Foreign Affairs for a New President

Recent speeches of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz - the top four seeking the presidency - focus mainly on the turbulent and fascinating domestic issues in America: guns, gays, abortion, taxes, education and health care.

However, the new president will likely find that the hot spots on his agenda demanding swift action will be foreign policy - the overlooked issues of our time. These items from Iran to North Korea to Crimea to Syria to the Zika virus show up one morning on the doorstep of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue screaming for the mother's milk of action.

So, to be somewhat useful to the new president, I have listed below some global issues likely to claim attention of a new U.S. leader.

Islamic fundamentalism. This religious/political movement emerged after 1990 when Afghan and Arab fighters funded by U.S. and Saudi cash defeated the Soviet superpower. Since then, Osama bin Laden and his Islamist followers opened dozens of new fronts seeking to impose Islamic supremacy over Western values. That battle is today being fought in Paris, California, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Somalia, Mali and Nigeria.

The Obama Administration has sought to contain the most violent of these battles -- Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) -- by airstrikes and by arming and training allies willing to put their boots on the ground. A new U.S. president must fear a quagmire if he or she sends U.S. troops to fight violent Islamists motivated by ideology and willing to suicide them selves. Fifteen years of US military involvement in Afghanistan leaves us unable to go home lest the Taliban or ISIS seize power.

We're also stuck in Iraq where trillions in military costs and 4,000 dead U.S. troops since 2003 have left a weak, bitterly divided Iraqi government and army, unable to fend off ISIS. Iraqi troops in 2014 dropped their guns and fled an ISIS takeover of Mosul. Our only reliable friends are the feisty Kurds who are paying back the 1988 poison gas and mass executions by Saddam Hussein's generals now running ISIS military operations.

Former US general Anthony Zinni, who knows the middle east and served there for many years, said in 2014 at the start of the ISIL reign of head chopping and rape, "if you put two brigades on the ground right now of U.S. forces, they would push ISIS back into Syria in a heartbeat."

The new U.S. president would be hard pressed to argue that this festering blot on human history should continue to pour mainly Muslim blood into the thirsty sands of time. His first decision should be to unleash Zinni's brigades -about 10,000 troops. After cleaning out the ISIS killers, we must swiftly hand the region over to Iraqi and Syrian forces - do not repeat the error of Iraq and Afghanistan by staying around as occupiers.

Israel, Palestine and Iran. Recently, Barack Obama made the first visit by a sitting U.S. president to the Israeli Embassy in Washington. He went to honor four people who risked death to save Jews from Nazi Germany. By video from Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined the event, underlining that the United States remains Israel's best friend, despite his opposition to lifting of sanctions on Iran in January in return for dismantling its nuclear program.

But if the Iranians resume nuclear enrichment, a new president must be ready to re-start sanctions.

Another Middle East issue is the need to end Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The peace process started in Oslo in 1994 has stalled, frustrating Palestinians who are taking up knives and have killed dozens of Israelis in recent months - and been killed in greater numbers by Israeli security forces. Shuttle diplomacy by Secretary of State John Kerry failed, as did previous efforts from Henry Kissinger to James Baker. The issue remains a festering sore point to Muslims and peace would have great repercussions world wide.

A presidential effort to break the Arab-Israel logjam can succeed and needs to be based on gradually removing Israeli troops and some Israeli settlements far from the old Green Line Israeli border; beefing up Palestinian police; opening European export routes for West Bank fruits, vegetables and other products.

Immigration. More than one million Muslims flooded Western Europe this summer and fall, invited by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who was seeking labor for German factories. Turkey obliged by opening the gates for the exodus towards Greek islands. Some fled war in Syria but many came seeking a better life.

Public opposition grew rapidly as the migrants soon presented an image of angry young men hostile to women's rights and unwilling or unable to exchange the authoritarian, absolutisms of their native lands for secular democratic lifestyles. Sweden just said it was ready to use force to expel 80,000 migrants who were denied asylum.

China. It has aggressively claimed control over thousands of miles of the South China Sea, sending oil drilling rigs and warships to explore and build up mini-islets on coral reefs, creating landing strips for military planes. The U.S., Philippines, Vietnam and other regional players fear and oppose China's unilateral moves. U.S. planes and warships have tested China's claim risking a breakout as China's navy grows in power.

The new president must assert the right of nearby countries to share the seas and reject China's refusal to negotiate rival claims.

The United States also opposes China's violation of human and religious rights of Tibetans, Uighurs, and independent writers and lawyers. And U.S. unions and labor activists continue to say that China has stolen millions of jobs and income from America. Donald Trump is one of many who say China has taxed American exports and built up huge $500 billion a year surpluses in trade.

Russia The nuclear-armed superpower was down on its luck after the fall of Communism. But then Vladimir Putin took power and turned the Russian media into a mouthpiece for aggressive nationalism and anti-Western sentiment. It continues to claw its way back onto the American agenda, hanging on to Crimea and other portions of Eastern Ukraine it seized, and threatening former Soviet Baltic countries as well as Nordic Finland and Sweden. Yet the new president must continue to work with Russia on the common enemy of Islamist terrorism.

Global Issues. The new president must tackle the loss of American jobs to low-labor producers from Mexico to China. Influential business interests such as Apple have stymied previous efforts to stop the flow of jobs as well as use of overseas tax shelters. This will be a tough fight.

Climate change is another global issue the president needs to tackle. But the battle may be domestic - persuading the American public and Congress to act and reduce carbon emissions.

Health and pollution are also on the White House agenda. Brain damage cause by the Zika virus has already begun to threaten the United States. Like HIV/AIDS, Malaria, drug-resistant TB and Ebola, Zika needs a strong U.S. response because global travel spreads illnesses so quickly.

Support for democracy and US values. This was the top of the agenda for incoming president George W. Bush but foundered as we learned how difficult it is to intervene in other cultures and political systems. The Arab Spring started with U.S. backing and quickly imploded as we learned how resistant to democracy some nations are. We see it again as Afghan men buy and sell children to be wives, journalists are assaulted, and corruption overpowers all restraint. I expect the new president will pay lip service to this issue and little more.

Population Here is a place that a U.S. president can have an important impact on the world. We're at seven billion and going up to 10 or 15 billion people by the end of this century. All the growth will be in the poorest countries, increasing demand for water, education, electricity and food. Support for global family planning is now held prisoner by the unholy triad: the Catholic Church, Islamic clerics and U.S. conservatives who mistakenly conflate birth control with abortion. A new president can break the taboos and offer contraceptives to all the families that want them.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg and many other issues will confront the new president.

Good luck.