A Few Questions for the President-Elect

 Posted by  Thomas Niblock

Two days after Senator Obama’s historic victory, the President-Elect has begun assembling the men and women who will guide his decision-making for the next four years. These decisions are among the most important a president can make, and they should be informed by a thorough appraisal of the issues, domestic and foreign, that an Obama administration will likely face. Here are a few to consider:

Regarding Russia. Yesterday, Russian President Medvedev threatened to place ground-to-ground missiles on its western border, install electronic jamming mechanisms to counter new U.S. antimissile systems in Eastern Europe, and end plans to disable Russian nuclear weapons. Is he bluffing?
Regarding Afghanistan. Yesterday, Afghan President Karzai demanded that the U.S. end civilian casualties after a U.S. air strike allegedly killed 39 people at a wedding. NATO forces in Afghanistan routinely use air power to assist counter-insurgency operations. This reduces the number of NATO soldiers killed, which lessens political pressure on host governments to withdraw their forces, but the use of air power under such pressing battlefield conditions and difficult terrain may result in the unintentional deaths of civilians at times. How should these competing priorities be reconciled?
Regarding Guantanamo Bay. During the campaign, Senator Obama pledged to close the U.S. detention facility located there. Roughly 255 detainees remain incarcerated in the facility. Some are hardened terrorists; others are likely innocent. Among the innocent are about a dozen Uighurs, Chinese Muslims who are believed to face persecution if they are returned to China. What should be done with them?
Regarding labor unions. The highest priority for labor unions, one of the Democratic Party’s strongest supporting groups, is passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow unions to organize without a secret ballot election in the workplace. Given that secret ballot elections are accepted everywhere else in American democracy, why should union organizing be any different?
Regarding campaign finance reform. Senator Obama’s historic victory was enabled by historic fundraising, which would have been impossible if not for a historic decision to forgo public financing of the general election campaign. Is it reasonable to expect future presidential candidates to do the same? 

The writer is a second year graduate student in public policy and international relations in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs from Nevada, Iowa.  His blog on religion and politics can be found at http://thomasniblock.blogspot.com/.

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The mission of Princeton’s Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at the Woodrow Wilson School is to promote empirical research on democratic processes and institutions.  That broad mandate has attracted a diverse collection of faculty, students, and visitors pursuing a wide variety of research topics. However, the American electoral process has been a recurrent focus of interest for many of the scholars associated with CSDP and a frequent topic of conferences, colloquia, and other events sponsored by the Center.  As the 2008 campaign unfolds, we thought it might be helpful and fun to collect the election-related research, analyses, and offbeat insights of our extended scholarly community, both for our own edification and as a resource for others interested in how political scientists are thinking about the election.  We welcome contributions, comments, and suggestions. For more about the people and activities of CSDP, please visit our website, http://www.princeton.edu/~csdp/. To post a comment, click the "speech bubble."

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