Raising the Standard.

The Foreign Policy Forecast

The world turns. (Photo courtesy SerenityRose)

The New Year means new resolutions, new gym memberships, new journals and a general aura of optimism for the next 365 days. Unfortunately, this “new year-new me” mentality does not translate to foreign policy. Rather, it can be described as “new year, same problems”.

2013 was marked by a civil war in Syria, a terrorist attack in Kenya, a vengeful whistleblower and diplomatic engagement with Iran. It was a year oriented to domestic policy, with major foreign policy initiatives taking the backseat to the economy and health care. Notwithstanding, world events continued with or without U.S. involvement. Our limited involvement overseas is evidenced through the Washington Post’s 2013 visual report card, which declared that U.S. foreign relations in 2013 looked “pretty bad.”

What American foreign policy will look like in 2014 is the subject of conjecture. While it remains to be seen whether last year’s nuclear deal with Iran will be successful, this could be the year for President Obama to do some good around the world. Instead of waiting for situations to emerge, we can create a sort of Foreign Policy Forecast for 2014. Here are 10 foreign policy issues to look out for in 2014:

  1. How could Iran not make the list? With a 6 month agreement in place, we will see how Iran acts under their new terms. We will also see what the United States will do about its sanctions.

  2. China is a growing concern for U.S. foreign policy makers. Lee Hamilton at The Huffington Post alludes to this emerging tension by declaring, “the question as to whether these two superpowers can coexist peacefully and collaboratively may be the supreme political challenge of our time.” Among the U.S.’s concerns are China’s aggression toward Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea, its continuing alliance with Kim Jung Un (who will appear later on the list) and its poor adherence to the nonproliferation regime.

  3. Pakistan. What keeps President Obama up at night should cause universal unease. As the center of our drone program, the instability of Pakistan is alarming. With its history of conflict and fragility, this nuclear weapons state is the subject of extreme contention.

  4. Afghanistan. Will a few thousand U.S. troops be able to stop total Taliban takeover?

  5. Israel-Palestine. Can Secretary Kerry accomplish the impossible and foster a peace deal between the countries? Is there anything to the claim that President Obama is isolating Israel?

  6. Russia. The Sochi Olympics could either hurt or improve U.S.-Russian relations. Right now, however, the relationship between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to have taken a nosedive.

  7. Remember the civil war tearing Syria apart? What should the U.S. role be in this conflict? While destroying the regime’s chemical weapons is a worthwhile endeavor, can we let this conflict continue to spill over into the region, harming U.S. allies like Turkey and Jordan?

  8. Speaking of forgotten foreign policy initiatves, the volatility in Egypt shows no sign of peaceful resolution and is becoming increasingly susceptible to full-blown civil war. Will the United States continue to cut foreign aid or take military action?

  9. Iraq. As National Review Online describes, things are still falling apart in Anwar province.

  10. Last but not least, our favorite dictator to hate, and to meme, Kim Jung-Un, is an enigma. While North Korea’s young leader does not pose an immediate threat to the U.S., his proximity to South Korea and outspoken desire for conflict warrants attention from the United States.

Two continents notably left off the list are Africa (specifically sub-Saharan Africa) and Latin America. This represents the cyclical trend of American foreign policy turning a blind eye to what is happening in these regions. 2014, however, may be the year for policymakers to start paying attention. With major world events occurring in Brazil, and several African countries on the verge of civil war, the United States may perhaps shifts its focus from the Middle East toward other, increasingly important regions of the world.

On the other hand, ignorance to military coups and deterioration of diplomatic relations with major powers may continue. Time will tell how the U.S. responds to the myriad problems abroad. We will be there every step of the way to analyze, criticize and hopefully applaud American foreign policy endeavors in 2014.

—Sarah Smith is a senior studying international affairs and history

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