In 2009, Obama's approach will likely be cautious, focusing on rebuilding, attempting what Strobe Talbott at the Brookings Institution in Washington calls the "art of the possible" – doing significant symbolic things: Closing the Guantánamo Bay detention center and stopping torture; grass-roots diplomatic "listening"; participating enthusiastically in the global climate change conference next November in Copenhagen, Denmark, and finding apt messages for the Muslim world.
But the few clues offered so far suggest that Job 1 in Year 1 will be Iraq, Afghanistan, and the financial crisis.
What are Obama's key international concerns?
The list is long. Obama told Time magazine that nuclear proliferation keeps him up at night. But in the 21st century that means less concern about mutual destruction of nations, and more about rogue weapons.
Also high on the list: working with a nationalist Russia that could challenge Western ideas of progress; a China more connected with the US and open, but energy hungry and not transparent. (Beijing traditionally prefers Republicans.) Then, there are transnational terror cells; food and energy costs for already strapped nations in developing regions; and the Middle East.