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Issue Guide: The World in 2011

Updated: December 30, 2011


From the toppling of dictators in the Arab World to the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the year 2011 was packed with unprecedented developments and unforeseen challenges for U.S. foreign policy. Here is a list of CFR materials that capture this year in pictures, offer the best and worst of government policies and statements, and discuss the implications of events that transpired. In addition, there are forecasts from a range of experts on economic and political trends to watch out for in 2012.

The Year That Was


Slideshow: Eleven World-Shaking Developments in 2011

This interactive slideshow showcases eleven momentous developments in 2011, including the advance of democratic movements in the Middle East, unprecedented military operations in Pakistan and Libya, and Japan's triple disaster.

Issue Guide: One Year of 'Arab Spring' Upheavals

This guide offers a range of materials providing expert analysis and essential background on the central issues facing the Arab world as civilian uprisings cross the one-year mark.

Middle East Matters Blog: Ten Most Significant Mideast Developments

CFR Senior Fellow Robert M. Danin lists Arab League's activism, the death of bin Laden, and departure of U.S. troops from Iraq as most significant regional developments from a U.S. foreign policy perspective.

Best of 2011 Interviews: Eleven Foreign Policy Insights

Editor's Picks from more than 150 interviews published by in the past year. This includes interviews with former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III on Egypt's crisis and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on China's "gunboat diplomacy."

Op-ed: For the World's Bad Guys, 2011 Was a Dangerous Year

CFR President Richard N. Haass notes in the Washington Post that many of the world's bad guys departed the scene this past year. However, he says while 2011 was a year of great transition, it was not one of transformation.

Democracy in Development Blog: The Year in Indexes

CFR's Charles Landow discusses highlights from 2011 indexes on democracy, development, corruption, economic freedom, and global competitiveness among others.

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action Blog: Top Quotes by the U.S. Government

CFR's Micah Zenko lists top twenty quotes by U.S. government officials and agencies--including President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta--that were "perplexing, shocking, or both."

Asia Unbound Blog: Ten Events That Shook Asia

CFR's Elizabeth C. Economy and Adam Segal list the top ten events that shook the region. These include: widespread anti-corruption protests in India; Myanmar's democratic reforms; Washington's outreach to Asia; and a worldwide Internet campaign against Beijing's detention of artist and activist Ai Weiwei.

Latin America's Moment Blog: 2011 Trends

CFR's Shannon K. O'Neil looks at various trends throughout Latin America in multiple blog posts: the rise of the middle class; the high rate of homicides, particularly in Mexico; and several presidents in the region battling cancer.

The Water's Edge Blog: Ten Who Will Be Missed

CFR's James M. Lindsay looks at ten people who made a mark on the U.S. foreign policy debate who died this past year including former secretaries of State, Warren Christopher and Lawrence Eagleburger; writer Christopher Hitchens; and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Shalikashvili.

The World in 2012


Expert Roundup: Five Economic Trends to Watch

With uncertainty being a recurrent theme, experts discuss the five most consequential trends in 2012. These include the eurozone crisis, the U.S. budget deficit, and China's growth.

CPA: 2012 Preventive Priorities Survey

A survey from CFR's Center for Preventive Action lists contingencies that could plausibly occur in 2012, intended to help inform the U.S. policy community about the relative urgency and importance of competing conflict prevention demands.

Podcast: The World Next Year

In this special edition, Editor Robert McMahon and CFR's Director of Studies James Lindsay preview major world events in the coming year: leadership transitions across the globe; the ascent of political Islam after the Arab uprisings; continued economic turmoil in Europe and elsewhere; the frayed U.S.-Pakistan relationship; and the possible rise of Africa.

The Water's Edge Blog: Five Hot Spots to Watch in Africa

CFR's Kate Collins identifies potential conflicts in Africa: a possible return to civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo; instability in Somalia; a possible invasion of South Sudan by Sudan; the spread of sectarian violence in Nigeria; and a tough battle between U.S.-backed Ugandan forces and the Lord's Resistance Army.

More on This Topic


The America of the Arab Street

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Ed Husain argues that despite fervent protests in the Middle East, the U.S. should not forget that it still wields significant influence...


Meet the New Boss

Author: Steven A. Cook
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Steven A. Cook says the news may look grim, but the United States is poised to remain the dominant power in the Middle East.