November 8, 2016

TSG IntelBrief: The Biggest Challenge Awaiting the Next President

• As the world anxiously awaits the results of today’s U.S. presidential election, complex domestic and global security challenges await the election’s winner.

• Regardless of who wins the election, the next U.S. president will be forced to confront the international community’s persistent inability to resolve crises such as the wars in Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.

• The dysfunction and utter unwillingness to compromise at the heart of today’s U.S. politics is mirrored by international negotiations over global conflicts.

• Deep-seated polarization and mistrust—in both the domestic and international arenas—will present enormous challenges for the next president.

As the highly divisive U.S. presidential campaign comes to a close, the divisions in U.S. politics are paralleled by divisions on the international level related to persistent global security challenges. The complex domestic challenges facing U.S. lawmakers require a level of sincere cooperation and compromise that has been resoundingly absent in the current political atmosphere. Similarly, international security crises such as the conflicts in SyriaIraqYemenAfghanistanUkraine, and Somalia—just to name a few—are intensely complicated global challenges that require an even larger scale of cooperation and compromise to address. Unfortunately, the dysfunction seen in the U.S. in terms of effective responses to multi-causal, long-term social, economic and political challenges is mirrored and amplified in international bodies such as the UN and the EU.

The result of this dysfunction is the paralysis of international problem solving, which in turn results in the worsening of international security issues. The well-established methods of international conflict resolution have fractured in a similar manner as the breakdown in methods for bipartisan cooperation around U.S. domestic issues. The denigration of compromise-based organizations like the U.S. Congress or the UN Security Council—amplified for political or parochial purposes—results in a cascading cycle of diminishing support and disappointing results. While the cynicism surrounding comprehensive conflict resolution is not the cause of crises such as the conflict in Syria, it has made such conflicts appear unresolvable and compounded the levels of misery and destruction. Widespread disillusionment with international institutions naturally undermines the effectiveness of bodies such as the UN, which fundamentally require a baseline level of trust and dialogue in order to engage in meaningful cooperation and compromise.

The deeply fractured state of U.S. politics—which has increasingly devolved into an ‘us versus them’ scenario—makes comprehensive approaches to confront issues such as terrorism, police-community relations, healthcare, and many other challenges nearly impossible to achieve. Again, the inability—and at times complete unwillingness—to engage in effective domestic political partnerships is mirrored at the international level. Regional and national self-interests have always played a significant role in conflict resolution; but the present level of disdain for compromise and sustained cooperation is higher than it has been in the past 25 years.

Though the U.S. presidential election is drawing to a close, the complex domestic challenges facing U.S. policymakers are far from resolved. Meaningfully addressing these challenges will necessarily require a level of cooperation and compromise that appears to be little more than a pipe dream in the current political environment. As each candidate enters Election Day with the hope of being elected the next President of the United States, the winner will have their work cut out for them if they hope to bridge the massive divisions required to achieve near and long-term objectives—both in the domestic and international arena.


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