As we close out 2012 we at the FPA polled 100 of our contributing writers at ForeignPolicyBlogs.com to glean their thoughts on the year behind and the year ahead. What were the events, people, organizations and publications that shaped the way we think about foreign policy this year? What lies on the horizon in 2013?
Most Unexpected Event
The event bloggers dubbed the most unexpected was the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11. The attack not only left the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stephens and three other Americans dead, but created a political storm inside the Beltway for the Obama administration’s handling of diplomatic security and its response to the attack. The fallout from Benghazi dominated the discussion of foreign policy throughout the presidential campaign between Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney. It also led U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice – Obama’s supposed pick to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State due to her statements — to withdraw her candidacy due to statements made following the attack on the Sunday morning talk shows that critics said were misleading about the nature of the event.
Organization of the Year
The European Union not only received an unexpected Nobel Peace Prize this year but it’s also our Organization of the Year. The fact that the EU has managed to hold together despite a massive sovereign debt crisis that began in Greece and made its way to Italy, Spain, Ireland and Portugal over the past year stumped critics and supporters alike, who feared that one or more members would have to leave the euro zone. Instead, European leaders have rallied, providing bailouts where needed and, at the end of 2012, taking steps towards a much needed banking union. More political and institutional changes are expected in 2013 and will be much needed to help bring Europe’s economies back to growth. For more on the euro zone crisis check out Great Decisions 2013.
Geopolitical risk analyst and foreign policy rock star Ian Bremmer’s book Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a Zero Sum World was voted best book of the year by our bloggers. Bremmer, who heads up the Eurasia Group, claims in his latest work that a global power vacuum of sorts has emerged, and that no single power is positioned to take on some of the most pressing international issues of the day. In order to confront these transnational challenges, new alliances and new thinking will be needed across the board, but a period of instability is most likely. Bremmer appears as a featured guest in the 2013 Great Decisions in Foreign Policy television series on PBS.
A close runner up to Every Nation for Itself is the cyber threat bible Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, by David Sanger.
Person of the Year
The ForeignPolicyBlogs.com Person of the Year is, hands down, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The most travelled secretary of state in U.S. history is set to retire at the end of the first Obama term a little worse for the wear due to health issues, but in high standing among the public and our writers. An instant frontrunner should she choose to run for president in 2016, Clinton has managed to put her own stamp on her tenure as secretary of state despite policies largely emitted from the White House—and become something of rock star in the process. Her brokering of the release of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng defused what easily could have been a diplomatic disaster by deftly negotiating Chen’s travel to the United States. Clinton scored another diplomatic victory in her recent trip to the Middle East, where she worked with Israeli leaders and Egypt’s new President Mohamed Morsi to put an end to a week of fighting between Hamas and Israel.
Another women, Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, came in a distant second, but her efforts alongside President Thein Sein to open up this long secluded country is an issue to watch in the year ahead, as well as a Great Decisions 2013 topic.
What to Watch for in 2013
Three events dominated responses to what to watch for in 2013. The first was the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria, which is beginning to resemble all out civil war. Can the UN help broker a deal that would remove strongman Bashar al-Assad from power, or is he, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov recently noted, there to stay? Will the international community dare to intervene and if so, what would be the fallout?
The new Egypt also drew a number of votes as the place to watch in the year ahead, as President Mohamed Morsi continues to drive the agenda alongside his Islamists allies. Will the passing of a new constitution help reconcile diverging interests in Egypt, or only spark more division? Egypt is also a Great Decisions 2013 topic.
Beyond the Middle East, FPB contributors also cited the global economy as a major issue to watch, particularly in Europe, where the euro zone continues steps towards greater financial regulation and debt relief in hope to resume economic growth, as well as in China, a longtime driver of the global economy now under new leadership.
Despite global instability, one thing is certain. The ForeignPolicyBlogs.com network will continue to track and analyze these critical issues facing U.S. policymakers and the world. We hope you will join us here online and through participation in the FPA’s Great Decisions 2013 programs, and wish our readers a prosperous 2013.