The smooth implementation of United States policy toward Iraq this week - without any confusion between one administration striding out the door and the other moving in - is not unusual in American history.

There have been exception, however.

In 1968, experienced foreign-policy hands President Johnson and President Nixon had many tug of wars.

Mr. Johnson was running the Vietnam War, seeking a nuclear nonproliferation treaty, and planning a Moscow summit. After winning the election, historian Carl Brauer says, Mr. Nixon announced that Johnson spoke for the nation in his international dealings.

Then, realizing he had issued a blank check to Johnson, Nixon announced that no foreign-policy move would be made without consulting him as president-elect. Johnson had no intention of sharing his presidency that way.

Eventually, Johnson asked Nixon to accompany him to the summit. Nixon refused; the summit never took place.

Other presidents have left their successors with projects they did not want. For example, President Eisenhower planned the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba that President Kennedy carried out with disastrous results.

"Time will tell whether Bush handed Clinton a tar baby in Somalia and Iraq," Mr. Brauer says.

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