Oval office The White House | Handout via Getty Images

Expecting the Unexpected in America

When the United States’ new president gets down to work in January 2017, some obvious foreign-policy issues will already be waiting – some more patiently than others. Some of these will be perennial problems in need of no introduction; often, however, the crises that greet a new president are not the ones anyone expects.

DENVER – When the United States’ new president gets down to work in January 2017, some obvious foreign-policy issues will already be waiting – some more patiently than others. Some of these will be perennial problems in need of no introduction: North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, China and its global ambitions, Russia and its spiteful ambitions, and of course, the Middle East and its dysfunctional ambitions.

Often, however, the crises that greet a new president are not the ones anyone expects. When George W. Bush took office in 2001, he expected to increase defense spending, deploy an anti-missile system, and dismantle several longstanding multilateral arms-control obligations. Instead, the administration faced issues that were completely unforeseen, including Afghanistan and Iraq, and that consumed it for the next eight years.

The same thing could happen again when the next administration takes office. A few possibilities stand out.

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