Passport

The new ForeignPolicy.com

Yes, it looks different.

Starting today, the main site is transforming into a vibrant, daily online magazine of global politics, economics, and ideas. You'll be able to read the entire January/February issue -- with contributions from Nouriel Roubini, Gen. David Petraeus, and others. We'll continue to bring you popular items like The List each week, but we'll now have daily opinion and commentary at The Argument and a regular, online version of our provocative "Think Again" feature -- plus more to come over the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, Passport will be joined by a host of new blogs. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and Fiasco author Tom Ricks will comment on military matters at The Best Defense. Harvard's Stephen Walt, coauthor of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, will inject a dose of realism into the online political debate. Superclass author David Rothkopf will give readers an inside look at the global powerbrokers who really run the world. FP senior editor Carolyn O'Hara and a crack team of Clinton-watchers will be obsessively following all things Hillary at Madam Secretary. And a coterie of conservative foreign-policy heavyweights, including Peter Feaver, Philip Zelikow, and FP's newest editor -- and Condoleeza Rice's longtime speechwriter -- Christian Brose, will be on hand to critique the Obama presidency at Shadow Government: Notes from the loyal opposition.

Some blogging veterans are also adding their names to our digital masthead. Daniel Drezner's readers already know that he has brought his must-read blog on foreign policy, international economics (and occasionally the Red Sox) over to FP. Marc Lynch's essential Middle East politics blog Abu Aardvark has also come aboard. And investigative journalist Laura Rozen will be writing The Cable, featuring original coverage, scoops, and behind-the-scenes reporting about the making of Washington's foreign policy in the age of Obama.

We'll also feature partnerships with the Small Wars Journal and a new column, The Call, with political forecasting by Ian Bremmer and the political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group.

So where does Passport fit in with this illustrious company? In a better position than ever to bring you the latest news and opinion from around the world. We'll continue posting every day on topics both serious and absurd. And we're looking forward to having the chance to interact with our new blog-mates.

We expect to learn a lot about what works and what doesn't during this transition. As always, we invite feedback from you. We can't imagine a better time to launch a project like this and hope that all of you will help us make the new ForeignPolicy.com a must-read.

Passport

The 36 tests of Barack Obama

The classic kung fu movie "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin" (popularized in the U.S. by the Wu Tang Clan) consists almost entirely of an extended training sequence in which the hero must test himself in increasingly difficult "chambers" created by the Shaolin temple monks before achieving the martial arts mastery needed to vanquish his enemies.

Ever since Joe Biden's infamous warning that Barack Obama would face "an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy," observers seem to be treating international events as a series of Shaolin-like "tests" for the president-elect to pass before achieving bona-fide statesman status. The big question is which test Obama will have to face first.

Would Russia putting missiles on the EU's doorstep be Obama's first test? Or would it be Iraq? Or Afghanistan? Or Pakistan? The Mumbai attacks were a popular choice for a while. Dark horse contenders include instability in Somalia and cranky European allies. Lately, the violence in Gaza has seemed an increasingly likely candidate.

Or perhaps... all of the above?

Looking at international affairs this way is both misleading and unfortunately, overly optimistic. Unlike the Shaolin trainee, Obama doesn't have the luxury of facing these tests one at a time, picking up valuable skills along the way. He's going to have to face all of them at once, along with urgent domestic issues and an economy in shambles.

Contrary to what Obama's secretary of state once said, there's no such thing as a "commander-in-chief threshold." Obama will not face down some international crisis and prove himself as a qualified world leader. He's going to have to learn on the job and he will make rookie mistakes as well as (let's hope) major breakthroughs.

It's doubtful that any of the above situations are going to be "solved" no matter how brilliant Obama proves to be, and there's a better-than-even chance that his biggest foreign policy test will be something that isn't even on anyone's radar right now. Americans will have a chance to judge whether he's at least handled himself competently when he faces the presidency's 36th chamber: re-election.

Photo by Jeff Haynes-Pool/Getty Images