As President, McCain or Obama Will Face Significant National Security Threats

Both candidates would face perilous threats on Day 1.

The next president will face challenges in dealing with Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, al Qaeda, and anti-American sentiment around the world.

The next president will face challenges in dealing with Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, al Qaeda, and anti-American sentiment around the world.

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Yet at the same time, McCain suggested kicking Russia out of the Group of Eight industrialized nations to protest its increasingly undemocratic policies in the Vladimir Putin era. Obama adviser Rice calls these ideas contradictory, saying, "I don't know how you press the reset button with our allies when you are committing to intensifying the policies and approaches they have found so difficult to digest under President Bush, whether you are talking about staying indefinitely in Iraq or kicking Russia out of the G-8." McCain's advisers, though, see no contradiction. "It is not unheard of in the realm of diplomacy to have differences with countries and also work together on areas where you have common interests," says Scheunemann.

A more fundamental challenge could be a growing sense that America's global pre-eminence is being threatened by the rise of new economic and political centers in Asia and elsewhere. "Even if we have a serious policy to fight greenhouse gas emissions and close Guantánamo, are countries going to start lining up behind the United States again, or has too much water passed under the bridge?" Kupchan wonders, adding that Washington could find its influence waning even on issues like containing Iran and North Korea. "The United States in 2009, even if it does recover respect abroad, will nonetheless have a more difficult time getting its way simply because of a diffusion of political and material power to rising states like China and India."