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The Obama Challenges

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When I cast my vote for Barack Obama, I'll do so acknowledging that he will not be handed a gift when he becomes president.

The Bush administration, aided by a bipartisan majority of Congress, will be leaving behind many problems that will take years to solve. As President, Obama will need to confront two costly wars, global terrorism, an economy on the brink and a serious energy crisis. Don't expect immediate change.

Obama has said we have to be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. He's right, but the statement is open-ended. Obama has vowed to withdraw combat troops and replace them with diplomats to negotiate peace -- I'm all for it. But when he does, Iraq could erupt into another large-scale civil war, making a diplomatic solution impossible.

Nouri al-Maliki's government is likely to fall, paving the way for Muqtada al-Sadr and other extremists to gain more power and influence. In that case, will Obama continue to redeploy our military or send them back in?

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Afghanistan is facing the reemergence of Taliban fighters and al Qaeda insurgents. Gen. McKiernan is seeking 10,000 more troops, while the Pentagon is willing to provide 3,500.

Will Obama provide the additional 6,500 troops? If so, would we be fighting terror, or just protecting the Karzai government?

The Pakistanis, our supposed allies, are shooting at our troops and aircraft conducting reconnaissance missions in pursuit of bin Laden's sanctuary and al Qaeda forces.

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How will Obama persuade the Pakistani government to allow American troops into their sovereign territory to hunt our enemies?

The economy and the American workforce are in dire straits. With the financial crisis on Wall Street, free trade agreements, illegal immigration, a global economy and the ability of corporations to outsource American jobs, it will take Obama's entire first term to make any meager or noticeable improvements.

Short of working with Congress to again raise the minimum wage, the main tool that Obama has to improve the livelihoods of Americans is working with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to amend NAFTA to our liking.

Support for organized labor, workers' rights and providing tax cuts for middle-class/low-income families will be a significant help, but that won't take effect for a considerable amount of time. Lost manufacturing jobs will not return, and job creation will be a stretch.

Energy independence is nowhere in sight. The price at the pump, though dropping, still hurts everyone. We borrow money from the Chinese to buy oil from Arab countries who hate us. At the same time, we spend billions to deploy our military to their lands in the interest of oil. It drives us further into debt on the backs of our children and grandchildren.

A windfall profits tax to provide a $1,000 energy rebate is a fine idea, but a short-term solution. Using our own energy reserves, producing more hybrid vehicles and generating electricity from renewable sources will set the ball in motion, but it won't provide instant answers - we're talking at least a decade.

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Suffice it to say that when Obama takes the oath of office as president of the U.S., he won't be in an enviable position. The problems created by the Bush administration will soon be viewed as his problems. He will be falsely scrutinized by hard-line conservatives along with the radical far left as if he helped create the mess that preceded him.

This realistic view of impending Obama presidency should compel us all to provide him with our strongest support -- he'll surely need it.

See my column in the Philadelphia Daily News


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John Bruhns is an Iraq war veteran. He writes on politics and Mideast conflict.

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