Very few Americans care, but the president will be visiting Myanmar (Burma) on the first foreign trip of his second term. He will also visit Thailand and Cambodia. The Myanmar piece is the most important, however, since it signals an end to the country’s isolation. The Obama administration has worked quietly and tirelessly to help Myanmar move from military dictatorship to democracy, and this visit is a ratification of the country’s progress. It’s an important accomplishment.
Obama should work to do the same thing with Cuba. American-born Cuban Americans voted overwhelmingly for the president on Tuesday. There is no longer any political reason for the Democrats to worry about normalizing relations with Cuba. Just as with Myanmar, there are preliminary steps that the Cuban government will need to take, especially on the release of political prisoners. But, by the time Obama leaves office, we should have lifted all sanctions and trade and travel restrictions with Cuba.
As for the Israel-Palestine question, a second-term Democratic president is in the best position to make progress. That is exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu feared. However, the continuing fracture in the Palestinian leadership makes progress difficult. I do not know what the president will do, or whether or not he will, like Clinton, make a full-court press to reach a settlement.
What I do know is that the president will find it easier to achieve foreign policy successes in his second term than legislative ones. Myanmar is a start.