My third-annual list presented in reverse order of urgency:
10. President Obama's speech in New Delhi to the world's Muslims.
The president-elect will speak in an Islamic capital in his first 100 days. While the "hometown" choice is Jakarta, why not New Delhi? India possesses the world's third-largest Muslim population, twice that of traditional Arab leader Egypt, and could use some praise for its restraint - so far - after the Mumbai attacks.
9. America lifts its trade embargo on Cuba.
With Raul Castro standing in for ailing brother Fidel, the regime begins to lift some of its oddly onerous restrictions on personal economic freedom. As Cuba creeps toward a generational succession crisis, America should follow suit, unleashing the collective ambition of Cuban-Americans to cash out Castro's disastrous legacy.
8. America commits to completing - even expanding - the Doha Round.
Barack Obama aspires to be president of the world, re-credentializing America's leadership. With global trade contracting for the first time since 1982, the world's emerging middle class needs to know that Washington is on its side. There is no better strategy for combating global warming than spreading prosperity, but the World Trade Organization's negotiations must move beyond agricultural subsidies to some Bretton-Woods-level architectural issues.
7. A Securities & Exchange Commission for the global economy.
Financial flows between national markets are essentially unregulated, allowing contagion to spread at unprecedented velocity. The European Union, along with China, wants some form of global regulator; the outgoing Bush administration didn't. Inevitably, new rules will be promulgated, and they'll need some international "home." Better that America leads than follows.
6. The "rise of the rest" continues, with more Lula and less Vlad.
Fareed Zakaria sees a "post-American" world in the making. I spot a natural shift in America's alliances from old powers to new amidst our model of globalization's rapid networking around the planet. While India and China slowly emerge from their long-time shells, and Vladimir Putin reminds us just how 19th-century Russia's foreign policy remains, Brazil under Lula da Silva provides a shining example of great power leadership. Obama should make him a best friend for life.
5. Chinese peacekeepers in Afghanistan.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown floated this recently, and after Beijing's announcement that it will send two naval ships to combat piracy off Somalia, this scenario borders on the credible. To quell fears over its defense spending, China must rebrand the People's Liberation Army as a force for global stability.
4. America's strategic missile shield in Eastern Europe gets put on hold.
With everything going on right now and given Europe's overwhelming resistance, picking this fight with Moscow is just plain dumb. Obama's bold offer to extend America's nuclear shield over Israel vis-<0x00E0>-vis Iran is a much better way to go, logically extending that guarantee to concerned Arab states.
3. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad loses Iran's 2009 presidential election.
Ahmadinejad's failed economic populism has left Iranians sullen, despite Tehran's obvious growing regional influence. With students demonstrating openly and clerics bashing the president's presumptuous theology, the stage is set for popular Tehran mayor Mohammad Qalibef to win. Qalibaf, a "hardline moderate" who favors diplomacy over saber rattling, could be Iran's reforming Gorbachev.
2. America keeps its eye on the ball in the war on terror
Obama declares Afghanistan the "good war," committing America to some resolution of Pakistan's frontier problems. In terms of complexity, we jump out of Iraq's kettle and into the Pashtun fire. Meanwhile, ceaseless violence in Sudan, Somalia and Congo beckons Washington's "never again" constituency, creating a clash of priorities. First things first.
1. The U.S. economy turns the corner.
The average global recession since 1945 has lasted 12-18 months, and if we're already months in, as economists suggest, then sometime later this year America should rebound. May God grant our new president the wisdom and good fortune to facilitate this recovery.