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President Obama will inherit an in-tray that Richard Holbrooke has described as the most daunting to face the US since the 1940s. Drawing down Iraq; ramping up Afghanistan; fixing the global economy; negotiating a new climate change agreement; preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons; dealing with an increasingly authoritarian Russia—the list goes on.

The Bush years taught America a hard lesson—wage wars of necessity before wars of choice. A new phase is now beginning: the diplomacy of necessity. Obama’s administration has little choice but to organise its foreign policy around these challenges.

These problems can’t be solved alone; they…

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