfare for more than two years, withdrawing food stamps and supplemental income for legal immigrants, and ending federal guarantees of cash assistance for poor children.

Observers say that the new president will have to prepare for possible disastrous consequences, especially in the inner cities. Experts say soaring rates of unemployment and homelessness will likely trigger higher rates of crime and social upheaval and drug use.

On the international front, just weeks after the U.S. presidential election, NATO members will be meeting in Brussels to discuss peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia. Despite President Clinton's promise that the U.S. part of the operation would be over within a year, 16,000 troops are still stationed in the region and several thousand servicemen have been instructed to stay until March, well past the promised deadline.

However, since the political peace in Bosnia is so tenuous and the situation so precarious, experts say that some sort of peacekeeping operation will have to be extended and that they will likely include U.S. troops.

The issue is so sensitive with the American public that Clinton has avoided speaking publicly on the issue. During his one and only major campaign speech on foreign policy, he didn't even broach the subject of extended deployment.

But the U.S.'s continued presence in the area will have to be decided by the December deadline. Congress only approved funding for a one-year operation. Experts say the president should expect a heated and difficult battle in Congress if he decides to keep U.S. troops in the region.

The new president will also face complicated foreign policy challenges in Asia.

China's leader Deng Xiaoping is 92 and reportedly in ill health. Who will be his successor and how the new leader will react to the United States is unclear. Add to that the issues of Taiwan, the absorption of Hong Kong into China and the current uneasy state of Sino-American relations and the situation appears tenuous, indeed.

Another potential foreign policy threat is North Korea, in possible possession of a nuclear weapon and teetering on the brink of political collapse.

At the same time, Japan, the U.S.'s strongest ally in Asia, is facing growing discontent among its population concerning the heavy presence of U.S. troops on its soil.

In Europe, the next president will be expected to approve a first wave of countries into NATO since the end of the Cold War. Already there are signs that this issue is straining relations with Russia and several arms control treaties are in serious jeopardy.

Whoever the new president may be, political analysts forecast that neither the Democrats or the Republican party will have a strong hold in the Congress. This, too, will create problems for the president, most likely producing unproductive bipartisan arguing in the Congress that often shelves a lot of the more serious issues that need to be resolved.

But some issues cannot wait. And there within lies the greatest challenge facing the new U.S. president -- seeing that at least some of the most pressing issues facing America are somehow resolved.