No Nap for a Superpower

President Obama, like many Americans, would like to focus his administration's energies on domestic policies, but international crises are not cooperating.Most Americans would like to withdraw from international contretemps, but the rest of the world isn't cooperating. American involvement is in demand across the globe.

Nowhere is American fatigue deeper than with the Middle East. We fought two long, expensive wars and a majority of Americans want to put them in the rear-view mirror. That doesn't seem likely.

Secretary of State John Kerry brokered a deal to audit all the ballots cast in the recent Afghan presidential runoff, avoiding at least for now a splintered national government, which could give the Taliban hiding in the hills an opportunity to make a political or military comeback.

Iraq continues to disintegrate, forcing President Obama, who campaigned on getting America out of the country, to consider going back in. He already has consented to send up to 1,000 military advisers to Iraq and is applying pressure to install a national unity government that can woo back disaffected Sunnis and opportunistic Kurds.

The United States is playing a lead role in fragile, emotionally charged negotiations on Iran's nuclear capabilities. There is a small window for Iran's new government to compromise in return for a significant relaxation of economic sanctions. Direct dialogue with Iran may have side benefits in trying to quell Sunni-led terrorist insurgency in Iraq.

Syria remains mired in civil war as the Obama administration tries to tiptoe through mostly bad options. Obama's decision to go slow on arming rebels challenging Bashar al-Assad's regime has been somewhat vindicated by the rise of ISIS that are less interested in regime change and human rights than establishing a Sunni caliphate. Chemical weapons have been dismantled and critical components exported, but Syria has been savaged, with perhaps 1 million refugees crowded into Lebanon, raising the prospect of expanding the conflict.

Hostilities have resumed in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. The United States has stood by Israel, defending its right to protect itself against rocket attacks launched by Hamas, even as Israeli airstrikes log mounting civilian casualties among Palestinians in Gaza. Egypt brokered a cease-fire agreement that lasted less than six hours, as factions of Hamas launched more rockets aimed at Israel, claiming they never were involved in cease-fire talks. 

All that in just one relatively small region of the world. The rest of the world is exploding, too.

Ukraine's future still hangs perilously in the balance as it struggles with Russian-led rebels on its eastern border, huge debt and the lack of Russian natural gas as winter approaches.

China is creating unrest in the Pacific region by pressing its claims for disputed territories with Japan, Vietnam and South Korea. The U.S.-Sino relationship is suffering rocky moments as the balance of geopolitical power is shifting, which tends to amplify concerns over chronic problems such as currency manipulation and government-sponsored computer hacking. 

South Sudan remains in turmoil over a power struggle between two former allies, which is impacting food supplies. The more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped three months ago by Boko Haram still haven't been freed in a story that is still simmering, but has vanished from the front-page headlines. 

International conflict isn't just a problem "over the ocean;" it is also lapping onto our shores, as thousands of unattended Central American children seek asylum in the United States to avoid being conscripted into drug gangs or consigned to human trafficking.

Obama and GOP presidential hopeful Rand Paul have tried to enunciate foreign policies that limit U.S. engagement abroad. But events keep getting in the way, proving that it is hard for a superpower to take a nap.