Special Report

The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers

Foreign Policy presents a unique portrait of 2011's global marketplace of ideas and the thinkers who make them.

 

All revolutionaries want their stories told to the world, and no one has conveyed the hopes and dreams of Egyptians more vividly than Alaa Al Aswany. The dentist turned author rose to fame with his 2002 novel, The Yacoubian Building, which charted Egypt's cultural upheaval and gradual dilapidation since throwing off its colonial shackles. Aswany used his prominence to help found the Kefaya political movement, which first articulated the demands that would energize the youth in Tahrir Square: an end to corruption, a rejection of hereditary rule, and the establishment of a true democratic culture. For his political activism, Aswany was blacklisted by Egypt's state-owned publishing houses, and security officials harassed the owner of the cafe where he met with young writers. 

How times change. Aswany was a fixture in Tahrir Square during Egypt's uprising -- he was almost killed three times, he said, during the running battles between demonstrators and pro-Mubarak thugs. And he has tried to keep the revolution's spirit alive since, pressing the country's ruling military junta to remove the vestiges of Hosni Mubarak's regime and assailing Egypt's Islamists for their willingness to sacrifice the movement's principles for a taste of power. In the process, Aswany has given voice to a people silenced for too long. "Revolution is like a love story," he said in February. "When you are in love, you become a much better person. And when you are in revolution, you become a much better person."

The best muse for these times The millions of Egyptians on Feb. 11 who were gathered when Mubarak decided to leave.
Stimulus or austerity? Both are a very good idea.
America or China? America. I had an American education and lived in Chicago. The American experience is an important part of my life.
Reading list "Vanka," by Anton Chekhov; The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway.

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

The bespectacled lawyer and the Google marketing guru may not look the part of revolutionaries. But Mohamed ElBaradei and Wael Ghonim have done more than any other figures to put the political demands of Egypt's citizens on a global stage.

After a celebrated career as International Atomic Energy Agency director-general that won him the Nobel Peace Prize, ElBaradei returned to Cairo last year to offer a political alternative to the stagnant rule of President Hosni Mubarak. And though he was one of the few to believe change could come -- and quickly -- to Egypt ("I see a decaying temple, almost collapsing," he was quoted as saying in last year's Global Thinkers issue), the rapid pace of change in Egypt since has exceeded his wildest expectations. Less than a year after his return, Mubarak was ousted -- and ElBaradei had established himself as one of the most prominent voices for pushing the revolution ever further.

Ghonim became the global face of that revolution not long after it started, vaulted to fame after giving a tearful TV interview upon emerging from Mubarak's prisons (where he was thrown after helping spark the protests by creating a popular anti-Mubarak Facebook page). He has since teamed up with ElBaradei to criticize Egypt's ruling military junta for failing to lay out a clear road map for a transfer of power to civilian rule and for using military trials to silence protesters. As Egypt's Islamists continue to gain influence, the two leaders' work in pushing for a secular, democratic Egypt is more urgent than ever. Ghonim is now planning to form an Egyptian NGO focused on local innovation, while ElBaradei is running for president, harnessing the tools that Ghonim mastered -- Facebook and Twitter -- to communicate with Egyptians. It has freed him, he says, to take a fearless, big-picture view of the events in Egypt over the past year: "If all the young people feel [the revolution] is being derailed, they know a way back to the street -- but it will be ugly."

ELBARADEI
Muse Mohamed Bouazizi.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, by Ha-Joon Chang; Al-Khubz Al-Hafi (For Bread Alone), by Mohamed Choukri; To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf.
Best idea of 2011 Social networking as a tool to defeat tyranny.
Worst idea of 2011 Ignoring my wife's advice to retire and spend more time with her.

HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/EPA; FELIPE TRUEBA/EPA

Ali Ferzat has been irritating Syria's heavy-handed powers for four decades with his biting political cartoons, evincing a razor-sharp wit and a withering eye for hypocrisy. When President Bashar al-Assad initially took power, Ferzat was allowed to start an officially sanctioned satirical magazine as part of what was supposed to be a new era of openness, but it was swiftly shut down. Emboldened by this year's uprising, Ferzat broke with his past practice of avoiding caricatures of actual people to defiantly portray Assad as a Napoleonic madman with delusions of omnipotence. His response to the regime he has infuriated is simple: "You ask me why I air your dirty laundry, but you don't ask yourself why you soil it in the first place." A cartoon showing the president trying to hitch a ride in Muammar al-Qaddafi's getaway car evidently pushed things too far, and in August Ferzat was seized by security force members who beat him, broke his hands, and left him by the side of the road. The magazine he published his cartoons in has been shut down, though he now reaches a wider audience abroad.

If Ferzat embodies the Syrian uprising's defiant soul, Razan Zaitouneh represents its beating heart. The 34-year-old attorney has been active in Syria's opposition since founding the Human Rights Association of Syria in 2001; and her website, providing up-to-date information on casualties and abuses by security forces, has been an essential resource for journalists locked out of Syria by its bloodthirsty government during this year's uprising. Zaitouneh has been in hiding since security forces accused her of being a foreign agent, and her husband was reportedly arrested and tortured for three months before being released in July. In October, the international advocacy group Reach All Women in War gave Zaitouneh its Anna Politkovskaya Award, named for the murdered Russian journalist in honor of female human rights defenders who put their safety at risk. In accepting it, Zaitouneh said the Syrian people "deserve much more than complicit silence, or timid criticism from those who have failed to refer this regime to the International Criminal Court despite acknowledging its crimes."

ZAITOUNEH
Muse Syrian protesters.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? Syria.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Democracy in all seasons.
Reading list Books? No place or time for books in the revolution.
Best idea One revolution is not enough.
Worst idea Toppling Assad would lead to civil war.

MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images; Peter James Field/agencyrush.com

The world cheered when peaceful pro-democracy movements overthrew autocratic governments in Tunisia and Egypt this year, but old fears that long-banned Islamist movements in both countries would rise to prominence, endangering the rights of women and minorities and fostering violent extremism, quickly resurfaced. So too, however, did leaders of those movements who seem determined to say all the right things when it comes to Islamism and democracy.

"We have continuously defended the right of women and men to choose their own lifestyle, and we are against the imposition of the headscarf in the name of Islam," said Rached Ghannouchi, the 70-year-old former socialist turned Islamist leader of Tunisia's al-Nahda (Renaissance) party who returned home in January after 22 years of exile in London, where he'd fled after a decade of torture and imprisonment in his home country. After winning a plurality of 40 percent in Tunisia's first-ever democratic elections, Ghannouchi's party is a major power broker in the new government.

Khairat El Shater, the top financier of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, spent a dozen years in prison under Hosni Mubarak before being released after the revolution. He also sought to reassure the West, writing in the Guardian, "The success of the Muslim Brotherhood should not frighten anybody: we respect the rights of all religious and political groups." The leadership of the now-legal Muslim Brotherhood is very much up for grabs, and Shater is seen as a leading candidate to head the party and perhaps, one day, the country: a media-savvy engineer who became prosperous as a textile and furniture trader, developing a knack for working with foreign investors.

Given the audiences these leaders command, there's little hope for democracy unless they are on board. So far, they seem to be playing a mostly productive role. Let's hope it stays that way.

GHANNOUCHI
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list Borj Roumi, by Samir Sassi; History of Tunisia, by Hedi Timoumi.

LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images; MOHAMED OMAR/EPA

As military leaders and tribal chieftains hijack Yemen's revolution to settle long-running scores, it's easy to forget that the original uprising was guided by the same peaceful principles that motivated protesters across the Middle East. The day after demonstrators toppled Tunisian despot Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January, Tawakkol Karman, a 32-year-old mother of three who runs an organization to protect freedom of expression and human rights, rallied a few of her friends outside Sanaa University to cheer the Tunisians' success -- the first sign that the Arab Spring had reached Yemen.

As the protests gained momentum, Karman improbably stepped to the forefront of this deeply patriarchal society, articulating a nonviolent spirit and democratic principles to define the revolution. President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime, unable to deter this bothersome activist with threats, finally ordered her arrest in a nighttime raid, a misstep that turned her into a cause célèbre and only added to the ranks of the protesters. Her eventual release did nothing to temper her resolve. "This is not the victory I seek," she said. "I was ready to stay in jail if the demonstrations would have toppled Ali Abdullah Saleh." But though Karman has been celebrated worldwide for her bravery -- and shared the Nobel Peace Prize for her audacity in helping launch the Arab Spring -- Yemen remains in turmoil, and the political paralysis in Sanaa has left the country defenseless against religious extremism and economic decline.

MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images


As the world watched Egyptians throng Tahrir Square to call for the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak's regime, they turned their TVs to the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera. And Wadah Khanfar, the channel's top executive for eight years before he stepped down this past September, is the one responsible for transforming the pan-Arab satellite network into the most influential media source in the Middle East and a revolutionary inspiration in its own right, giving voice to the long-suppressed aspirations of a new generation of Arab citizens.

Whether the United States, Iran, or pre-revolutionary Egypt, Al Jazeera's coverage has long been a target of unhappy governments. In 2004, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld excoriated the channel's coverage of the Iraq war as "vicious, inaccurate, and inexcusable," and Mubarak's goons attacked the station's Cairo bureau and arrested its reporters during the height of this year's uprising. But Khanfar brought the network into its own during this year of Arab revolt, providing granular detail and a level of cultural understanding that was simply unmatched by its competitors and getting millions of viewers around the world addicted to its online live feeds from Tahrir Square. During the height of the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera witnessed a whopping 2,000 percent increase in visits to its English-language website, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the network for delivering "real news" from the region.

Khanfar's allies have bedeviled him as much as his enemies: Qatar's ownership of the network led to persistent questions of objectivity, and diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks that showed him altering Al Jazeera's coverage under U.S. pressure may have hastened his departure. Nevertheless, Khanfar's decision to focus on the stories of Arab citizens, and not their brutal, venal rulers, has been vindicated. As he put it, "It is the growing periphery of the Arab world -- the masses at its margins, not its feeble and decaying center -- that is shaping the future of the region."

Muse The youth.
Stimulus or austerity? A bit of both. Austerity should focus on defense and foreign interventions, and stimulus to create jobs.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Awakening.
Reading list A Peace to End All Peace, by David Fromkin; Secret Channels, by Mohamed Heikal; Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future, by Stephen Kinzer.
Best idea Trust the choice of people in defining their destiny.
Worst idea Becoming subservient to the centers of power.

John Ritter

In May, a video appeared on YouTube featuring Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi computer consultant and longtime women's rights activist, driving her car in the city of Khobar. In Saudi Arabia, the only country on Earth where women are prohibited from driving, the video, quickly blocked by Saudi authorities, became a viral sensation. Later, Sharif encouraged Saudi women to take part in a nationwide day of driving to protest the ban, which is widely enforced but not actually written in Saudi law.

The clip -- and Sharif's later imprisonment -- sparked a movement. Dozens of videos of Saudi women driving in defiance of the ban have continued to appear on the Internet, the first major challenge in more than a decade to Saudi Arabia's restrictive rules targeting women, the harshest in the world. Meanwhile, though the Saudi government has now granted women the right to vote in the 2015 elections -- with permission from a male relative, of course -- a woman was recently sentenced to flogging for being caught in the driver's seat (the sentence was later commuted). Part of the reason women are increasingly defying this harsh treatment is Eman Al Nafjan, author of Saudiwoman's Weblog, one of the most influential English-language blogs on Saudi Arabia, as well as a postgraduate student in Riyadh and mother of three. She not only amplified the driving videos and the protest on her blog, but called out Saudi authorities for setting up a fake Twitter feed to discredit Sharif. Saudi Arabia may not have seen the upheavals experienced elsewhere in the Arab world this year, but Nafjan thinks the driving protest is a sign of things to come. "There's no denying that the country is fertile ground for a revolution," she writes.

Pictured: Manal al-Sharif

NAFJAN
Muse Gandhi.
Stimulus or austerity? Reasonable austerity.
America or China? Both and neither.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring all the way.
Reading list Inside the Kingdom, by Robert Lacey; Deaf Sentence, by David Lodge; The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright.
Best idea A two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Worst idea Sarah Palin for president.

SHARIF
Muse Peaceful demonstrators bringing down dictatorships.
Stimulus or austerity? A middle ground: more safety nets.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list The Women Who Broke All the Rules, by Susan Evans and Joan Avis; Inside the Kingdom, by Robert Lacey; Rosa Parks: My Story, by Rosa Parks.

Abdul Jalil al-Nasser


It was poetic justice that Muammar al-Qaddafi's regime, which collapsed under the weight of its crimes this year, was brought low by a man who called the Libyan government to account for one of its worst atrocities. Fathi Terbil, a 39-year-old Libyan human rights lawyer, had bravely taken up the case of the estimated 1,200 people massacred in a 1996 uprising at the notorious Abu Salim prison. When Qaddafi's security forces, panicking at the first rumblings of dissent, arrested him in Benghazi in February, he assumed a central role in the origin story of the Libyan uprising.

The first people to gather outside the prison to demand Terbil's release were the families of the victims of the Abu Salim massacre. (Terbil himself was one of them -- his brother was killed there too.) Thousands more soon joined them, igniting the protest movement that eventually snowballed into a full-blown revolution. As the revolt gained momentum, Terbil's iconic black-and-white checkered kaffiyeh and New York Yankees cap became symbolic of the diverse, youth-driven spirit of the Libyan revolt. Now, as a member of the council at the heart of Libya's new interim government, representing the youth movements, Terbil is trying not only to bring justice to victims of past crimes, but to build a government under which such crimes cannot happen again. It's no easy task: The utter destruction of any independent organization over four decades of Qaddafi's Libya meant, in Terbil's words, that the erstwhile rebels were starting "as if we had just been born today."

David Degner

Gene Sharp, an 83-year-old Boston-based academic, was not on the ground in Tunis or Cairo, but his tactics certainly were. For more than half a century, Sharp has been working to turn the philosophies of nonviolent protest devised by Henry David Thoreau and Mohandas Gandhi into a blueprint that can be put into practice by activists around the world.

Over the last few decades, his handbook for peaceful revolt -- the 1973 classic The Politics of Nonviolent Action, which covers everything from "camouflaged meetings of protest" to "disclosing identities of secret agents" -- has been deployed by protesters from Burma to Zimbabwe to the "color revolutions" that swept through the former communist world. In 2005, Sharp, often called the Clausewitz of nonviolence, was discovered yet again by the April 6 Youth Movement, a youth activist group that became one of the central organizers of the protests that this year brought down Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.

April 6 also took inspiration and practical instruction from the Center for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), a group led by Srdja Popovic, a onetime marine biology student turned revolutionary, and composed of other veterans of Otpor ("Resistance" in Serbian), the youth movement that organized the 1990s student uprisings that ultimately toppled Slobodan Milosevic. Today, Popovic's goal is to help spread Otpor's model around the world, and arguably he has succeeded. His group inspired the Arab Spring protesters directly and indirectly, from the Otpor fist that made it into the logo of the April 6 movement to Arabic-subtitled copies of the Otpor documentary Bringing Down a Dictator.

Of course, both Popovic and Sharp are quick to note that the real architects of the Egyptian revolution were the masses who thronged Tahrir Square. "There are two things you need to avoid if you don't want your movement to be doomed: One is violence; the other is taking advice from foreigners," Popovic said this year. But even if they didn't carry revolution in a suitcase to the Middle East, it is undeniable that these bold global proselytizers of nonviolence have helped change the world in a very real way this year.

POPOVIC
Muse Desmond Tutu.
Stimulus or austerity? Unity -- only united American leaders can overcome the economic and political crisis the United States is facing.
America or China? America, as the ideals of freedom, human rights, democracy, and private entrepreneurship, at least for me, still stand stronger and more important as opposed to marvelous Chinese achievements of economic growth, discipline, and stability.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring, with its prospects for democracy for millions, is a definite fact. And whether this winter or next spring will be limited only to the Arab world and countries like Syria, Bahrain, and Iran -- or pose a challenge to other non-Arab autocrats in places like Belarus, Zimbabwe, or Burma -- is yet to be seen.
Reading list Small Acts of Resistance, by Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson; The Autumn of the Patriarch, by Gabriel García Márquez; Join the Club, by Tina Rosenberg.
Best idea The Maldives as the first carbon-neutral country.
Worst idea That Arabs are "too immature for democracy."

Darko Vojinovic; Orjan F. Ellingvag/Dagens Naeringsliv/Corbis

With smoke still rising from the wreckage of the world's financial system, it's up to three wise men to salvage what's left. And with their eyes on the villainized central bankers of the 1930s, each has tried to avoid the currency wars and protectionism that plagued the world during the Great Depression, aiming instead to steer a calm path through the rubble, above the daily fray of politics and name-calling.

People's Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan, whose country owns a whopping $1.14 trillion in U.S. debt, has been forced to cope with the unpleasant fact that China's entanglement with U.S. and European markets makes it dependent on the health of Western economies. To that end, he has pursued a course of letting the yuan gradually appreciate, in a bid to slowly build up domestic consumption and decrease China's reliance on foreign markets.

Ben Bernanke, who has become a political punching bag in the U.S. presidential campaign, has had a tougher job. The Federal Reserve chairman's efforts to spur bank lending by expanding the monetary supply were described as almost "treasonous" by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, while candidate Newt Gingrich promised to fire him. Bernanke has nevertheless pressed forward with his plans to keep the Fed's benchmark interest rate near zero to encourage investment and has nudged Congress to get its act together as he warned that America's recovery is "close to faltering."

But the problems of Bernanke and Zhou paled in comparison with those of Jean-Claude Trichet, who as European Central Bank chief faced a full-blown debt crisis in Greece and the potential for a slow-motion fiscal collapse in Italy, Spain, and possibly even France. Trichet, who retired at the end of October, did his best to calm the crisis threatening the euro he helped create, pledging unlimited cash to eurozone banks and buying up the bonds of financially distressed countries. His mounting frustration spilled over during a news conference in September: "We are in the worst crisis since World War II.… We do our job. It is not an easy job." We all feel their pain.

Hanoch Piven

Conservative critics of the White House may have turned the idea of "leading from behind" into a punch line as soon as it appeared as an anonymous quote from an administration advisor 9,000 words into a New Yorker article, but it is quickly becoming Barack Obama's most enduring foreign-policy legacy -- and not necessarily as the insult his rivals saw it. Certainly, Obama has led: Although he came to office promising to curtail America's military adventurism abroad and focus on nation-building at home, he has nevertheless presided over more dramatic political shifts in the Middle East than ever achieved by his pugnacious predecessor, even if they are the result of events that he was reacting to rather than driving himself.

As the Arab Spring remade the region in 2011, Obama adapted as both American values and interests demanded. When protests in Cairo reached a fever pitch, he cast aside the caution of his advisors and unambiguously told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a 30-year American ally, that it was time to go. And when Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi responded to an uprising by threatening to hunt down his rebellious subjects "home by home, alley by alley," the president joined a French- and British-led coalition that ousted the mercurial dictator, though only after securing clear regional support for the mission. It is hard to imagine Arab societies being focused so intently on internal politics -- or welcoming Western military intervention with open arms -- during the Age of Bush.

In Asia, the president has managed the difficult balancing act of reducing the U.S. military footprint, navigating the rise of China, and striking blow after blow against al Qaeda. He vowed to pull out of Iraq and established a timetable for withdrawing from Afghanistan, a decade-long war that few Americans now see as worth the sacrifice, over the objections of his hawkish critics and even his own generals, while urging a long-overdue refocus on U.S. alliances in East Asia. And, of course, his gutsy call to order a risky commando raid deep inside Pakistan, which resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden, may be the one decision that all Americans can agree was the right one.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Guantánamo is still open, U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan, U.S. drones still aim for al Qaeda targets every week, and more than 1,200 government agencies work on counterterrorism. Like it or not, we're still living in George W. Bush's America. And at a time when most politicians, including the GOP presidential candidates, are advocating a more limited U.S. role in the world, Bush's vice president and secretary of state have remained unapologetic public advocates for the projection of American power -- even if they vehemently disagree about how to exercise it.

This year, in dueling memoirs, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice offered a new look at the still-relevant foreign-policy divides of the Bush administration. Cheney's In My Time is a passionate defense of his aggressive approach to the war on terror. It also takes a few shots at Rice, accusing her of misleading Bush about details of North Korea negotiations and of "tearfully" admitting she was wrong about the media strategy for the Iraq war. Rice's memoir, No Higher Honor, in which she calls the vice president's staff "very much of one ultra-hawkish mind," describes not only her conflicts with Cheney -- most notably when she lost the fight to avoid having terrorism suspects "disappeared" -- but also the shift to a more engaged foreign policy that marked Bush's second term. In those years, Rice did much to build an approach to the world that Barack Obama -- who campaigned in 2008 as Bush's polar opposite -- has arguably embraced.

RICE
Muse Courage.
Stimulus or austerity? I'm not a Keynesian. So I don't mind stimulus if it really is stimulating the economy, but I tend to believe that what really happens with stimulus is that you end up spending money on things that are not necessarily stimulative of the economy.
America or China? America, hands down.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring. Complicated and messy, but far better than the silence of tyranny.
Reading list The Confession, by John Grisham; Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson; King's Cross, by Timothy Keller.
Best idea Technology is transforming the way we live every day. But it isn't the cause of that transformation; it's just accelerating everything. We're living in a faster and faster world.
Worst idea That the United States of America should sit on the sidelines in global leadership.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

There's philanthropy, and then there's Gates philanthropy. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was founded in 1994 and has grown exponentially in resources and ambition since the software mogul's 2008 retirement from Microsoft to pursue saving the world full time, sits on an endowment of $36.3 billion. Already, the Gates Foundation has handed out more than $25 billion, well in excess of the GDP of Bahrain, in grants for everything from charter schools to antimalarial mosquito netting to microfinance to research into diseases -- say, visceral leishmaniasis -- that few Americans have even heard of. To take one example, the monumental scale of its efforts to fight malaria is reaping monumental dividends. In part due to the foundation's work, malaria deaths are down 20 percent worldwide since 2000, and 1 million African children have been saved from the disease, with a new and promising Gates-funded vaccine moving through clinical trials.

The Gateses don't just throw money at the world's problems -- they throw ideas at them, too. More so than perhaps any other philanthropic endeavor, their foundation has advanced the notion that the entrepreneurial, metrics-heavy sensibility that guides success in the private sector can be brought to bear on the big problems that corporations and governments alike have failed to solve ("philanthrocapitalism," as journalists Matthew Bishop and Michael Green dubbed it). Consider the Gates Foundation's approach to polio, for instance, which involves everything from pushing governments on foreign-aid policy to funding sewage monitoring in order to predict the disease's spread. The foundation's international reach has also served one of their other goals: inspiring the newly minted billionaires of the developing world to pursue philanthropy. They're up to 69 recruits, all of whom have agreed to spend the majority of their wealth on their own versions of Gates do-gooding.
BILL
Reading List That Used to Be Us, by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum; Redefining Health Care, by Michael E. Porter and Elizabeth Olmsted Teisberg; Change.edu, by Andrew Rosen.
MELINDA
Reading List Awakening Joy, by James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander; Connected, by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler; Mindset, by Carol S. Dweck.

Justine Lane/EPA

It's not just because of Azim Premji's enormous wealth that he is compared to the American technologist turned philanthropist. Granted, the chairman of the technology-services company Wipro is India's third-richest citizen, with a net worth of $13 billion, according to Forbes. He inherited Wipro as a small cooking-oil company when he was just a 21-year-old engineering student at Stanford University and has since overseen its growth into a global giant.

It is Premji's unprecedented philanthropy, however, that recently has borne out the Gates comparison. Last December, Premji made the largest charitable contribution in modern Indian history: $1.95 billion to his rural-education foundation, to help train teachers and improve exams and curricula for 2.5 million Indian children in more than 20,000 schools. The Azim Premji University, a training and research institution in Bangalore, welcomed its first 200 students in July, and the foundation just announced plans to open 1,300 free schools across the country.

Through his contributions, Premji is at the forefront of a rising tide of Indian philanthropy, with billionaire executives such as Shiv Nadar, founder of the technology company HCL, and Sunil Bharti Mittal, of the business conglomerate Bharti Enterprises, often listed in the same cohort. Gates himself traveled this spring to India to meet with Premji and others and encourage the country's wealthiest citizens to give back. As Gates wrote in Time, Premji is "setting a remarkable example for those who have benefited so enormously from India's economic expansion."

Muse Mahatma Gandhi -- simplicity in life, morality in character.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus for now.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.

DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief wasn't supposed to be the main attraction at the annual Federal Reserve conference held this summer in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a sort of mini-Davos of the central-banking world. But Lagarde upstaged headliner Ben Bernanke with a dead-eyed tour d'horizon of global economic misery that included many pointed jabs at the European financial leaders from whose ranks she had so recently come. France's finance minister until June, Lagarde was out to prove -- and surely did so -- that she was no eurocrat, warning that unless Europe figured out how to urgently recapitalize its banks, contain the contagion of its most debt-heavy sovereign balance sheets, and, dauntingly, come up with "a common vision for its future," then the "serious flaws in the architecture of the eurozone" would "threaten the sustainability of the entire project."

As debuts go, the new IMF chief (you may recall what happened to the old one) certainly came out swinging, and in a way that suggests some optimism for the future of what has become arguably the world's most important financial institution. The fact that her prescriptions caused no small amount of indigestion on both sides of the pond was the surest sign she was on to something.

MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images


Over the past eight years, the team of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his foreign minister, academic-turned-diplomat Ahmet Davutoglu, has worked relentlessly to build Turkey into a regional powerhouse. This year, with the crises of the Arab Spring, their vision came to pass as Turkey achieved a level of influence in the Middle East it hasn't had since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey is arguably one of the few unambiguous winners in the region's upheaval so far, after shrewdly opting to side with the crowds in the streets rather than the autocratic regimes with which it had long dealt. Its government was among the first in the world to call on Egypt's Hosni Mubarak to step down: "I say that you must listen, and we must listen, to the people's outcry, to their extremely humanitarian demands," Erdogan said in a speech that resonated far more in Tahrir Square than did the more cautious approach of Western governments.

But given how proudly Davutoglu once touted his country's "zero problems" foreign policy, Turkey has had quite a few to contend with in 2011. Turkey initially opposed NATO intervention in Libya and took some heat in Benghazi for its slow embrace of the rebels. Erdogan's pointed criticism of Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on protesters seems to have had little effect on the Syrian leader, and refugees have continued streaming across the border. Turkey's challenges in the coming year will include deteriorating relations with Israel and the possible revival of democratic Egypt as a rival regional power.

Still, Davutoglu can boast a significant personal victory -- winning a parliament seat for the first time -- thus proving that the erudite author of such tomes as Alternative Paradigms: The Impact of Islamic and Western Weltanschauungs on Political Theory could shake hands and kiss babies with the best of them. The elections this year not only cemented Davutoglu and Erdogan's personal base but also reinforced Turkey's image as a model of an Islamic democracy. As for Erdogan, he has focused on the challenge of drafting a new constitution in 2012 to replace the current one, which was drafted under martial law -- part of an effort to transform Turkey's outdated political system as profoundly as he has realigned its foreign policy.

Above, Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears on the left, listening to Ahmet Davutoglu, right.

EPA/STR

Not many 27-year-olds can boast of having built a multibillion-dollar corporation, fostered a technological revolution, helped boost several real-world revolutions, and been the subject of a controversial Hollywood biopic. But they're not Mark Zuckerberg. With more than 800 million active users -- more than 10 percent of the world's population -- his Facebook is now a bona fide global superpower.

And in many ways, 2011 was the year that Facebook met global politics. The company attracted both awe from its business peers and criticism from human rights groups with its forays into the Chinese Internet market, while Egyptian Facebook groups became the vanguard of the movement that eventually brought down one of the world's oldest dictatorships. Zuckerberg may downplay his role in this year's uprisings, but it's not for nothing that one prominent online activist, Google's Wael Ghonim, personally thanked the Facebook CEO in the wake of Hosni Mubarak's ouster.

If any technology has given Facebook a run for its money in terms of impact this year, it's Twitter, the microblogging service invented by Jack Dorsey in 2006. Once the province of tech geeks, Twitter has become an essential communications tool for activists and government officials, as well as journalists and their readers, who can now get real-time reports from smartphone-wielding participants in the events. Dorsey has been more willing than his Facebook counterpart to emphasize his technology's role in this year's political events and even suggested that they may be Twitter's true raison d'être. "What's happening in Egypt right now," he said in March, "that's the value, not the brand Twitter. So we need to refocus on that value."

ANDREW GOMBERT/EPA; KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images

On Aug. 5, a simple four-character message appeared on Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's Twitter feed: "Wen ge hao ba" ("What's up?"). It would have been utterly unremarkable, but for two things: It was Ai's first tweet since spending three months in prison, and it was written in defiance of the Chinese government's orders to stay quiet.

Ai's arrest on April 3, putatively on charges of tax evasion, was probably inevitable. The son of a famous poet who was forced into internal exile during the Cultural Revolution, the avant-gardist known for his confrontational nude self-portraits has dissidence in his DNA. A vocal democracy advocate since the 1990s, Ai infuriated the Chinese Communist Party by disavowing the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, for which he had helped design the iconic Bird's Nest stadium, and pushing for an investigation into Sichuan earthquake deaths later that year.

Throwing Ai in jail put a famous face on a worrying trend: Since this spring, the number of human rights activists, lawyers, artists, and other dissidents vanishing into government custody without explanation has quietly but sharply spiked in China. Now Ai has taken up their cause, railing against this state of affairs -- in open violation of the terms of his release. "[T]here are many hidden spots where they put people without identity," he wrote in a searing Newsweek essay. "With no name, just a number.… Only your family is crying out that you're missing."

Matthew Niederhauser

A nervous Beijing has cracked down viciously on dissidents this year, jailing dozens of lawyers and human rights supporters and placing scores under enforced supervision or house arrest. Yet among the many activists keeping hopes for reform alive, two stand out. One surprising advocate from inside the system is Yu Keping, a bureaucrat and head of the government-advising China Center for Comparative Politics and Economics, whom the New York Times has described as a "mild-mannered policy wonk" and a proponent of slow but steady change. His straightforwardly titled essay, "Democracy Is a Good Thing," insists that China can transition into a democracy that works for the Chinese. In a China Daily op-ed this summer titled "Reform Must Be Incremental," Yu wrote that though the go-slow approach has been on balance good for China, "The country still lacks a mechanism to counter the selfish behavior of the bureaucracy, corruption is still rampant and public service rendered by the government is far from enough."

He Weifang, meanwhile, is an outspoken critic of the Chinese legal system who was sent to internal exile in Xinjiang for signing the Charter 08 manifesto against the government in 2008 and then was told last year that he couldn't leave the country. For He, a Peking University law professor and longtime writer on judicial abuses who says he sees China growing more repressive over time, reform cannot come fast enough. And if the Communist Party doesn't adapt, he has warned, "then that process of transformation will not occur peacefully, and if the extreme violence comes, then there will be no Communist Party. It is a case of adapt or die." So will it be Yu's way or He's?

HE
Stimulus or austerity? Austerity.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list Montaigne's Politics, by Biancamaria Fontana; The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, by Hastings Rashdall; The Nine, by Jeffery Toobin.
Best idea Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Sina Weibo, played an instrumental role in promoting democracy all around the world.
Worst idea Say goodbye to Washington Consensus and say hello to what is being called the China Model.

Peter James Field/agencycrush.com

The Clintons are nothing if not the ultimate survivors. Nearly two decades after they burst onto the national stage, they are still dominating it, with Hillary mounting an extraordinary comeback to the extent that she now polls as America's most admired political figure, while Bill virtually runs a parallel United Nations from his Manhattan offices.

This year was perhaps the most eventful of Hillary's tenure as secretary of state. As 2010 came to a close, she had just presided over the release of the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, an agency-wide audit of the State Department's best practices. But her ambitious plans for internal reform were quickly overwhelmed by the leak of hundreds of thousands of pages of diplomatic correspondence and the turmoil in the Arab world -- never mind that the WikiLeaked cables generally showed U.S. diplomats evincing a nuanced understanding of world events and a surprising unity of purpose. And though U.S. foreign policy initially seemed caught off guard by the collapse of U.S. allies in Tunisia and Egypt, it recovered its footing in Libya. The coming year will likely be Clinton's last in Foggy Bottom, and judging by her recent article for FP, her priority will be reorienting U.S. foreign policy toward East Asia, where, she has said, "much of the history of the 21st century will be written." As for Bill, the "president of the world" has continued traipsing the globe devoting his time and his foundation's substantial resources to issues that generally fall off the radar screen, whether it's reconciliation in Bosnia or rebuilding in Haiti. In November, he published Back to Work, a manifesto with his thoughts on everything from job creation to energy and financial responsibility.

Both Clintons offer something unusual in world politics: their trademark optimism. At this year's Clinton Global Initiative, Bill described as a "no-brainer" a plan to create 1 million new jobs by retrofitting buildings to make them more energy-efficient. "Usually when things sound too good to be true, they are," he said. "They aren't here." Hillary, meanwhile, cheered the rise of participatory democracy: "We really are in a new age."

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

The Arab Spring did not start out well for France. In Tunisia, protests against Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali drew attention to France's unfortunate tradition of coddling dictators in the Francophone world -- especially when it turned out that President Nicolas Sarkozy's newly appointed foreign minister had spent her holiday on the Tunisian coast and had flown there courtesy of one of Ben Ali's relatives while his security forces were busy cracking down on nonviolent protesters.

Sarkozy was somewhat more outspoken in calling for the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. But the real turn came in Libya. Although France had once led the way in engaging Muammar al-Qaddafi, Sarkozy quickly emerged as the world leader most forcefully pushing military action, dragging along the more reticent Barack Obama (No. 11) and David Cameron (39). Throughout the NATO air campaign that ultimately toppled Qaddafi, grateful rebels regularly hoisted signs proclaiming, "Merci, Sarkozy," making Sarkozy perhaps the first French leader to be greeted as a liberating hero since Charles de Gaulle. Visiting Tripoli after Qaddafi's fall, Sarkozy told crowds, "We have a common destiny, and what we're now building is valid for Libya and all those Arab peoples in the world who want to free themselves from their chains."

Closer to home, Sarkozy has emerged as the most strident advocate of a strong governmental response to Europe's sovereign debt crisis, clashing as well as closely partnering with his German counterpart, Angela Merkel, as they figured out the extent of governmental intervention needed to stabilize the eurozone. Even in these straitened times, Sarkozy has done more than any other recent president to keep France on the map as a world power. Unfortunately, this might not be enough to save the wildly unpopular leader at the ballot box in closely fought elections next year. If only Benghazi got a vote.

GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images

The French public intellectual universally known as BHL this year transcended his role as merely a flamboyant member of the commentariat, moving from rhetorical bomb-thrower to unlikely inspiration for an actual bombing campaign. In March, Bernard-Henri Lévy made his way into Libya, hitching a ride on a vegetable truck to meet with the nascent revolutionary leadership in the country's rebellious east. As Muammar al-Qaddafi's tanks closed in on the rebels' de facto capital, Lévy telephoned his friend, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, to warn him that "the blood of the people of Benghazi will stain the flag of France" if the world did nothing.

At Lévy's urging, Sarkozy swung into action. France became the first country to recognize the rebels as Libya's legitimate government and led the way in pressing NATO to launch an air campaign against the erratic dictator. Lévy's muscular humanitarianism -- he hailed the Libya war as a step toward "a moral conscience for mankind" -- seems to herald an end to the role of sideline critic that the French played during George W. Bush's military campaigns. In acting as a quasi-official French emissary to the rebels, Lévy effectively bypassed France's actual foreign minister, Alain Juppé, who was reportedly sidelined on the issue. Although BHL's antics still inspire their fair share of eye-rolling, he has never shied away from taking a stand -- as when he mounted a furious defense this year of his friend, then-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who stood accused of sexually assaulting a hotel maid but later had the charges dropped. As 2011 proved, BHL -- love him or hate him -- is impossible to ignore.

ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images

Julian Assange's goal in leaking hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables was to embarrass the U.S. government. But many of his WikiLeaks cables revealed American diplomats to be deeply engaged and hard-hitting in their missives home. And the missives themselves led to unintended positive consequences, from helping to topple a dictatorship to giving an early glimpse into Muammar al-Qaddafi's madness. Five bylines stood out in particular:

Gene Cretz, who in 2007 was named the first U.S. ambassador to Libya since 1972, wrote numerous, highly prescient cables describing Qaddafi as increasingly cut off from reality by a tight group of confidants (not to mention his "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse). Cretz was forced to leave Libya in January following the release of the cables but has since returned in the wake of Qaddafi's downfall.

Elizabeth Dibble, now a deputy assistant secretary of state, was no less withering -- or accurate -- when she described Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in her previous job as deputy chief of mission in Rome, as "feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader."

Robert Godec, former U.S. ambassador to Tunisia and now a State Department counterterrorism official, portrayed the family of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali as a mafia-like cartel and the president himself as having "lost touch with the Tunisian people." The revelation that America had no illusions about Ben Ali undeniably played a galvanizing role in shifting elite opinion in Tunis during the revolution.

Carlos Pascual -- an academic expert on state failure -- was a controversial ambassador to Mexico to begin with. But unsparing cables noting the Mexican government's "inability to halt the escalating numbers of narco-related homicides" proved too much, and Pascual was forced to step down.

Anne Patterson -- now posted to Egypt -- offered an early warning of the deterioration in U.S.-Pakistan relations, writing in 2009 that Washington's policy toward Islamabad risked "destabilizing the Pakistani state, alienating both the civilian government and the military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis" -- which sounds disturbingly close to the current reality.

CRETZ
Muse Optimism.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring.
Reading list In the Garden of the Beasts, by Erik Larson; The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee; Empire: The Novel of Imperial Rome, by Steven Saylor.
Best idea Stanford Institute of Design's Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability project.
Worst idea PajamaJeans.
PATTERSON
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Both, depending on the country.
Reading list In the Graveyard of Empires, by Seth G. Jones; The Big Short, by Michael Lewis; How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States, by Howard B. Schaffer and Teresita C. Schaffer.
Best idea Ambitious trade visions like the Silk Road for South Asia.
Worst idea Protectionism, particularly in the U.S.

Cretz: Alex Wong/Getty Images; Dibble: JOSEPH BARRAK/AFP/Getty Images; Godec: Africa Center for Strategic Studies; Pascual: José Méndez/EPA; Patterson: AMEL PAIN/EPA


While the headlines this year may have been dominated by WikiLeaks, these three activists led their own transparency campaigns, largely without the same spotlight and in countries where they made a difference. In a society where muckrakers are regularly beaten up and even killed, Russian lawyer and blogger Alexey Navalny has turned his crowdsourced anti-corruption site RosPil.info into a heat-seeking missile against bloated and rapacious government contracts. By this fall, Navalny had saved the Russian government nearly 7.7 million rubles by calling attention to and then torpedoing wasteful deals, not to mention offering a mainstream face for the growing Russian anti-corruption movement.

Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former deputy of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who turned against his boss and wrote a blistering memoir accusing him of being too politically motivated, not to say megalomaniacal, is developing his own leaked-documents site, OpenLeaks, focused on exposing corruption worldwide rather than chasing Assange's great white whale, the United States. And Sami Ben Gharbia, a blogger and civil society advocate connected with Ethan Zuckerman's (No. 73) Global Voices project, brought WikiLeaks into the closed society of pre-revolutionary Tunisia, pumping out exclusive "TuniLeaks" via his Nawaat group blog. Cables from the U.S. ambassador detailed a society rotten with greed from top to bottom: "With those at the top believed to be the worst offenders, and likely to remain in power, there are no checks in the system," read one cable, released on Dec. 8, 2010. Days later, Tunisia exploded into pro-democracy riots. "Everyone could read the documents; they helped tip the balance," Ben Gharbia said. As Domscheit-Berg told the New York Times in February, "Sometimes if you look at raw, unfiltered information … then the truth is very blunt, and that is something that has a completely different impact on people."
DOMSCHEIT-BERG
Muse My wife and son.
Stimulus or austerity? Another system.
America or China? The world.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? World spring.
Reading list The Corporate Whistleblower's Survival Guide, by Tom Devine and Tarek F. Maassarani; Die Müllmafia (The Garbage Mafia), by Sandro Mattioli and Andrea Palladino; WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency, by Micah L. Sifry.
Best idea Occupy Wall Street.
Worst idea Introducing facial recognition for 800 million users without asking for explicit consent.

Ben Gharbia: Alexey Sidorenko via flickr; Domscheit-Berg: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images Navalny: MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA

They told us so. For years before the crash, economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff presciently sketched out just how bad the global credit crunch could become based on their groundbreaking study of eight centuries of financial crises -- the work that culminated in the publication of their bestselling 2009 book, This Time Is Different. In their study, the two found that in all the crises, "excessive debt accumulation … often poses greater systemic risks than it seems during a boom."

Since then, Reinhart and Rogoff have been sounding the alarm about America's crippling addiction to debt; before it exploded into the public eye this summer, they warned that high debt levels are "a risk to long-term growth and stability." In particular, they argue that government debt burdens above 90 percent of GDP (America's has just gone over 100 percent) are associated with 1 percent lower median growth.

"I don't think it's too much of an exaggeration to say that everything follows from missing the call on Reinhart-Rogoff, and I include myself in that category," Peter Orszag, President Barack Obama's first budget chief, told the Washington Post in October. As Reinhart and Rogoff have shown, those who claim that "this time is different" have been consistently proven wrong for the last eight centuries.

ROGOFF
Muse Caïsa.
Stimulus or austerity? Much looser monetary policy, gradual but determined reduction of full-employment budget deficit.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall, by Frank Brady; Exorbitant Privilege, by Barry Eichengreen; Civilization: The West and the Rest, by Niall Ferguson.
Best idea Deep restructuring of debt in the hardest-hit European peripheral countries while firmly backstopping the banking system in the rest of Europe, and rapidly moving toward a deeper fiscal and political union in the euro countries that remain.
Worst idea Believing that a mix of only liquidity, austerity, and growth will solve Europe's problems.

Moritz Hager/World Economic Forum; JEON HEON-KYUN/EPA

Given that few people have ever heard of him -- he didn't even have his own Wikipedia page until just a few months ago -- David Beers has a remarkable ability to make the world's most powerful governments and corporations hang on his every word. In August, the division of Standard & Poor's he heads sent shock waves through the global economy by downgrading the United States' sovereign-credit rating from AAA to AA+. Beers, a two-decade veteran of the firm who previously assessed sovereign debt for Salomon Brothers, was quick to deflect charges of partisanship. "It's about the difficulty of all sides in finding a consensus around fiscal-policy choices," he said, putting his finger precisely on the source of Americans' growing frustration with their government. The move sent markets tumbling and prompted angry rebukes from U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama. Beers later targeted Greece, Italy, and Spain with S&P downgrades as well, a move viewed as so damaging that the European Union is considering banning agencies from assessing countries receiving bailouts.

That Beers and his cohorts were taken so seriously may be surprising, given that just three years ago, the credibility of rating agencies was at an all-time low following the collapse of firms like Lehman Brothers and AIG despite their gold-plated ratings. Some will continue to question S&P's credibility -- and the firm didn't do itself any favors by backing up its decision to downgrade U.S. debt with calculations containing a $2 trillion error -- but the firm's overall conclusion that "the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges" seems harder than ever to refute. If it finally forces Washington to address its long-term debt crisis and political dysfunction, Beers will have done the world a great service.

Stimulus or austerity? Instead, focus on supply-side measures to boost economic growth.
America or China? Both. This is not a zero-sum game.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring, with caveats.
Reading list Against the Flow, by Samuel Brittan; American Sphinx, by Joseph J. Ellis; The Ascent of Money, by Niall Ferguson.
Best idea Successful completion of the Doha round of trade talks.
Worst idea Breaking up the eurozone.

With the eurozone economies crumbling left and right, Germans rightfully take pride in being among the last in Europe who can pay their bills -- and they resent being asked to prop up debt-strapped Mediterranean spendthrifts like Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain. Which is why Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble have in effect become Europe's leaders this year; without their cautious but firm action, few doubt the European Union would be even closer to collapse.

Their nearly impossible task: devise an approach that prevents a complete sundering of the union, but also doesn't give a blank check to its most profligate members. Schäuble has played the tough guy in the duo, putting off suggestions to expand the European Union's bailout fund and stressing that Greece would only get a cash infusion after sweeping austerity measures. As he put it, "You can't cure an alcoholic by giving him alcohol."

Merkel, who grew up in East Germany in the shadow of the Berlin Wall and is well acquainted with both the political and economic rewards of reunification, has stressed the reforms that the EU must take on its path toward a more perfect union and held to the idea of the union even as her political popularity has plummeted. She joined with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to call for more economic coordination among the eurozone countries and proposed that each nation pass a balanced-budget amendment. "There is no alternative to a global framework for a globalized economy," she told a joint session of the U.S. Congress. "This is a second wall that has to fall: a wall standing in the way of a truly global economic order."

"Enough, enough, enough." With those words at the U.N. General Assembly, Mahmoud Abbas finally stepped out of Yasir Arafat's shadow and began to build his own legacy as a Palestinian nationalist. Abbas, who has guided the Palestinian Authority through nearly seven post-Arafat years, took the bold step in 2011 of giving voice to Palestinians' widespread exasperation with a 20-year "peace process" by taking their cause directly to the United Nations, where he appealed to the world's preeminent international body for recognition. The U.N. statehood gambit, conceived last winter after negotiations with Israel ground to a halt, may have been greeted with cries of dismay in Washington and Tel Aviv, but it galvanized the world's attention in a way that dozens of suicide bombers never could.

None of it would have been possible without the state-building efforts of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, which also hit a major milestone this year when the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund both said that Palestinian institutions were on par with established countries. Under Fayyad, an American-educated economist and former IMF hand, reforms helped the Palestinian economy grow at a projected 7 percent clip in 2011 and, perhaps more importantly, slash dependency on foreign assistance by more than $800 million -- a giant step toward allowing Palestinian institutions to stand on their own.

If Palestine ever becomes a state, it will owe much to these two men and their steadfast rejection of violence.

FAYYAD
Muse Steve Jobs.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? Not either/or.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list Gaza: Stay Human, by Vittorio Arrigoni; Almond Blossoms and Beyond, by Mahmoud Darwish; Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.
Best idea Respect citizens' will and right.
Worst idea That people have to choose between democracy and stability.

In the months after the tsunami-induced meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station this spring, anti-nuclear sentiment swept Japan, which relied on atomic energy for about 30 percent of its electricity before the accident. Although devastated by their country's losses, Mizuho Fukushima and Yuichi Kaido were less surprised by the disaster. Fukushima, the lawmaker who leads Japan's Social Democratic Party, and her partner, Kaido, a public-interest lawyer, have spent three decades resisting Japan's nuclear rise in their respective arenas: parliament and court. But the cozy nuclear plant operators and government officials who make up Japan's so-called "nuclear village" largely ignored their efforts -- that is, until this year.

The Fukushima Daiichi disaster has now forced the island country to re-examine the safety of its nuclear facilities. Naoto Kan, Japan's prime minister until he resigned in August, called in July for Japan to wind down its nuclear program, and his successor, Yoshihiko Noda, agrees. Kan also requested the closure and upgrade of a power plant in the earthquake-prone coastal city of Hamaoka, a facility whose safety Kaido had called into question nearly a decade earlier. Had he won the Hamaoka case, Kaido said, this year's disaster "could have been prevented." Today, Fukushima and Kaido see a changed political horizon. As Fukushima told the New York Times in August, "Although I won't be able to change the past, I think I can change the future."

FUKUSHIMA
Muse Natalie Portman.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? Both.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list A Suitable Amount of Crime, by Nils Christie; The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein; The Lie of Nuclear Power, by Hiroaki Koide.
Best idea The decision of Naoto Kan, now ex-prime minister of Japan, to stop operating the Hamaoka nuclear power plant.
Worst idea News of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's melting down.

KAIDO
Muse Jessica Alba, especially in Dark Angel.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? Impossible selection.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list The Lie of Nuclear Power, by Hiroaki Koide; The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein; Ultimate Punishment, by Scott Turow.
Best idea Gradual abolition of nuclear power and weapons; rapid introduction of green energy.
Worst idea The war on terror makes the world more unsafe and hostile.

Rarely has someone done so well predicting that the world will go so wrong. Nouriel Roubini rose to prominence for forecasting that the 2008 housing crisis would lead to a global economic meltdown, and he has been peddling a message of doom and gloom ever since. Unfortunately for all of us, he's been right.

Since the crisis hit, Roubini has consistently pushed back against the conventional wisdom that the worst is over, notably warning in 2008 that banks' losses would be measured in the trillions of dollars, when the optimists were still predicting that the crisis was limited to a narrow subsection of the financial sector. In just the past year, while others were holding out hope that President Barack Obama's stimulus package would revive the struggling job market, Roubini suggested that the United States could be heading for a dreaded double-dip recession, criticized the European bailout package to Greece as "a rip-off," and penned a provocative and widely read essay asking, "Is Capitalism Doomed?" (Answer: maybe.) A lack of "policy bullets" to address the crisis, he says, means that economists should consider the prospect of a 1930s-style Depression. "This might be the beginning of the end of the American empire," Roubini sighed, three years ago.

Muse Lady Gaga.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? China.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Winter.
Reading list Grand Pursuit, by Sylvia Nasar; The Future of Power, by Joseph S. Nye; The Price of Civilization, by Jeffrey Sachs.
Best idea Let's start taxing the rich more -- the Buffett Rule -- as inequality is now at 1929 levels and increasing further.
Worst idea Let's all be involved in a front-loaded fiscal austerity that will sink us in a severe recession.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been agitating for democracy in Burma for more than 20 years, 15 of which she spent in confinement. Since her latest release, in November 2010, she has refused to back down -- and after nearly 50 years of military rule, the country finally appears to be moving toward her.

Since taking over this spring, Burmese leader Thein Sein has relaxed restrictions on the media, allowed some economic liberalization, and released hundreds of political prisoners. Although the origins of this shift remain largely unclear and skeptics have their doubts, the government's actions have coincided with several recent meetings with Aung San Suu Kyi. Known to her devoted followers simply as "The Lady," the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has also sought to broaden her audience this year, using the Internet to reach international supporters and -- despite government warnings -- traveling outside Yangon to spread her message in other Burmese cities.

If Burma finally throws off the junta's yoke, it will be in no small part due to The Lady's political dexterity -- and her backbone of steel.

For American liberals, Paul Krugman's twice-a-week New York Times column has become a life raft in a sea of public-policy discourse that has turned distinctly choppy. An early critic from the left of President Barack Obama's economic policy -- in 2009 he argued loudly that the $787 billion stimulus package proposed by the White House was too small -- the Nobel Prize-winning economist-cum-pundit's outrage has only grown in 2011. To Krugman and his large audience, the Obama administration seems to have all but handed the keys of the U.S. Treasury over to Tea Party budget-cutters. In a September Times column, Krugman likened austerity advocates to pre-modern doctors who bled patients in a misguided effort to cure them. "What passes for being reasonable and wise and serious inside the Beltway is in fact deeply foolish," Krugman told TV talk-show host Charlie Rose in July, as Congress's debt-ceiling debate approached its climax. If the world plunges back into recession, as seems increasingly likely, no one can say Krugman didn't warn us.

With the global financial contagion still spreading, the insights of this Nobel Prize–winning economist and prominent critic of globalization have been more in demand than ever. His 2010 book, Freefall, was a well-deserved "I-told-you-so," and he has continued to point fingers at growing inequality and the global economic establishment's slavish devotion to free market ideology for helping cause the crash. Although the past year has been rough for the world's economy, it has been pretty good for Joseph Stiglitz, who has found his once-heretical views more mainstream than ever. In a widely discussed Vanity Fair article, Stiglitz took aim at America's yawning wealth gap and the culture of over-the-top executive compensation that created it. "An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year -- an economy like America's -- is not likely to do well over the long haul," he wrote.

Stiglitz isn't strictly a finger-pointer. He has also chaired a U.N.-organized commission on reform of the global financial system. And burnishing his anti-establishment credibility, he spoke at this year's Occupy Wall Street protests in New York. Stiglitz's skepticism has weathered the storm far better than the free market exuberance of many of his fellow economics superstars. Perhaps next time we'll listen.

A Harvard University professor and expert on financial regulation might seem an unlikely candidate for a populist hero. But Elizabeth Warren's plainspoken, relentless criticism of the financial-services industry and tireless advocacy for the American middle class have turned her into a household name -- and may just turn her into a senator.

In 2008, Warren, an academic expert on bankruptcy, took on the thankless task of auditing the $700 billion bailout of the U.S. financial industry. Along the way, she gained a popular following through her frequent and candid testimonies to Congress and TV appearances. She was widely expected to become the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the oversight agency that she conceived of and helped establish, but the White House passed her over this year in the face of overwhelming Republican opposition. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that the agency under Warren "could be a serious threat to our financial system."

Warren was quick to pivot, announcing that she would run for Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat in Massachusetts. The frustrated American left has since rallied around her, and a video of a fired-up Warren defending government services as a "social contract," saying, "There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own," has become a viral sensation. Welcome to class warfare, 2012 edition.

Not many parenting books can ignite fierce debates over race, immigration, and American decline, but not many authors of such books are like Amy Chua. This corporate lawyer turned Yale University professor first made a name for herself with her 2003 book World on Fire, which argued that globalization fuels ethnic conflict in the developing world. But that was nothing compared with this year's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, her memoir-cum-manifesto about raising two overachieving daughters, which kicked up a major firestorm and rocketed to the top of bestseller lists.

Chua, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, attempts to decipher the question of why Chinese mothers produce "so many math whizzes and music prodigies." Her answer: Chinese parents "can do things that would seem unimaginable -- even legally actionable -- to Westerners," such as forbidding their children from attending sleepovers, watching TV, getting any grade besides an A, or playing "any instrument other than the piano or violin."

The book garnered a fierce backlash, with many accusing her of inflicting permanent psychological damage on her children. (Many critics ignored the book's ending, in which Chua realizes she needs to lighten up a bit.) Chua's contention that soft American parents are being outdone by hard-charging Asian Tiger Moms also tapped into a growing fear that the United States is becoming complacent in the face of a rising China -- where, ironically, the book was sold under the title Being an American Mom.

Muse Tariq Jahan, the grieving father who called for peace and tolerance just hours after his son was killed in the Birmingham riots this summer.
Stimulus or austerity? Either way, it will end up a watered-down, horse-traded compromise that will bear little resemblance to the original inspiration.
America or China? America, if it can reclaim its traditional values of hard work, responsibility, and respect for excellence. I'm an optimist.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring, but we'd do the Arab world a disservice if we set up unrealistic expectations.
Reading list Crave Radiance, by Elizabeth Alexander; The Death Instinct, by Jed Rubenfeld; Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Best idea Writing a parenting memoir that hit a geopolitical nerve.
Worst idea Writing a parenting memoir that hit a geopolitical nerve.

Nearly 30 years ago, a Texas oilman named George P. Mitchell threw his money behind an idea: that breaking apart dense underground shale formations could release vast reserves of natural gas. The bet took over a decade to pay off, but the wait was worth it, not only making Mitchell a billionaire, but also fundamentally reordering the global balance of energy and the political power that comes with it.

Only in the past several years has the extent of the shake-up become fully apparent. Thanks to investments made by Mitchell's industry heirs in hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," U.S. shale gas production nearly quintupled between 2006 and 2010 to 4.8 trillion cubic feet -- almost a quarter of U.S. natural gas production -- and prices plummeted. Meanwhile, geologists have mapped eye-poppingly large shale gas reserves throughout Europe and the United States -- most notably Terry Engelder and Gary Lash, who in 2008 estimated the reserves of the U.S. Northeast's Marcellus Shale formation at a monstrous 500 trillion cubic feet, making it the world's largest unconventional natural gas reserve.

Less than a decade ago, the United States was bracing for a future of importing natural gas from countries like Qatar and possibly Russia, which for years has wielded its gas reserves as a political weapon against its neighbors. Now gas prices in the United States have halved from three years ago, production has risen to heights not seen since 1973, and the country is looking at a once improbable future as an energy exporter. "My engineers kept telling me, 'You are wasting your money, Mitchell,'" the oilman told an interviewer two years ago. "We made it to be the hottest thing going."

ENGELDER
Muse Seamus McGraw, author of The End of Country.
Stimulus or austerity? Government spending on developing (and repairing) infrastructure during economic hard times is not a bad idea.
America or China? America will surely fall off the wagon if it fails the best and brightest of its primary- and secondary-school students as appears to be the case presently.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Summer comes after the spring. I am looking forward to it!
Reading list Power Hungry, by Robert Bryce; Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson; The Last Stand, by Nathaniel Philbrick.
Best idea Declare victory in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring the troops home, letting the chips fall where they may.
Worst idea Continuing government farm subsidies for the purpose of manufacturing corn ethanol.

LASH
Muse That we should have faith in America's future and gain inspiration from its past.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus -- and at a higher level.
America or China? America has the greater potential.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring; this movement seems to be gaining momentum.
Reading list Power Hungry, by Robert Bryce; American Theocracy, by Kevin Phillips; The Quest, by Daniel Yergin.
Best idea Take advantage of the United States' wealth in natural gas.
Worst idea We can solve our energy problems by relying on wind and solar energy plans.

This 74-year-old Gandhi devotee has been railing against government corruption since his days as a rural organizer decades ago, but in 2011, when a series of high-profile scandals reached the highest levels of India's ruling Congress party, his message finally seemed to resonate. Twice this year, Anna Hazare went on a hunger strike in New Delhi to demand tough legislation that would create a powerful new government anti-corruption watchdog. When the soft-spoken Hazare was arrested in August, tens of thousands of his supporters took to the streets throughout the country, bringing government to a standstill. Finally, the Indian Parliament agreed to debate his ideas, and Hazare ended his fast.

Indian elites dismiss Hazare's demands as naive and even dangerous. He and his brain trust, including Arvind Kejriwal, a key activist behind the so-called Jan Lokpal Bill, favor an anti-corruption chief with sweeping, near-dictatorial powers and have called for the death penalty to deter corrupt officials. But it's hard to deny that drastic measures need to be taken when the world's fifth-largest economy ranks 87th in the world on government transparency. For now the simplicity and single-mindedness of Hazare's crusade has awakened millions of middle-class professionals who are fed up with India's pervasive culture of graft. "You have lit a torch against corruption," Hazare told his supporters. Now that it's burning, he's unlikely to let it go out.

One of Barack Obama's most noteworthy accomplishments wouldn't have happened without the support of George W. Bush's handpicked top U.S. military commander: Mike Mullen, a Navy admiral whose four-year term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ended in September. Last December, when leading Senate Republicans said they would defer to military leaders in deciding whether to vote for repealing the Pentagon's 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibiting openly gay service members in the military, Mullen rose to the occasion, telling Congress, "America has moved on.… America's military is ready, by and large, to move on as well." The repeal passed.

Mullen's last public act as chairman was to break one of the great taboos of post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy. In September congressional testimony, he avowed that the Haqqani network -- a vicious, Pakistan-based insurgent group responsible for attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan -- was a "veritable arm" of Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency and that Pakistan had chosen "to use violent extremism as an instrument of policy." Pakistan's reaction was swift and predictably furious, but there was a sense that a hard truth had finally been aired, and from an unimpeachable source: a man who made dozens of trips to meet with Pakistani leaders and helped guide a U.S. military leadership that has been far more reluctant to criticize Pakistan than its civilian counterpart. Coming at the end of a career defined by low-key effectiveness, it was an explosive finale -- and an admirable one.

Britain's prime minister has spent the year keeping his enemies, and even his allies, off balance, wielding the budget-cutting knife at home while also backing a muscular foreign policy abroad as he heads an awkward coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. In an era of European financial collapse, David Cameron was one of the first major leaders to embrace austerity as the antidote, and his first budget committed Britain to tax hikes and massive cuts in public spending -- harsh measures that countries such as Greece and Italy are only now rushing to duplicate. But Cameron has also proved that shrinking Britain's military does not mean retreating from the world. He teamed with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to launch a diplomatic blitz that first convinced the United States, then the U.N. Security Council, to endorse aggressive action to halt Libyan autocrat Muammar al-Qaddafi's war on his own people.

The prime minister's response to the riots that gripped his country in August also proved that he's no pushover. "It is criminality, pure and simple," he told the House of Commons. He skillfully wove the events into his rhetoric about a "Broken Britain," saying that widespread social decay was to blame for the riots. But with public funds shrinking, it's up to Cameron to do more with less.

It was arguably profligacy, not war, that brought down the Roman and British empires, and today's United States seems ever more at risk of a similar fate. Like dozens of Western countries staggering under debt loads, the United States faces a massive deficit -- $1.3 trillion this year alone. If there is any hope of climbing out of that hole, the U.S. federal government will need to cut spending in dramatic ways.

More than any other political figure, it has been Paul Ryan, a charismatic rising star among Republican lawmakers and the House Budget Committee chairman, who has led the charge, preaching a new politics of austerity as the only antidote to the crisis. As Ryan wrote in the Wall Street Journal in April, "The threat posed by our monumental debt will damage our country in profound ways, unless we act." To be sure, the Wisconsin congressman's "Path to Prosperity" plan, passed by the House of Representatives in April before being defeated in the Senate, was far from perfect. But unlike others in both parties, Ryan made an effort to do business with his political rivals (Obama called his plan a "serious proposal"), and he undoubtedly set the terms of the intense debate that followed.

Muse The Rolling Stones. After all, you can't always get what you want.
Stimulus or austerity? It's a false choice. Prosperity is the real answer.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed; Endgame, by John Mauldin and Jonathan Tepper; Cicero's "Philippics" and Their Demosthenic Model, by Cecil W. Wooten III.
Best idea Corporate tax reform.
Worst idea Raising tax rates on individuals and successful businesses.

It's been a bad year for the credibility of the world's financial institutions, battered by debt crises in Europe and America and by China's economic growing pains. But amid the bank panics and bailout frenzies, Robert Zoellick's World Bank has urged powerful countries not to overlook the plight of the poor. In its fifth year with Zoellick at the helm, the bank has been a model of good acts in lean times: The World Bank increased assistance to North African countries rattled by the events of the Arab Spring, while pledging at its fall meeting with the IMF to help fix the problem underlying both economic and political crises worldwide -- unemployment.

Zoellick has also launched an effort to rebrand the World Bank as a source not just of handouts but of information that allows individual countries -- rich and poor alike -- to help themselves. The bank recently made public thousands of data sets that used to require payment. It's part of Zoellick's effort to "democratize development economics," in his words. Zoellick insists that emerging markets shouldn't have to scrape by on outside assistance; instead, foreign aid should be integrated with private investment and entrepreneurship. "The goal would not be charity," Zoellick said in September, "but a mutual interest in building more poles of growth."

Muse Yogi Berra: When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
Stimulus or austerity? Structural reforms for growth.
America or China? Work together -- with others -- as responsible stakeholders.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? A climate shift -- for a decade or more.
Reading list The Long Ships, by Frans G. Bengtsson; Other Clay, by Charles R. Cawthorn; Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution, by Charles Rappleye.
Best idea Gender equality is smart economics.

For Dilma Rousseff, a former member of a Marxist guerrilla movement who was imprisoned and tortured by Brazil's ruling military junta in the 1970s, her country's modern-day problems must seem positively trifling. While many world leaders are forced to contend with populist anger in an age of growing unemployment and shrinking federal budgets, Brazil's first female president is charged with managing her country's booming economy, which has more than tripled over the last decade, and its determined ascent to prominence on the world stage.

It's a task that she has undertaken with low-key aplomb in her first year since taking over from Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the populist president who chose her as his successor. Rousseff has pledged to bring down Brazil's national debt and has even inserted her country into efforts to resolve the eurozone's fiscal crisis, dramatically reversing Brazil's decades-long role as supplicant to Europe.

Brazil may still be one of the world's most unequal countries, but Rousseff has put the eradication of this problem front and center. In her first months in office, she laid out a plan dubbed "Brazil Without Poverty," which aims to lift more than 16 million Brazilians out of extreme deprivation. "In jail you learn to survive, but also that you can't solve your problems overnight," she explained to Newsweek. "Waiting necessarily means hope, and if you lose hope, fear takes over. I learned how to wait."

This year's political upheavals have been as much about cities as countries. From Cairo's Tahrir Square to London's Tottenham, we've seen vivid illustrations of how urban spaces can shape social movements. Saskia Sassen, an academic guru who famously coined the term "global city," has been very much part of the conversation, arguing that the same melting-pot factors that make cities drivers of capitalism can also make them highly unstable. "The poor in Britain, living next to enclaves of wealth and privilege, chose street riots to deliver their message," she wrote.

For a more optimistic take on the potential of cities, there is Edward Glaeser's critically acclaimed Triumph of the City, released this year. The book overturns scores of conventional wisdoms about urban spaces: Teeming slums aren't a sign of poverty but of economic dynamism. Green, rural spaces actually hurt the environment. Historical preservation punishes a city's poorest residents. Glaeser's research has taken him from the fading industrial centers of America's Rust Belt to the exploding megalopolises of Rio de Janeiro and Lagos. But Glaeser doesn't always practice what he preaches. "About five years ago my wife and I did what millions of Americans do throughout the country," he has said. "We chose a suburb."

GLAESER
Muse Clio.
Stimulus or austerity? Mild stimulus today. Austerity soon.
America or China? America and China.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring for the Arabs, but a real threat of winter for Israel.
Reading list The Education of Henry Adams, by Henry Adams; Hidden Harmonies, by Robert Kaplan and Ellen Kaplan (disclosure: Bob teaches my son math); 1688: The First Modern Revolution, by Steven Pincus.
Best idea Crowdsourcing innovation in local government, like the privately and freely developed app that allows riders to know when buses in Boston will arrive.
Worst idea Ever more subsidies for highway construction contained in the American Jobs Act. Drivers should pay for their own infrastructure.

SASSEN
Muse Keynes.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? Neither -- not the G-2 but the G-20.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring.
Reading list Open City, by Teju Cole; Keynes: The Return of the Master, by Robert Skidelsky; Confidence Men, by Ron Suskind.
Best idea Cooperation as a craft, not simply a decision.
Worst idea Rescuing the big banks as a way to rescue our economy.

This summer, when International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo charged Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi and his son with crimes against humanity, it was a bold gesture that demonstrated how legal sanction could isolate a rogue government just as much as a military strike. As David Scheffer, the United States' first-ever ambassador at large for war crimes and one of the handful of international jurists, politicians, and activists whose commitment to prosecuting the war criminals of the Balkans and Rwanda led to the creation of the ICC back in 2002, writes in his forthcoming memoirs, All the Missing Souls: "The modern pursuit of international justice is the discovery of our values, our weaknesses, our strengths, and our will to persevere and to render punishment."

Eight years into Argentine jurist Moreno-Ocampo's nine-year tenure, and despite America's refusal to ratify the ICC treaty, he and Scheffer can point to a number of victories: the successful indictments and, in some cases, trials of war criminals from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda, as well as the capture this year of Ratko Mladic, the infamous butcher of Srebrenica.

Scheffer calls it "conduct unbecoming of a great nation" that the country that led the charge to prosecute these evildoers also exploded the bounds of the Geneva Conventions while fighting the war on terror. But the work done by Moreno-Ocampo, Scheffer, and others ensures that the world is nonetheless gradually becoming a less cruel place.

SCHEFFER
Muse The nameless protester against tyranny.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list City of Thieves, by David Benioff; Empire of the Summer Moon, by S. C. Gwynne; Justice Cascade, by Kathryn Sikkink.
Best idea Drastic reductions in nuclear weapons stockpiles as relics of Cold War thinking.
Worst idea That responding to the plight of the Libyan people in early 2011 was not in the national interest of the United States.

In these days of political trench warfare, most Washington fixtures leave the city with their stature diminished. But Robert Gates, who served presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama and in June completed a transformative tenure across two administrations as Pentagon chief, is the rare exception. The career spook oversaw a responsible drawdown from Iraq, managed an ambitious counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, and began a difficult discussion about the need to realign the military's budget priorities for an age of fiscal austerity -- all the while winning applause from hawks and doves alike.

As Capitol Hill continues to obsess over America's spiraling debt, Gates's focus on trimming the fat from the military looks increasingly prescient. After convincing Congress to ax dozens of military programs in years past, he laid out plans this year to cut $178 billion from the Pentagon's budget over the next half decade. He also warned that NATO faced a "dismal" future if America's allies did not pick up the slack, and he vocally opposed future military adventures. Any of his successors who advocated a ground war in Asia or the Middle East, he memorably told West Point cadets, "should have his head examined."

In December 2008, Christina Romer, newly appointed to head Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, delivered what her colleague and successor, Austan Goolsbee, later speculated may have been "the worst briefing any president-elect has ever had" on the extent of the damage wrought by the bursting U.S. housing bubble. Romer recommended a $1.2 trillion stimulus, watered down to $787 billion a few months later.

Since then, and particularly since leaving the White House in the fall of last year, Romer, an academic expert on the Great Depression whose work focused on the role of monetary policy in precipitating the crash, has sounded an increasingly urgent alarm about America's jobs crisis, warning that though "today's unemployment appears mainly cyclical, it could turn structural" without immediate measures such as more public investment and a payroll tax cut. Romer's New York Times column has become a powerful platform denouncing the current vogue for austerity -- an argument that, she says, "makes me crazy." Whether briefing the president or the public, Romer has never been one to sugarcoat the bad news.

Prominent advocates for secular democracy in today's Pakistan not only must have the courage of their convictions -- they must also be prepared for the very real possibility that their careers will come to violent ends. This year alone saw the stunning assassinations of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, the sole Christian in Pakistan's government -- a sign that the creeping Islamist fanaticism and militancy plaguing Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan know no borders.

But instead of mourning, Sherry Rehman -- a prominent journalist, TV personality, and member of parliament from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party -- took up the cause for which Taseer and Bhatti were murdered: their efforts to amend Pakistan's outrageous blasphemy law, which has been used as a cudgel against Pakistan's embattled minorities. In response, a prominent Islamist cleric issued a fatwa calling for her death; at the height of the furor she said she was receiving two death threats an hour. Rehman has also smashed gender barriers by founding the Jinnah Institute, a national security–centric think tank, inserting herself into a field normally dominated by a small cadre of men at the top of Pakistan's shadowy intelligence services. Her stand against religious zealots has largely confined her to her house out of fear for her safety. But she refuses to back down, saying, "Appeasement of extremism is a policy that will have its blowback."

Muse Steve Jobs, with his knowledge and knife-edged mind, followed closely by a woman -- any woman -- as ayatollah or pope.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? China.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Autumn.
Reading list Destiny Disrupted, by Tamim Ansary; Civilization: The West and the Rest, by Niall Ferguson; Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future, by Stephen Kinzer.
Best idea Let's talk to everyone, especially the enemy.
Worst idea Aid without trade.

The headlines may be gloomy: a seemingly endless war in Afghanistan, famine in Somalia, a bloody crackdown in Syria. But Steven Pinker doesn't fret over the dismal news. In his ambitious new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, the Harvard University–based cognitive researcher argues that the world is a significantly more peaceful place than it was in centuries past.

Pinker makes the case that the worst examples of human cruelty -- torture, war, suicide -- have declined dramatically in the modern age. Why? He contends that humankind has gradually tamed its worst instincts as traits like empathy and equality have proved more useful than violence and revenge, an insight as relevant to geopolitical strategists as criminologists the world over.

And Pinker suggests the trend toward a more peaceful planet is accelerating, beginning with the "Long Peace" that followed World War II and gaining momentum with the "New Peace" that followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. So, cheer up, he writes: "for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment that we can savor."

Muse Statisticians.
Stimulus or austerity? I don't have an opinion on everything.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Springier.
Reading list Winning the War on War, by Joshua S. Goldstein; Getting Better, by Charles Kenny; The Great Big Book of Horrible Things, by Matthew White.
Best idea Joshua Goldstein: If you want peace, work for peace.
Worst idea The United States' funding only the parts of the U.N. that advance American interests.

In 2003, British-born Andrew Sullivan, who is HIV-positive, was prohibited from becoming a U.S. permanent resident and denied the right to marry his same-sex partner. Eight years and two policy changes later, the writer and husband is a permanent resident of the United States, using his explosively popular blog, now hosted by the Daily Beast, to exhort his adopted country to extend marriage rights to all its citizens -- a cause that seemed astonishingly more achievable in 2011 than even Sullivan could have imagined until recently.

A self-proclaimed conservative, Sullivan argues against those who label him a liberal for his support of gay rights and decries the religious bias of modern right-wing politics. His ability to glide between political ideologies has made him a lightning rod for criticism, but also the rare figure in contemporary politics who can reach audiences across the political spectrum.

Meanwhile, his most fundamental cause, same-sex marriage, is undergoing a remarkable boost in popular acceptance, with the president admitting that his views, once opposed, are "evolving," and a majority of the country supporting it for the first time, a 9 percentage-point leap from last year. Sullivan, who has been punditizing for same-sex marriage since the early 1990s and wrote a major Newsweek cover story about his own marriage after New York's decision to legalize this summer, is justified in lifting a glass of Champagne. "[In] the years of struggle, as more and more heterosexuals joined us, we all began finally to see that this was not really about being gay. It was about being human," he writes.

Muse Thomas Merton.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus now; Bowles-Simpson–style austerity later.
America or China? China.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring.
Reading list The Rogue, by Joe McGinniss; The Better Angels of Our Nature, by Steven Pinker; The Settlers, by Gadi Taub.
Best idea Bowles-Simpson's deficit plan.
Worst idea Foreign policy based on theology, as in Rick Perry's "easy" position on Israel.

In 2011, RonPaulism went mainstream in U.S. presidential politics. Four years ago, the Fed-bashing, gold-standard-pushing, unapologetically isolationist Texas representative was a far-flung outlier among Republican primary candidates. Then came the Republicans' 2010 congressional election wins and the startling success of the Tea Party movement -- of which Ron Paul's brand of libertarianism was a precursor.

Now Paul, a long-shot presidential hopeful once again, faces the opposite problem in the 2012 race: a slate of GOP contenders who are tearing pages out of his half-dozen books. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann blasted the allied intervention in Libya, and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman says it's time to "bring those troops home" from Afghanistan, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry threatened Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke in language that even Paul might not use. They may not have the stomach for the full Ron -- say, commiserating with Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, as Paul did loudly in an August debate, or declaring that President Barack Obama should be impeached for assassinating American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. But the Republican Party's eventual nominee is likely to have walked at least part of the way to victory in Paul's quirky footsteps.

Sen. John McCain, no longer nursing his wounds from his stinging 2008 presidential defeat, has been unleashed again -- as a loud and consistent voice for muscular interventionism at a time when it is becoming decidedly unfashionable in American politics, even among the most hawkish Republicans. While the GOP presidential field is jockeying over who would draw down in Afghanistan fastest and Congress avoids pretty much anything having to do with America's role in the world, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee has spent 2011 riding the wave of the Arab Spring, warning dictators and unsettled regimes from Burma to Egypt that their embrace of freedom must be absolute -- or else. He was among the first U.S. politicians to call for Hosni Mubarak to step down in Egypt, and he flew to Benghazi in April to rally the Libyan rebels. Two months later, along with Sen. John Kerry, he introduced legislation that authorized the president to act in defense of the ragtag desert militias McCain had called "my heroes." Over the summer, the senator warned Burma's brutal military rulers that they could be next. "Governments that shun evolutionary reforms now," he said, "will eventually face revolutionary change later." With Burma releasing political prisoners and Muammar al-Qaddafi killed by his foes, it looks like the old McCain -- the man who stood up against Bush-era torture, the one willing to stake his reputation for the Iraq surge -- is finally back.

In the past decade, the idea of a "responsibility to protect" has gone from an airy theory held by a small cadre of human rights advocates to a guiding principle of the world's strongest military alliance. Francis Deng and Gareth Evans played a prominent role in developing the intellectual scaffolding for R2P, as it's clunkily called, and it received its first practical application this year in Libya.

Evans, a former Australian foreign minister, chaired the blue-ribbon panel that came up with the term "responsibility to protect" in 2001 and was the first to bring the idea to prominence with a 2002 Foreign Affairs article arguing that the international community "repeatedly made a mess of handling" the interventions of the 1990s, most spectacularly in Somalia and Rwanda, and should adopt more rigorous standards. The United Nations agreed with him at its 2005 world summit, reflecting the growing consensus that state sovereignty is not a right, but a privilege.

Deng, the first South Sudanese to obtain a doctorate and author of key works in the 1990s introducing the R2P concept, has sought to apply similar principles to his war-racked country. This year he traveled to his homeland, the world's newest country, to lead workshops on catching the symptoms of violence before they erupt: "I don't wait until I see signs of genocide," he said.


EVANS
Muse Pollyanna -- someone has to stay optimistic.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus, please.
America or China? Both: God save us from a zero-sum game.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring, absolutely.
Reading list The Memory Chalet, by Tony Judt; Why the West Rules -- for Now, by Ian Morris; The Better Angels of Our Nature, by Steven Pinker.
Best idea U.N. recognition of Palestinian statehood.
Worst idea That, post-Fukushima, civil nuclear energy should be abandoned.

Samantha Power was awakened to humankind's true potential for cruelty while, as an intern at CBS Sports, she watched the uncensored feed of Chinese protesters being violently suppressed in Tiananmen Square. Over the next two decades, her battle against genocide took her to the Balkans, Rwanda, Darfur -- and now the White House.

Power, whose Pulitzer-winning book on genocide first brought her to Barack Obama's attention, has a more influential perch than ever -- and by all accounts, the president's ear -- to advance her argument that the United States has a duty to halt atrocities. "If we are to bring about an end to the world's worst atrocities," as she once put it, "there has to be the creation of political noise and political costs in response to massive crimes against humanity." Although the U.S. record may be spotty, world leaders are increasingly adopting Power's views, as the intervention in Libya showed. And with American flags now being waved there, not burned, Power and the Obama administration are proving that humanitarian intervention isn't only the right thing to do -- it can also be good for U.S. interests.

The world has finally caught up with Mohamed El-Erian. For nearly half a decade, the CEO of the world's largest bond fund has guided his investments and widely quoted public writings by the same unhappy theory: Things are going to get worse before they get better. The global economy isn't just weathering a tough spell, El-Erian argues -- it's undergoing fundamental structural changes on the road to a "new normal," and the longer we put off dealing with them the more painful they will be. A former IMF economist and manager of Harvard University's endowment, El-Erian knows just how change-averse institutions can be, and in his voluminous commentary he has increasingly turned his fire on a global policymaking elite in denial, criticizing "mindsets that have difficulties recognizing regime shifts, preferring instead the illusionary comfort of the more familiar cyclical frameworks." He has also warned, early and often, of the global implications of developments like Greece's debt crisis and the United States' S&P downgrade, reminding us that, like it or not, we're all in this together.

A former World Bank economist, Martin Wolf has called his job as a financial journalist an accident. But the nuanced, prescription-heavy columns that he has penned for the Financial Times since 1996 -- complete with dense, data-rich charts on everything from U.S. bond yields to the latest Chinese stats -- have earned him a devoted following among top economists, politicians, and financiers. Whether offering remedies for the European debt crisis, critiquing the Obama administration's approach to the U.S. deficit, or warning of further economic shocks looming on the horizon, Wolf's columns pack in enough academic rigor and specificity to serve as cheat sheets for top government officials. "I'm writing for the people who are doing these things, who are running these things," he told the New Republic. If only they'd listen more often.

Muse William Shakespeare.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list The Plundered Planet, by Paul Collier; Imperfect Knowledge Economics, by Roman Frydman and Michael D. Goldberg; Keynes: The Return of the Master, by Robert Skidelsky.
Best idea None I can remember.
Worst idea Fiscal austerity will stimulate the economy.

Best known for identifying the world's poorest "bottom billion" in his 2007 book of the same name, Paul Collier has long insisted that bad governance is most to blame for global poverty and that the West should stop cozying up to dictators who enable the worst abuses. His 2009 book, Wars, Guns, and Votes, controversially called on Western countries to condone foreign military coups in response to sham elections, while suppressing rebellions against politicians elected fairly. Thus, according to Collier, the international community could at least delegitimize -- and perhaps even help topple -- the world's most corrupt and anti-democratic leaders.

Then came 2011, and a string of the dictators Collier had long been railing against finally bit the dust. Not only was the international community following Collier's advice and hardening against corrupt leaders, but, as he wrote for Foreign Policy, the "bottom-up force of information technology" and the pressures of foreign influence have been "an excruciating squeeze even on the world's seemingly most secure incumbents of power." A good thing, too: It's the only way that the bottom billion will ever move out of misery.

Muse Martin Wolf.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus -- but spend big on investment while trimming consumption so as to improve the balance sheet.
America or China? China -- but rocky not rocket.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring.
Reading list Pillars of Prosperity, by Timothy Besley and Thorsten Persson; The Memory Chalet, by Tony Judt; Arrival City, by Doug Saunders.
Best idea John Kay's analogy of the "dollar bill auction" to the euro crisis.
Worst idea Heard at Jackson Hole: To resolve the U.S. economic crisis, we need to return government spending and the fiscal deficit to pre-crisis levels as fast as possible.

If there is a living symbol of this year's Mediterranean meltdown, it is Silvio Berlusconi, whose "bunga bunga" parties and maladroit governance have made Italy a global laughingstock -- and, more seriously, a major drag on the entire European project. The Italian prime minister, finally headed for the exits after 24 dodged lawsuits since he first took power in 1994. In no small measure it was thanks to Ilda Boccassini, a prosecutor based in Milan.

Dubbed "Ilda la Rossa" ("Ilda the Red") for her fiery hair and left-leaning politics, Boccassini is known for her daring investigations into some of Italy's most notorious mafia clans. Since the early 1990s, however, Berlusconi has been her chief quarry, and she finally seems to have caught him this year for allegedly paying a 17-year-old for sex and abusing his position to hide the act. The prime minister denies it, but tens of thousands of wiretaps, ordered by Boccassini's office, have revealed the decadence of Berlusconi's bacchanals -- and the corruption and callousness of Italian politics in the midst of a financial crisis. Berlusconi's unforgettable quotes rank up there with the worst scandals exposed by WikiLeaks.

Despite strenuous pushback from the flamboyant PM's media empire, Boccassini has quietly proceeded with putting the entire corrupt system of Berlusconismo on trial. As she said last year of the mafia, "Either you are with the state or you are against the state." Even if you think you own the state.

Thomas Friedman popularized the idea that the world is flat -- and now he thinks it's cracking up. The New York Times foreign-affairs columnist argues that today's hyperconnected world has made the planet's have-nots more aware of their predicament and thus more eager to rebel against the indolent and corrupt elites above them. But Friedman has done more than catalog the wreckage of the Great Recession -- he has laid out a blueprint for how the United States can reclaim its status as the world's greatest nation. In That Used to Be Us, co-authored with Johns Hopkins University professor Michael Mandelbaum, Friedman delivers what he describes as a "wake-up call" to America, making the case that the war against al Qaeda was a dangerous distraction from the home front and that a third party is needed to restore American greatness.

For Friedman, American anxiety over the "rise of the rest" is caused primarily by the realization that the U.S. political system is increasingly bogged down in partisan infighting and bureaucratic paralysis. Commenting on Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann's climate-change denialism, he implored them to sell their wares elsewhere -- as he put it, "we really are all stocked up on crazy right now."

Stimulus or austerity? Both.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? It is an Arab Awakening and will take all four seasons for many years.

Wealthy, tranquil Norway seemed a world apart from the violence and extremism that has wracked other parts of the planet. That illusion was shattered in July when Anders Behring Breivik -- a far-right madman obsessed with a purported Muslim takeover of Europe -- set off a bomb in Oslo and went on a killing spree at an island youth camp, killing 77 people. In the aftermath, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg provided a case study in how to guide a nation through trauma. Stoltenberg emphasized the principles that have made Norway the envy of the world in the first place. "We will never abandon our values," he told Norwegians two days later. "Our reply is: more democracy, more openness, and more humanity. But never naivete."

In the months since, Stoltenberg has resisted pressures to institute greater domestic surveillance measures and maintained a pro-immigration stance. As he put it: "We need to accept that there are extreme views out there, too. They cannot be silenced to death, but debated to death."

Within the world of development economics, Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo are known as the "randomistas" for eschewing grandiose solutions to eradicate poverty in favor of randomized field trials. Through their Poverty Action Lab, they have studied how the world's poor make economic decisions -- in the process redrawing the battle lines between those who call for massive infusions of government aid and those who reject the usefulness of aid altogether.

In their book this year, Poor Economics, Banerjee and Duflo argue that hunger is not solely the result of being unable to afford enough food. Just like every other consumer on the planet, they found, the world's poor purchase goods based on the human desire for short-term pleasure over long-term gain. "What if the poor aren't starving, but choosing to spend their money on other priorities?" they asked in a Foreign Policy article this year. From Indonesian villages to rural Morocco, they met people who would fall comfortably within the international definition of hungry, yet were forsaking needed nutrients for better-tasting treats or a DVD player.

What to do? For starters, they suggest leaving the grand, one-size-fits-all solutions where they belong: back at the academy.

BANERJEE
Muse Voltaire.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? China.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring.
Reading list Open City, by Teju Cole; Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, by Mohammed Hanif; Shah of Shahs, by Ryszard Kapuscinski.

DUFLO
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? China.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring.
Reading list Shah of Shahs, by Ryszard Kapuscinski; Richard III, by William Shakespeare; Trespass, by Rose Tremain.

Mikko Hypponen spends his days waist-deep in worms and viruses -- of the virtual kind. A leading expert on cybersecurity, he has played a key role in helping us understand -- and then stop -- some of the dangerous menaces of the digital age. There were the worms Sobig.F, which Hypponen and his team dismantled in 2003, and Sasser, which they spotted in 2004; more recently, he has monitored hacking at Sony, as well as security threats to mobile devices.

Hypponen's most high-profile case by far, however, is Stuxnet (and Duqu, its recent clone), and here his investigations shed much-needed light on the complex new world of cyberwar, where the bad guys and good guys alike -- from shadowy computer hacks to major world powers -- are now fighting. Last year, Stuxnet was discovered to have attacked nuclear centrifuges in Iran beginning in 2009. Some suspected Israel, but Hypponen has posited that it was the U.S. government. "If you look at who has the know-how, who has the technology, who has the motive, it's pretty obvious," he told Forbes this year.

For Hypponen, who has been consulted by law-enforcement officials on three continents, Stuxnet proves that cyberattacks can affect the offline world -- the increasingly networked water, power, and transportation systems that we all rely on. As he put it, "If the Internet doesn't work, or if computers don't work, our society doesn't work."

Muse Twitter.
Stimulus or austerity? Neither will fundamentally address the pain being felt by people and governments.
America or China? Both. Neither. Superpowers were a 20th-century phenomenon.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list Gurumarkkinointi, by Antti Apunen and Jari Parantainen; DarkMarket, by Misha Glenny; Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion-Dollar Cybercrime Underground, by Kevin Poulsen.
Best idea Plastic recycling as invented by Mike Biddle.
Worst idea Social networks that don't actually delete your data when you press "delete."

Twenty years ago, when Herman Chinery-Hesse returned home after studying in the United States with plans to start a Ghanaian software company, his friends told him he was crazy. But his company, SOFTtribe, is now West Africa's leading software company, helping imagine a new Africa for a digital age.

Today, Chinery-Hesse is working to develop a payment system via mobile-phone text messages that will allow African entrepreneurs to sell their products abroad. Ghana can be a world-class center of technological innovation, he insists -- a Singapore for the continent -- but the technology has to meet local needs by being what he calls "tropically tolerant." His ambition is nothing less than the reimagining of an entire continent: more tech-savvy, more prosperous, but always African. "Our colonial education systems gave us a legacy of rote learning; now we need to liberate innovative thinking to reinvent Africa," he says.
Muse The Internet.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Can't tell yet.
Best idea mPedigree.
Worst idea Continued construction of nuclear plants.

With a right-wing coalition installed in Jerusalem and the chaos of the Arab Spring putting Israelis in a defensive mood, Israel's hawks are ascendant. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has a surprising new critic: former Mossad chief Meir Dagan. After nearly a decade in the shadows, the spymaster this year embarked on an extraordinary media blitz, challenging what he called Netanyahu's march to war against Iran and unwillingness to pursue peace with the Palestinians. "I am afraid that there is no one to stop Bibi and [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak," Dagan said. Netanyahu quickly yanked Dagan's diplomatic passport. But as the man likely responsible for sabotaging Iranian nuclear research and orchestrating the assassination of a top Hezbollah operative in 2008, Dagan can't be dismissed as a mere peacenik. Ariel Sharon is said to have hired him in 2002 because he wanted a Mossad with "a knife between its teeth." So when Dagan refers to an Israeli airstrike on Iran's nuclear installations as "the stupidest thing I have ever heard," we should pay attention.

When Foreign Policy asked 10 prominent American political scholars what prospective 2012 presidential candidates should read, four picked books by Joseph Nye, the longtime Harvard University professor and former deputy undersecretary of state best known for coining the now-ubiquitous term "soft power." In 2011 Nye was back on the bookshelves with The Future of Power, his thoughts on global governance in a world where U.S. dominance is slipping. "Two great power shifts are occurring in this century," he writes, "a power transition among states and a power diffusion away from all states to nonstate actors." He thinks the second may ultimately prove more disruptive.

But don't call Nye a declinist. He argues that despite America's current difficulties, the U.S. economy is still more vibrant, and U.S. culture more influential, than China's. "The U.S. faces serious problems," he writes. "But one should remember that these problems are only part of the picture -- and, in principle, they can be solved over the long term."

Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? A different answer for each of 21 countries.
Reading list Why the West Rules -- for Now, by Ian Morris; 1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe, by Mary Elise Sarotte.
Best idea A price on carbon.
Worst idea Climate-change denial.

It may not be surprising to learn that Nancy Birdsall, founder of the increasingly influential Washington-based think tank Center for Global Development, agrees with critics of foreign aid that the system is broken: poorly administered from afar based on donor priorities, damaging to local institutions, and a sap on motivation. Unlike most critics, though, Birdsall -- an economist by training who spent years at the World Bank and working on Latin American economic development -- has an answer. Send money, she says, but pay only for results. In their 2010 book, Cash on Delivery, she and co-author William Savedoff argued that foreign aid should be based on a contract system in which aid is only disbursed after certain agreed-upon goals are met.

This year, COD is catching on, with Britain's Department for International Development sponsoring pilot programs in Ethiopia and India. Cash on Delivery now has a chance to deliver.

Muse Bob Dylan (the times they are a-changin').
Stimulus or austerity? For the U.S., short-term stimulus plus Medicare reforms to bend the cost curve and avoid long-term austerity. Essentially the same, by the way for, Greece.
America or China? America for my lifetime. My children's?
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring.
Reading list Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed; How to Live, by Sarah Bakewell; Grand Pursuit, by Sylvia Nasar; Eclipse, by Arvind Subramanian.
Best idea A little more emigration from poor to rich countries would add trillions of dollars to the world's GDP.
Worst idea Debt prison for the Greek middle class.

This Berkeley professor's work explaining the fall of the dollar as a global currency -- and why it might not matter -- has made him a "go-to economist on the continuing global financial crisis," according to Pulitzer-winning New York Times columnist David Leonhardt. Barry Eichengreen's new book, Exorbitant Privilege, is an eye-opening look at the history and future of global currency. The bad news, for Americans at least, is that the dollar will soon lose its status as the world's dominant reserve currency, gradually sharing the role with the euro and the renminbi. The good news is that this shift won't necessarily hurt Americans. "[T]he fundamental fallacy behind the notion that the dollar is engaged in a death race with its rivals is the belief that there is room for only one international currency," Eichengreen writes. His latest book presents a sorry picture -- but one with a silver lining: American decline, he says, could be better for everyone.

Muse Aimee Mann.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus now. Austerity later.
America or China? Both.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Winter comes before spring.
Reading list Poor Economics, by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo; The Enlightened Economy, by Joel Mokyr; The Museum of Innocence, by Orhan Pamuk.
Best idea Swiss Commission of Experts' proposal for addressing the problem of "too big to fail" banks.
Worst idea Expansionary fiscal consolidation.

Just as Robert D. Kaplan's book Balkan Ghosts and seminal 1994 article "The Coming Anarchy" were required reading in Bill Clinton's White House, the prolific journalist's current writing may become defining texts for the conflicts of the 21st century -- which, he says, will be centered in Asia.

Kaplan's latest book, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, predicts a world where ethnic disputes and the battle for resources make the Indian Ocean the new center of global instability -- with a strong role left to play for the United States. According to Kaplan, the Indian Ocean region "may comprise a map as iconic to the new century as Europe was to the last one." And Barack Obama's administration seems to agree, making much of what Hillary Clinton has called a "strategic turn" east.

Whatever the region, Kaplan remains committed to his long-standing faith in pragmatic realism. He writes in FP, "It is realism in the service of the national interest … that has saved lives over the span of history far more than humanitarian interventionism."

Muse Yearning for dignity and justice in the developing world.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Winter.
Reading list Nothing to Envy, by Barbara Demick; China: A History, by John Keay; Doctor Faustus, by Thomas Mann.
Best idea The U. S. presidential system with its separation of powers may not be as well suited to the rigors of the 21st century postmodern age as the parliamentary system used by most other democracies.
Worst idea Realism is dead because of the Arab Spring.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita doesn't have a crystal ball. But through mathematical modeling and a keen understanding of the nature of political power, the New York University professor has proved remarkably adept at predicting events, from the Tiananmen Square crackdown to the Second Intifada to the failure of international attempts to stymie Iran's nuclear program. Bueno de Mesquita has consulted with the CIA and State Department using his modeling method, which simulates leaders' behavior while making stressful decisions. In May 2010, he and colleague Alastair Smith told a group of investors that Hosni Mubarak's regime was likely to collapse soon.

This year, Bueno de Mesquita and Smith released The Dictator's Handbook, which reduces the art of staying in power to a set of surprisingly simple rules, most of which boil down to knowing which supporters are crucial and figuring out how to placate them. At the end of the day, he believes, leaders will do whatever it takes to retain power. He writes: "It is surprisingly easy to grasp most of what goes on in the political world as long as we are ready to adjust our thinking ever so modestly."

Muse Honest self-reflection.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus (increase spending but cut taxes in the short term).
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab fall.
Reading list Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen; Ultimatum, by Matthew Glass; The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson.
Best idea Amnesty for dictators who step down trumps pursuit and punishment.
Worst idea Foreign assistance will help Libya or Egypt become more democratic.

In many ways, 2011 was a banner year for the enforcement of human rights. After 16 years on the run, Bosnian Serb war-crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic was arrested and sent to The Hague for trial. Dictatorships fell across North Africa, and, in the case of Libya, with a considerable push from Western military might. And the United States has committed its military know-how to taking down central Africa's infamous Lord's Resistance Army.

Led for the last 18 years by Kenneth Roth, a tenacious former prosecutor, Human Rights Watch has been at the center of all these issues, taking bold risks to produce damning reports from inside closed regimes and putting pressure on governments and the media to keep their eye on abuses. And it's doing so with more resources and staff in more countries than ever after an eye-popping $100 million grant from financier George Soros in 2010.

At the end of last year, Roth called on Washington to show that "the humanitarian use of force remains a live option at the Obama White House." After two years when realpolitik seemed to be the president's guiding strategy, Obama now seems to have done just that in Libya and Uganda.

Roth's positions can often be controversial -- he supported calls for Canada to arrest former U.S. President George W. Bush on torture charges -- but nobody can deny that his views carry more weight than ever.

Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus. At this stage, making a real dent in unemployment is more important than curbing the deficit.
America or China? China's model of repressive development is enormously attractive to authoritarian regimes around the world. The United States (and other friends of human rights) must do a better job of making the case for accountable government as the best way to improve the lot of the most needy, impoverished segments of society.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Still Arab Spring. The route was never going to be smooth, but the tide is on the side of the reformers.
Best idea Obama's decision to deploy a contingent of special operations forces to arrest Joseph Kony, the leader of the brutal Lord's Resistance Army.
Worst idea The offer of amnesty to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In 2006, the New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff wrote that Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid's utopian and international vision was "as close to a manifesto for the future as we have." Five years later, we are all living in that future -- and it is fabulous. Hadid's snaking, geometric, fluid structures now grace cities from Guangzhou to London to, soon enough, her native Baghdad, where Hadid has been commissioned to replace the bombed-out Central Bank of Iraq. And the lushly reptilian visual signature of her buildings now influences everything from Lady Gaga's footwear to the spaceship-style architecture coming into fashion across the developing world, offering a democratic and highly modern alternative to the ubiquitous glass towers preferred by the neoauthoritarians of China and the Gulf. The global economic decline has done nothing to slow down her inexorable march into the bolder, better, faster, and newer. "We are in a period of economical decline -- so we should do bad stuff?" she told Newsweek this year. "What kind of bullshit is that? Show restraint? Why?"

Muse The people of Japan, for their resilience and dignity in coping with the aftermath of the devastating tsunami.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? Both -- America and China.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring.
Reading list Serpentine Gallery Pavilions, by Philip Jodido; The Autopoiesis of Architecture, by Patrik S. Schumacher; Hans Ulrich Obrist: Interviews, by Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Best idea Programs to help the young around the world.
Worst idea Cuts to education budgets.

Long before Malcolm Gladwell tipped over into celebrity or Freakonomics was a gleam in Steven Levitt's eye, Daniel Kahneman was enthralling readers with surprising insights into the cognitive routines and inherent biases that drive human decision-making. A psychologist by training, he was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics for illuminating the motivations behind risky decision-making.

In his highly anticipated book Thinking, Fast and Slow, published this year, Kahneman sketches a model of the human mind as driven by two systems of thinking: one that makes fast, intuitive judgments and choices, and one that is slower and more deliberative. In Kahneman's view, "gut-level" intuitive thinking drives an astonishingly high number of human decisions, from what car a consumer buys to what company a broker invests in to whether two countries go to war. In the wake of the global financial crisis, his warning that "organizations that take the word of overconfident experts can expect costly consequences" is particularly welcome. Here's hoping it encourages world leaders to let their two-track brains do the thinking.

In an age when academics are increasingly pushed to specialize in ever-more-arcane subtopics, Tyler Cowen's output is delightfully eclectic. In his books, his New York Times columns, and especially on Marginal Revolution, the blog he co-authors with colleague Alex Tabarrok, Cowen riffs as comfortably on Cantonese cuisine and classical music as on monetary policy and interest rates. Most importantly, the blog has become a kind of central gateway to the growing world of blogging economists. When a reader suggested that Cowen's uncanny information recall might be a sign of mild autism, rather than take offense, he wrote an entire book exploring the topic.

This year, Cowen released a widely discussed 15,000-word ebook, The Great Stagnation, in which he argued that the current economic slump is structural, rather than the result of specific policies, and that there's little hope of recovery anytime soon. Cowen thinks the United States has already picked the "low-hanging fruit" of growth -- cheap, available land, new information technology, the entrance of women and minorities into the workforce -- and future innovations are unlikely to have the same economic impact. And if that's too much of a downer for you, he also has a forthcoming monograph on how to use economics to order more effectively in restaurants. Hint: Go for the ribs.

Muse Foreign Policy?
Stimulus or austerity? A false dichotomy. Monetary accommodation, but a credible plan for long-term fiscal balance.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? It's still February.
Reading list Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall, by Frank Brady; 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, by Charles C. Mann; The Return, by Daniel Treisman.
Best idea The driverless car is a splendid idea. It already works; it just has to become cheaper and protected from the excesses of liability law.
Worst idea That the further government spending of trillions of dollars will restore prosperity.

From "Twitter revolutions" to WikiLeaks, 2011 was a year of profound transformation in how people both consume and produce news. So it is perhaps only fitting that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's pioneering media studies program hired two of the thinkers best poised to navigate the new media landscape -- because they helped create it.

In 2005, when Ethan Zuckerman co-founded Global Voices, a website to monitor and collect news from the international blogosphere, gleaning useful information from thousands of blog posts around the world seemed daunting. But this year's social media–driven revolutions affirmed Zuckerman's vision, with Global Voices at the center of the upheaval as a major news aggregator and amplifier. Zuckerman is no techno-utopian: In his new capacity at MIT's Center for Civic Media, he will be developing a system for monitoring the bias and reliability of news sources to allow consumers to make informed choices -- a kind of nutritional information for the news. Zuckerman will be working with Joi Ito, a Japanese-born venture capitalist appointed this year to head the university's famous Media Lab, despite never having earned a college diploma. Ito's eclectic career includes everything from a stint on the board of ICANN, the Internet's main governance body, to serving as a "guild master" in World of Warcraft. As both a programmer and investor, he was crucial in the early development of technologies including Flickr, Twitter, and Firefox.

Interested in where electronic media are heading next? Class is in session.

ITO
Muse Mother Nature.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? Both.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring.
Reading list Republic, Lost, by Lawrence Lessig; Consent of the Networked, by Rebecca MacKinnon; Too Big to Know, by David Weinberger.
Best idea Users controlling their own data.
Worst idea Assuming the Japanese government could deal with the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima.
ZUCKERMAN
Muse Vaclav Havel.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus. And much more than we've seen thus far.
America or China? Two great powers in a multipolar world, but not the only two.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring, but not all the seeds planted will bloom.
Reading list World 3.0, by Pankaj Ghemawat; The Unlikely Disciple, by Kevin Roose; It's Our Turn to Eat, by Michela Wrong.
Best idea The world isn't flat and globalization is only beginning, which means we have time to change what we're doing and get it right.
Worst idea That the way to react to fundamental political change is to retreat more deeply into a bunker mentality. I'm looking at you, Israel.

Rory Stewart rocketed to fame with his 2004 book, The Places in Between, which chronicled a 32-day solo walk that he took across Afghanistan. As a member of the British diplomatic service and later the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, he has spent most of his career working on military interventions, from East Timor to Iraq to Libya. So when he says that the Afghanistan war is on the path to dismal failure, it's time for foreign leaders to listen. Stewart, a skeptic of the counterinsurgency doctrine -- known as COIN -- that has dominated U.S. military thinking in recent years, argues that the Obama administration's much-touted "surge" strategy played into the Taliban's hands -- the massive influx of funds placed power with foreigners rather than with the Afghan government, while the increase in boots on the ground antagonized the Afghan people. "As far as I'm concerned, the troop deployment caused their return," Stewart said of the Taliban.

Elected as a Conservative member of Parliament in 2010, Stewart is now calling for a drastic drawdown in Afghanistan -- and a dash of humility about the ability of foreign powers to transform war-torn societies. Only then, he says, will we learn, "If we can often do much less than we pretend, we can do much more than we fear."

These days, the photo-ops from newly opened girls' schools and women-empowering handicraft collectives that filled Afghanistan coverage in the first post-invasion years feel like dispatches from another century. Equal rights for Afghan women may exist on paper -- they're in Afghanistan's 2004 constitution -- but they hardly seem like a priority for Hamid Karzai's government and a U.S.-led coalition with decidedly diminished expectations.

Into the chasm between promise and reality steps Maria Bashir, the crusading chief prosecutor of Afghanistan's western Herat province. Ousted from her criminal-investigator job by the Taliban in 1995 -- after which she ran an underground girls' school -- and named to her current post in 2006, Bashir established herself early as both an idealist and a check on Panglossian hopes for Afghanistan's post-Taliban future, warning that a woman-friendly constitution wasn't enough in a country where judges often still rule by tribally infused sharia law.

The survivor of a 2007 bomb attack and the target of innumerable death threats, Bashir now lives under de facto house arrest, protected by an entourage of (U.S.-paid) bodyguards. But she has become if anything more driven in her work, prosecuting families that sell their daughters into marriage and pursuing 87 domestic-abuse cases last year alone. "I hope that Afghanistan will have a better future," she told Mother Jones, "but I know it won't come soon. It may take another generation. Or two. Maybe my daughter's daughter will have a good life."

With international action on limiting climate change seemingly stalled, it must be hard for Bjorn Lomborg to resist an "I told you so." The Danish environmental researcher has been a longtime dissenter from the conventional wisdom calling for international agreements to limit carbon emissions. Lomborg emphasizes the massive costs and argues that they would in any case have minimal effect on global warming-- inconvenient truths that help explain why the grand ambitions of the expiring Kyoto Protocol and sundry U.N. conferences have come to naught. As for climate change, Lomborg insists he's no denier and that his beef is with activists who hawk clearly unworkable solutions. Some have still labeled him a climate-change skeptic -- former U.S. Vice President Al Gore reportedly refuses to appear on the same stage as Lomborg -- but he continues to have an outsized impact in the public sphere.

His Copenhagen Consensus project was launched in 2004 to prioritize the world's most intractable problems, with efforts to solve climate change ending up well below what he considers more solvable challenges, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. As Lomborg told Salon, "It seems evidently moral to ask: How can I do the most that I possibly can with the money that I'm going to be spending?"

Muse As always, rationality.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus and then austerity.
America or China? America for what the future should be, China for what the future will be.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Definitely Arab Spring for its citizens.
Reading list Getting Better, by Charles Kenny; The God Species, by Mark Lynus; The Quest, by Daniel Yergin.
Best idea That we could screen all blood in sub-Saharan Africa for HIV for about $7 million over five years.
Worst idea That making energy more expensive though green subsidies will create green jobs.

Cem Özdemir has been at the center of two of the most significant shifts in European politics over the past decade: the influx of immigrants from the Islamic world and the rise of Green parties as a potent political force. In 1994, the former journalist and son of a Turkish gastarbeiter became the first person of Turkish descent elected to Germany's Bundestag and later served in the European Parliament. He has been vocal on the need for Europe to address its immigrants in a more humane fashion. "Unlike Americans," he wrote recently, "Europeans still have great difficulty identifying even second-generation immigrants as fellow citizens."

Özdemir became co-chair of the German Greens in 2008 as part of the party's new focus on appealing to Germany's ethnic minorities. The party's influence, once marginal, is on the rise, buoyed by voter disappointment with Chancellor Angela Merkel and the burst of anti-nuclear sentiment following this year's Fukushima nuclear disaster, when the Greens enjoyed their best-ever result in German local elections. Polls this fall showed that one in five voters supports the Greens, making it the country's main opposition party. As Özdemir wrote, "Time is on the side of the green movement." With federal elections around the corner in 2013, time is on Özdemir's side as well.

Muse My family.
Stimulus or austerity? Both, the answer strongly depending on each country.
America or China? Both for our economy. America, when it comes to values.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Still spring when it comes to Yemen, etc. But an increasing danger of winter in Egypt.
Reading list The Prague Cemetery, by Umberto Eco; The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides; The Third Industrial Revolution, by Jeremy Rifkin.
Best idea A political union toward the United States of Europe.
Worst idea Throwing Greeks out of the eurozone or getting back the deutsche mark for Germany.

In January, as Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was fleeing a mass uprising in Tunisia and the first demonstrators were crowding into Cairo's Tahrir Square, global food prices reached peaks not seen in two decades of U.N. records. Whether the food riots that exploded in countries from Algeria to Yemen that month were a cause or simply a confounding factor in the Arab Spring, to Lester Brown the lesson is clear: "Get ready, farmers and foreign ministers alike," he wrote, "for a new era in which world food scarcity increasingly shapes global politics."

Brown has spent decades calling attention to the true fragility of a global agricultural system that the average Safeway shopper takes for granted, warnings that proved prophetic when global food prices first spiraled out of control in 2007-08. He foresees a future in which agricultural innovation slows and countries engage in a kind of resource nationalism over food, exacerbating already chaotic market fluctuations. And as Brown argues in his 2011 book, World on the Edge, the food crisis is just one symptom of a civilization hurtling toward an array of environmental tipping points -- collapsing polar ice sheets, exhausted aquifers, diminishing fossil-fuel reserves -- without the political will to avoid them. "Rising food prices," Brown wrote back in 2003, "may be the first global economic indicator to signal serious trouble between us … and the earth's ecosystem." He was right about the rising prices part; even Brown hopes he was wrong about the rest.

The global economic crisis has exposed some ugly preconceived notions about poor people: that they're lazy, that they deserve unemployment. But as Deepa Narayan, the former director of a World Bank anti-poverty program who has spent nearly 30 years working for NGOs, governments, and global organizations in Asia and Africa, argues, the reality is anything but. "[P]oor people … are born capitalists in the Horatio Alger mold, more capitalist than the average New Yorker or Londoner. They believe in the power of their own effort -- they try and try, and even if they are foiled or cheated, they try again," she wrote.

Narayan brought this iconoclastic attitude to her groundbreaking Moving Out of Poverty program, which former U.S. President Bill Clinton called "an important resource for everyone who is working to alleviate poverty." Involving interviews with 60,000 poor people in 17 countries since 2003, the study -- a follow-up to Narayan's monumental 60-country Voices of the Poor study in 2000 -- is one of the few ever to focus on mobility and how people overcome poverty. It draws a unique and textured picture of the realities of modern destitution, in which the bottom billion, often left out even from the inadequate government and aid programs meant to help them, must fend for themselves. "No matter if I fall, I get up again. If I fall 5,000 times, I will stand up another 5,000 times," said one subject from Narayan's study.

Muse Warren Buffett.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America and China.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list Lords of Finance, Liaquat Ahamed; The Great Disruption, by Paul Gilding; The Abundant Community, by John McKnight and Peter Block.
Best idea Cars that use compressed engines will shift energy needs and free us of the oil curse.
Worst idea Greedy poor and middle-class households are responsible for the housing crisis.

In casting off apartheid 17 years ago, South Africa became one of the world's great human rights success stories -- so it is a grim irony that the country now spends much of its time on the international stage defending the likes of Muammar al-Qaddafi and the Burmese junta. In October, when the Dalai Lama -- welcomed to South Africa personally by Nelson Mandela in 1996 -- tried to travel to Cape Town for an 80th birthday celebration for Desmond Tutu, the South African government, which was negotiating a $2.5 billion investment deal with China, refused to grant him a visa.

No one has more loudly lamented this state of affairs than Tutu. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has called the actions of President Jacob Zuma's government in the visa flap a national disgrace and, most explosively, "reminiscent of the way authorities dealt with applications by black South Africans for travel documents under apartheid." Tutu may be an octogenarian now, but he has been fighting Zuma just as aggressively as he once stood up to the white regime in Pretoria. For years he has criticized the "moral failings" of Zuma, whose political career has been dogged by rape and corruption allegations, and chastised the ruling African National Congress for failing to make good on its promises to fight poverty. For a country growing awkwardly into its new role as a regional heavyweight, he is exactly the conscience South Africa -- and the world -- needs.

When Yoani Sánchez launched her blog, Generation Y, in 2007, the Havana-born computer programmer turned journalist was a virtual unknown. Four years later, she's a dissident voice of such prominence that the Cuban government has ordered her detained and beaten. A blurb from Barack Obama even graces her recently published book, Havana Real.

Sánchez's rise owes at least as much to her literary gifts as to the power of Web 2.0. Approaching her country's ills with both hopefulness and a gimlet eye, where most Cuba commentators are didactic and ideologically entrenched, her posts -- on everything from Raúl Castro's latest pronouncements to the taste of mangoes -- have over the years painted an unusually vivid portrait of a society in limbo. The very fact of their existence stands as a rebuke to a government that still sharply limits its citizens' access to the Internet. (For years, Sánchez had to sneak into hotels pretending to be a German tourist in order to publish them.) "We have taken back what belongs to us," Sánchez wrote in February. "These virtual places are ours, and they will have to learn to live with what they can no longer deny."

Muse The freedom brought by the new technologies.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulate investment and apply austerity to public spending.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring.
Reading list Mundo Twitter, by José Luis Orihuela; El hombre que amaba a los perros, by Leonardo Padura; El sueño del celta, by Mario Vargas Llosa.
Best idea The Internet is a universal human right.
Worst idea The people love their dictators.

The indefatigable techno-optimist Clay Shirky's predictions about social media–enabled revolution haven't always come true. "This is it," he said in 2009 of Iran's ill-fated Green Revolution. "The big one." But credit is due: This year the New York University professor also got things very right. His January/February Foreign Affairs essay, "The Political Power of Social Media," had barely hit newsstands before Tunisia's and Egypt's dictators were ousted after mass protests organized and coordinated via Web 2.0. Hosni Mubarak seems to have agreed with Shirky on the revolutionary potential of social media: The autocrat shut down Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, and finally the whole Internet in a doomed bid to save his presidency.

But what Shirky grasps -- and Mubarak did not -- is that social media tools, rather than making revolution in and of themselves, are more a new and effective means of bringing about the offline activity that has always established and strengthened personal freedom. "[I]t is a strong civil society -- one in which citizens have freedom of assembly -- rather than access to Google or YouTube," he wrote, "that does the most to force governments to serve their citizens."

The U.S. State Department's headquarters in Foggy Bottom is a musty, World War II–era building that famously commands a corps of Foreign Service officers only as large as the Pentagon's marching bands. Jared Cohen and Alec Ross, however, have begun to imagine a new future for diplomacy, one that would harness the power of new technology and social media to ensure that the department punches far above its increasingly anemic budgetary weight.

The two have relentlessly pushed the idea that international events are no longer determined by world leaders sitting at the top of mammoth bureaucracies, but by networks largely outside governments' control -- a fact driven home this year by the Arab Spring. And they set about the difficult job of moving Foggy Bottom beyond the archaic world of diplomatic cables, elevating Internet freedom as a U.S. priority and encouraging diplomats to use social media like Facebook -- a technique that paid dividends this year when U.S. envoy to Damascus Robert Ford used these tools to go over the Syrian regime's head and express outrage at President Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown on his own people.

Cohen, author of a prescient book on Middle Eastern youth movements, recently brought his ideas to the private sector, launching a "think/do tank" at Google. Its first project brought together a motley crew of former Islamists, neo-Nazis, and gang members in Dublin to discuss the factors that contribute to radicalization and violence. "I believe the greater one's network, the more change one can effect," he told an interviewer. "It is amazing what you can get, who you can meet with, if you just ask."

COHEN
Muse A would-be bipartisan commission chaired by FDR and Reagan.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Winter.
Reading list Ghost Wars, by Steve Coll; On China, by Henry Kissinger; Start-Up Nation, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer.
Best idea To tackle corruption by moving salary disbursements of civil servants and law enforcement to mobile payments to remove the middlemen.
Worst idea The Iranian regime plotting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.

ROSS
Muse Theodore Roosevelt.
Stimulus or austerity? Neither. Cut to the bone in certain areas and invest significantly in others.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list Empire of the Mind, by Jared Cohen and Eric Schmidt (spring 2012); The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein; The Master Switch, by Tim Wu.
Best idea Launch a global campaign for clean cookstoves.
Worst idea Require the equivalent of a driver's license to use the Internet.

Decades of terrorist attacks may have cemented the Palestinian cause in the world's consciousness, but they never delivered the Palestinians' national dream -- a state of their own. More than anyone else, politician and human rights activist Mustafa Barghouti has pioneered an alternative path that emphasizes nonviolent tactics to delegitimize the Israeli occupation and demands that the Palestinian national movement live up to its ideals. He was the only political figure to contest Yasir Arafat's anointed successor, Mahmoud Abbas, in the 2005 Palestinian presidential election, and he won a seat in the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 on a platform that promoted an alternative to Arafat's Fatah and the militant group Hamas.

Barghouti has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Palestinians' bid this year for member-state status at the United Nations, framing the move as part of the "diplomatic resistance" to Israel. At the same time, he has pressed the Palestinian Authority to revitalize its often-ignored democratic institutions and provide a transparent accounting of its budget, while urging Fatah and Hamas to set aside their deep differences. "Democracy was the first victim of the split," he told Foreign Policy. "That's wrong for internal life in Palestine, it's wrong for the future of our kids, and it's wrong for peace."

Muse The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus
America or China? Both
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab revolutions
Reading list Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, by John C. Maxwell; The Grand Design, by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow; Hell and Heaven, by Yahya Yakhlef.
Best idea "Nothing has really happened until it has been recorded." --Virginia Woolf
Worst idea "Right now, the peace talks are based on only one thing, only on peace talks." --Benjamin Netanyahu

Pakistan has caused international alarm by expanding its nuclear arsenal -- it is now believed to have more nukes than Israel -- even as the government becomes more unstable and less able to hold onto these powerful weapons. But one Pakistani scientist from within the nuclear program, Pervez Hoodbhoy, head of the physics department at Quaid-i-Azam University, has become a powerful voice in denouncing his country's growing religious fundamentalism. In his book Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality, Hoodbhoy questions why a culture that produced some of the most significant early advancements in science and mathematics now lags behind. Rather than better technology or faster Internet access, Hoodbhoy has written, "Muslims need freedom from dogmatic beliefs and a culture that questions rather than obeys."

Hoodbhoy is also known for his fearless critiques of the Pakistani military establishment at a time when others remain silent. Following the death of Osama bin Laden, when most public discourse in Pakistan condemned the American incursion, he expressed hope that it could be a turning point for the generals: "The country must decide whether to decisively confront Islamist violence, or continue with the military's current policy of supporting jihadi militants with one hand even as it slaps them with the other." Let's hope Pakistan listens.

Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? China.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, by Mohammed Hanif; The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini; Bloodmoney, by David Ignatius.
Best idea For the U.S. to exit Afghanistan.
Worst idea For the U.S. to exit Afghanistan in indecent haste.

In his influential 2007 book, The Bottom Billion, Paul Collier (No. 56) argued that the world's poorest 1 billion people are concentrated in just 58 badly governed countries. Now, fellow economist Andy Sumner says he has identified a "new bottom billion," and his findings, released last year, stand to reshape how we think about poverty.

In 1990, an estimated 93 percent of the world's poor lived in low-income countries, according to Sumner. But that has radically changed; by 2007, more of the world's 1.3 billion poor -- almost three-quarters of them -- lived in countries now classified by the World Bank as middle income, a diverse group that includes China, India, and Indonesia, as well as Pakistan, Cameroon, and Angola. In comparison, only 370 million poor people live in low-income countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty, in other words, is no longer just "a poor country issue," as Sumner has put it.

His research means a radical redrawing of the aid map -- a complex challenge that involves not just old-fashioned handouts but everything from new trade deals to revised political partnerships. Still, finding out where the poor really are is a good first step.

Stimulus or austerity? Something new altogether.
America or China? The rebirth of global public policy.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? A Global Spring.
Reading list Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Johnson; The Haves and the Have-Nots, by Branko Milanovic; Arrival City, by Doug Saunders.
Best idea The "catalytic class," the new middle-class revolutionaries or those newly non-poor and emerging lower- middle classes in many countries who are fed up and in the mood for protesting.
Worst idea Too many to mention.

In 2009, Iceland's government became the first casualty of the global economic crisis. And following decades of ill-advised deregulation and financial speculation under the country's male-dominated political elite, Iceland went in a radically different direction -- backing a former flight attendant turned union rep turned legislator, Johanna Sigurdardottir, as its first female prime minister and the world's first openly gay country leader. Sigurdardottir has since presided over a feminist revolution. Nearly half the country's legislature is now female, as are four of its 10 cabinet members. She has supported high-profile campaigns against rape and domestic violence, and a law legalizing same-sex marriage passed unanimously -- allowing Sigurdardottir to marry her longtime partner in 2010. Prostitution and strip clubs have been banned.

It seems to be working: Iceland's economy is finally starting to show signs of life after much lighter cuts to social welfare programs than in other European countries. Maybe it's time for them to dump the boys' club, too.

Once forced out of his country for blowing the whistle on a massive government graft scandal, John Githongo has become a global symbol of the struggle against government corruption since returning to Kenya in 2008 and beginning a crusade for transparency in one of the world's more venal countries. Githongo had been the government's anti-corruption czar but fled in 2005 after accusing top ministers of fraud. Now he has adopted a more grassroots approach, launching a campaign called Ni Sisi! ("It is us!") to empower local businesses and act as a watchdog on opaque government contracts. If successful, it's a model that could be exported to other countries where corruption is rampant.

Githongo believes Africa may be ripe for the kind of uprisings recently seen in the Arab world. "The Tunisian street vendor who set himself alight was not so different from the disaffected young men of Nairobi's and Kampala's slums," he wrote. "They are Africa's overwhelming majority: poor, marginalized and angry about corruption and soaring food and fuel prices."

Muse Inequality rules, and the youth shall define both what it means and how it will shape the future.
Stimulus or austerity? Austerity with drastic reform of the financial sector.
America or China? America, some of its core values have global, multicultural currency.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring but with lots of rain.
Reading list Africa: The Politics of Suffering and Smiling, by Patrick Chabal; The Spirit Level, by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson; How Rich Countries Got Rich … and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor, by Erik S. Reinert.
Best idea From a young Kenyan: "Africa is the final frontier in economic growth, democracy, and development."
Worst idea Let only economists explain what's wrong with the economy.

Haiti only tends to make international headlines following a massive global cataclysm. That's why the work of Paul Farmer, who has for years argued that the country's misery is the result of human corruption and mismanagement, not the wrath of nature, is essential to reminding the world that the Western Hemisphere's most failed state hasn't gone away. But Farmer isn't just an advocate for providing aid -- he's a trenchant critic of how it is doled out. In his new book, Haiti After the Earthquake, Farmer points a finger at the U.S. government, whose policies over the last century, he says, have contributed enormously to Haiti's instability.

Take his critique of Haiti's massive cholera outbreak over the past year, its largest ever. Farmer, who is also the co-founder of the international medical NGO Partners in Health and was deputy to U.N. Haiti envoy Bill Clinton (No. 20), has ripped the international community for not anticipating the possibility of such a catastrophe in a country with such poverty and poor sanitation, not to mention downplaying the crisis once it hit. "If any country was a mine-shaft canary for the reintroduction of cholera, it was Haiti -- and we knew it," Farmer says.

Muse FDR.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? Not an either-or question.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Spring. I think that good things will come out of this.
Reading list To End All Wars, by Adam Hochschild; Deep China, by Arthur Kleinman, et al.; A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin.
Best idea The Tobin tax on financial transactions.
Worst idea America vs. China.

This year, Anne-Marie Slaughter showed there's life after politics. After stepping down in February as head of the State Department's policy planning shop -- where she oversaw a major review of America's diplomatic and development efforts -- Slaughter returned to her perch at Princeton University, but if anything her public profile has only expanded as she has transformed herself into a public intellectual for a new-media world. Between her new blog on the Atlantic's website and lively Twitter feed -- recent output includes debates with fellow Global Thinkers Clay Shirky (No. 82) and Ethan Zuckerman (No. 73) -- she regularly argues for the creation of a newly networked, globalized foreign policy, one that takes into account the immense changes reshaping the world of diplomacy. "[T]he traditional tools of fighting, talking, pressuring, and persuading government-to-government really aren't working so well," she wrote in July. "Thirty years of urging reform produced next to nothing; 6 months of digitally and physically organized social protests and a political earthquake is shaking the broader Middle East."

Muse Franklin D. Roosevelt, for continually learning and adapting to change.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list Thinking About Leadership, by Nannerl O. Keohane; WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency, by Micah L. Sifry; Everything Is Obvious*: *Once You Know the Answer, by Duncan Watts.
Best idea Passing a constitutional amendment to ban private money in federal elections.
Worst idea Ending the euro.

For years, Kishore Mahbubani has been arguing that Asian powers are ascending while the influence of Western democracies is declining -- and that Western countries have as much to learn from Asia as vice versa. Back in 2001, he wrote, "If my intuition is proven right, we will begin to see, for the first time in five hundred years, a two-way flow in the passage of ideas between the East and the West early this century." With the United States mired in economic crisis and political dysfunction while China and India continue to grow at a healthy clip, this Singaporean diplomat turned academic is now taking a well-deserved victory lap on op-ed pages from Tokyo to New York.

Mahbubani argues that Western governments, instead of rigidly adhering to free market orthodoxy, should "relearn the virtue of pragmatism" from India and China, which found prosperity by abandoning Nehruvian socialism and Maoism. "I used to be regularly lectured by Westerners on the inability of Asians to slay their sacred cows. Today, the Western intelligentsia seems equally afraid to attack their own sacred cows," he wrote this year. More controversially, he thinks that U.S. congressional dysfunction and the growing influence of the Tea Party are evidence that American democracy is no longer adequate to meet the challenges of the global economy. "Only one phrase," he writes, "captures the current Asian perception of the West: sheer incredulity."

Muse Niccolo Machiavelli.
Stimulus or austerity? Austerity.
America or China? Both.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list A Different Sky, by Meira Chand; Ill Fares the Land, by Tony Judt; Zero-Sum World, by Gideon Rachman.
Best idea $1 a gallon gasoline tax for Americans.
Worst idea The American Tea Party's proposal to keep reducing American taxes.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has spent her career shuttling between the rarified world of international economic institutions and the rough-and-tumble politics of her native Nigeria. Most recently, she served for four years as managing director of the World Bank, where she pushed initiatives like "diaspora bonds" that would allow immigrants in the West to invest in their home countries.

In July, the Harvard- and MIT-educated Okonjo-Iweala returned to Nigeria as President Goodluck Jonathan's finance minister, a job she had held once before. Last time under Okonjo-Wahala, or "Trouble Woman," as she's nicknamed, the country cut inflation in half and averaged 6 percent growth per year. This time her focus is on reducing Nigeria's debt burden and creating jobs, despite the slump in the global economy and considerable challenges at home, including entrenched corruption and a string of terrorist attacks. "Africa is the next BRIC," she told the Washington Post. "There is value in Africa for those who have the appetite to look in new directions."

Lant Pritchett is known for pairing careful empiricism with willful provocation: Several years ago he likened the notion of restricting immigration to apartheid. In his recent research, the former World Bank economist has advanced a similarly blunt argument -- that many poor countries, though they appear to be struggling toward a better future, are simply faking it. By measuring the development of institutions rather than actual outcomes, Pritchett argues, international organizations and aid donors have given rise to the phenomenon of "isomorphic mimicry": Like the viceroy butterfly, which mimics the appearance of a poisonous monarch to avoid being eaten, weak states are merely aping the institutional trappings of developed countries. In reality, many countries are stuck in a state of suspended evolution. "At the current rate of progress," Pritchett said this year, "it will take literally thousands of years for many developing countries to reach Singapore's level of capability."

Pritchett's solution is straightforward: Do a better job of measuring the things that matter. Rather than counting post offices, ask whether the mail is getting delivered. Rather than tallying the numbers of enrolled students, find out if they're learning anything. This may be easier said than done, but at least it's a start.

Muse Still Springsteen.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? Both, has to be both.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Winter, in the sense of winter wheat -- the seeds will get covered with snow but eventually lead to a harvest.
Reading list The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace; Flourish, by Martin E.P. Seligman; A Secular Age, by Charles Taylor.
Best idea Some of my students have founded an organization -- IDinsight -- to help organizations use the feedback from rigorous evaluation to improve their practices.
Worst idea Arizona's immigration law seems aimed at undermining America's greatest strength -- openness to ideas and people.

Arundhati Roy began writing her debut novel, The God of Small Things, in 1992, the year after India's near-bankrupt government embarked upon an ambitious agenda of economic liberalization. By the time Roy's book landed her a $1 million advance and the prestigious Man Booker Prize, India was riding a wave of economic growth that has quintupled the country's GDP since 1991.

But a collision between the outspoken left-wing artist and the rising Indian tiger was all but inevitable. A passionate critic of Hindu nationalism and India's nuclear and Kashmir policies, Roy pushed one too many buttons with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's administration last year by visiting a training camp run by Maoist guerrillas. The government clamped down, threatening pro-rebel activists with jail time. Undeterred, Roy published a short book of essays on the Maoists, Walking with the Comrades -- so far staying out of jail in spite of doing so -- and made similarly incendiary visits to Kashmir to protest the Indian military campaign there.

Roy's support for the Maoists -- who are hardly blameless in a conflict that has now claimed 6,000 lives-may be misguided, but she has put her finger on the very real cost of India's economic boom. "We are watching a democracy turning on itself, trying to eat its own limbs," she warns.

No one expected the ungainly, towheaded London mayor and Telegraph columnist, previously best known for his bike-share programs and scandalous personal life, to turn into a global heavyweight. But as Europe collapsed around him -- and his own city erupted with anti-austerity riots -- Boris Johnson's lifelong bent toward a kinder, gentler euroskepticism started to seem incredibly prescient. In October, he defied his Conservative Party -- and leader and rival David Cameron (No. 39) -- to call for a referendum on bringing Britain out of the EU. "The British people haven't had a say on Europe since 1975," he pointed out.

Johnson spent the year pushing back against what he called "snooty Europhiles" in Berlin and Brussels who would belt-tighten the continent's way into monetary unity. About the London riots, when he was criticized for staying on vacation during the first rash of violence but responded with a string of very un-Tory stimulus measures including after-school programs for at-risk youth, he wrote, "We can be less squeamish about police violence, or we can be less squeamish about the realities of young people's needs." It's no surprise that Johnson seems headed for reelection next year -- and after that, many say, the top of the Conservative ticket.

Mari Kuraishi has proved that, thanks to the Internet, everyone can be a philanthropist -- and the giant development institutions no longer have a monopoly on efforts to improve the lot of the world's poorest. In 2000, the Japanese native left a successful career at the World Bank to found GlobalGiving -- a website she describes as an "eBay for philanthropy" that revolutionized the field by connecting a worldwide community of donors with ventures in need of funding. A decade later, hundreds of thousands of donors have pooled their funds -- the average donation is around $25 -- to give more than $50 million to more than 4,500 projects.

Kuraishi's interactive approach has allowed innovations to flourish in a way that has been impossible at bureaucratic and top-down institutions such as the World Bank. "With masses of active people," she has said, "we'll get more innovation, more creativity, more of a shot atsolving the problem of global poverty."

Muse Lady Gaga.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list Bossypants, by Tina Fey; The Lost Books of the Odyssey, by Zachary Mason; The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.
Best idea Repealing "don't ask, don't tell."
Worst idea Forgiving student debts.

One cold February morning in 2021, the U.S. president comes hat in hand to the China-dominated International Monetary Fund to request emergency financing to shore up an American economy racked by more than a decade of anemic growth and spiraling debt. In exchange, the Chinese demand -- and receive -- the withdrawal of American naval bases from the Pacific and an onerous restructuring of the U.S. budget.

That, at least, is the gloomy scenario that begins economist Arvind Subramanian's new book, Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China's Economic Dominance. To hear Subramanian tell it, China is not just looming ever larger in America's rearview mirror -- it has already sped by. He argues that most estimates greatly understate China's economic weight and that the Asian powerhouse's purchasing power actually surpassed that of the United States in 2010. And China's demographic advantages mean there's not much the United States can do about it. "Dominance," he warns, "might be more China's to lose than America's to retain."

Muse As for all times, Gandhi.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus now, austerity later.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Prolonged autumn.
Reading list To the End of the Land, by David Grossman; The Prospector, by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio; Why the West Rules -- for Now, by Ian Morris.
Best idea Need to tether China to the multilateral system.
Worst idea Government is the problem in the United States.

"It's more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy," the late Steve Jobs once said. No one had to tell Rick Falkvinge, founder and chief evangelist of the growing global Pirate Party movement. A former software entrepreneur and Microsoft employee, Falkvinge founded the original party in Sweden in 2006. It rose to prominence following a government crackdown on the Pirate Bay file-sharing site, and Pirate parties are now active in more than 25 countries.

Indeed, 2011 may be remembered as the year Falkvinge's big idea broke through into the public consciousness. His Pirates still aren't exactly mainstream, but the issues they focus on -- government transparency, Internet privacy, and copyright law -- are very much in the zeitgeist, and their ranks are growing. The Swedish and Swiss Pirate parties have aided WikiLeaks, offering the controversial site server space and web hosting; a self-described Pirate Party activist was named secretary of youth and sports in Tunisia's revolutionary cabinet; and in September, the Pirates won a shocking 8.9 percent of the vote in Berlin's state elections.

Falkvinge also made Internet waves this year with his high-profile advocacy of Bitcoin, a digital currency that is either the future of global commerce or a high-tech form of money laundering -- depending on whom you ask.

Muse John Stuart Mill.
Stimulus or austerity? Letting the banks fail in the first place. That would negate the need for this follow-up question.
America or China? Neither. Brazil and India.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? It's going to be a long process that spans well over one season, but people are going to demand being involved in the running of their countries all over the world.
Reading list Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond; Peopleware, by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister; Information Feudalism, by Peter Drahos with John Braithwaite.
Best idea Bitcoin. Distributed cryptocurrency will change the economic game entirely, wrestling financial power from banks and governments.
Worst idea Anything related to harder enforcement of the copyright monopoly, escalating tensions further.

If Teodoro Petkoff's résumé -- student demonstrator, guerrilla fighter, economic policymaker, journalist -- is an archetypal Latin American intellectual's, so is his role in Hugo Chávez's Venezuela: the newspaper editor-cum-opposition leader. Since quitting government service 12 years ago, the irrepressible Petkoff has used his editorial posts -- as well as a short-lived 2006 presidential bid -- to establish himself as one of the most prominent and persistent critics of Venezuela's red-shirted president.

When a pro-Chávez National Assembly granted the president expanded executive powers over the economy, courts, and individual rights last December, Petkoff wrote, "Chávez has begun to take the path of dictatorship." When the government pushed through a minimum-wage hike in April, complicating efforts to control Venezuela's alarming 27 percent inflation, Petkoff warned that policymakers had gotten themselves "stuck in a swamp of quicksand." After Chávez returned from cancer treatment this summer as a self-professed changed man just in time for next year's polls, Petkoff wryly noted the "very clear electoral campaign message" in the president's newfound moderation. Against a backdrop of steadily shrinking media freedom in Venezuela, Petkoff's crusade is an increasingly necessary one.

Stéphane Hessel has a fair claim to being the world's most interesting man: He's the son of the real-life model for the woman in Jules et Jim, a French Resistance fighter during World War II who survived torture in Buchenwald, and a concentration-camp escapee who later helped Eleanor Roosevelt edit the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Even at 94, when he talks, people listen. So when he published a pamphlet-length book last year, Indignez-Vous! (published in English as Time for Outrage), people bought it -- by the millions around the world, making Hessel a bona fide publishing phenomenon. The book is a short polemic, an old lefty's impassioned cri de coeur against a society that has forgotten the postwar values of tolerance and social responsibility and fallen under what Hessel calls the "international dictatorship of the financial markets." It struck a major chord in a year when everyone, it seemed, was indignant about something. When protesters in Spain began calling themselves los indignados, it was clear that Hessel's message had leapt borders. "The basic motive of the Resistance was indignation," Hessel writes. "We, veterans of the French Resistance … call on you, our younger generations, to revive and carry forward the heritage and ideals of the Resistance. Here is our message: It's time to take over!"

Muse Calliope.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Summer.
Reading list La révolution arabe: Dix leçons sur le soulèvement démocratique, by Jean-Pierre Filiu; La Voie, by Edgar Morin; Le triomphe de la cupidité, by Joseph Stiglitz.
Best idea Build a strong Europe.
Worst idea Continue the war in Afghanistan.

Special Report

The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers: The Revolutionaries

The 14 brave individuals who tied for the top spot on our 2011 Global Thinkers list.

All revolutionaries want their stories told to the world, and no one has conveyed the hopes and dreams of Egyptians more vividly than Alaa Al Aswany. The dentist turned author rose to fame with his 2002 novel, The Yacoubian Building, which charted Egypt's cultural upheaval and gradual dilapidation since throwing off its colonial shackles. Aswany used his prominence to help found the Kefaya political movement, which first articulated the demands that would energize the youth in Tahrir Square: an end to corruption, a rejection of hereditary rule, and the establishment of a true democratic culture. For his political activism, Aswany was blacklisted by Egypt's state-owned publishing houses, and security officials harassed the owner of the cafe where he met with young writers.

How times change. Aswany was a fixture in Tahrir Square during Egypt's uprising -- he was almost killed three times, he said, during the running battles between demonstrators and pro-Mubarak thugs. And he has tried to keep the revolution's spirit alive since, pressing the country's ruling military junta to remove the vestiges of Hosni Mubarak's regime and assailing Egypt's Islamists for their willingness to sacrifice the movement's principles for a taste of power. In the process, Aswany has given voice to a people silenced for too long. "Revolution is like a love story," he said in February. "When you are in love, you become a much better person. And when you are in revolution, you become a much better person."

The best muse for these times: The millions of Egyptians on Feb. 11 who were gathered when Mubarak decided to leave.
Stimulus or austerity? Both are a very good idea.
America or China? America. I had an American education and lived in Chicago. The American experience is an important part of my life.
Reading list: "Vanka," by Anton Chekhov; The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway.


KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images

The bespectacled lawyer and the Google marketing guru may not look the part of revolutionaries. But Mohamed ElBaradei and Wael Ghonim have done more than any other figures to put the political demands of Egypt's citizens on a global stage.

After a celebrated career as International Atomic Energy Agency director-general that won him the Nobel Peace Prize, ElBaradei returned to Cairo last year to offer a political alternative to the stagnant rule of President Hosni Mubarak. And though he was one of the few to believe change could come -- and quickly -- to Egypt ("I see a decaying temple, almost collapsing," he was quoted as saying in last year's Global Thinkers issue), the rapid pace of change in Egypt since has exceeded his wildest expectations. Less than a year after his return, Mubarak was ousted -- and ElBaradei had established himself as one of the most prominent voices for pushing the revolution ever further.

Ghonim became the global face of that revolution not long after it started, vaulted to fame after giving a tearful TV interview upon emerging from Mubarak's prisons (where he was thrown after helping spark the protests by creating a popular anti-Mubarak Facebook page). He has since teamed up with ElBaradei to criticize Egypt's ruling military junta for failing to lay out a clear road map for a transfer of power to civilian rule and for using military trials to silence protesters. As Egypt's Islamists continue to gain influence, the two leaders' work in pushing for a secular, democratic Egypt is more urgent than ever. Ghonim is now planning to form an Egyptian NGO focused on local innovation, while ElBaradei is running for president, harnessing the tools that Ghonim mastered -- Facebook and Twitter -- to communicate with Egyptians. It has freed him, he says, to take a fearless, big-picture view of the events in Egypt over the past year: "If all the young people feel [the revolution] is being derailed, they know a way back to the street -- but it will be ugly."

ELBARADEI
Muse: Mohamed Bouazizi.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list: 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism, by Ha-Joon Chang; Al-Khubz Al-Hafi (For Bread Alone), by Mohamed Choukri; To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf.
Best idea of 2011: Social networking as a tool to defeat tyranny.
Worst idea of 2011: Ignoring my wife's advice to retire and spend more time with her.

HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/EPA; FELIPE TRUEBA/EPA

Ali Ferzat has been irritating Syria's heavy-handed powers for four decades with his biting political cartoons, evincing a razor-sharp wit and a withering eye for hypocrisy. When President Bashar al-Assad initially took power, Ferzat was allowed to start an officially sanctioned satirical magazine as part of what was supposed to be a new era of openness, but it was swiftly shut down. Emboldened by this year's uprising, Ferzat broke with his past practice of avoiding caricatures of actual people to defiantly portray Assad as a Napoleonic madman with delusions of omnipotence. His response to the regime he has infuriated is simple: "You ask me why I air your dirty laundry, but you don't ask yourself why you soil it in the first place." A cartoon showing the president trying to hitch a ride in Muammar al-Qaddafi's getaway car evidently pushed things too far, and in August Ferzat was seized by security force members who beat him, broke his hands, and left him by the side of the road. The magazine he published his cartoons in has been shut down, though he now reaches a wider audience abroad.

If Ferzat embodies the Syrian uprising's defiant soul, Razan Zaitouneh represents its beating heart. The 34-year-old attorney has been active in Syria's opposition since founding the Human Rights Association of Syria in 2001; and her website, providing up-to-date information on casualties and abuses by security forces, has been an essential resource for journalists locked out of Syria by its bloodthirsty government during this year's uprising. Zaitouneh has been in hiding since security forces accused her of being a foreign agent, and her husband was reportedly arrested and tortured for three months before being released in July. In October, the international advocacy group Reach All Women in War gave Zaitouneh its Anna Politkovskaya Award, named for the murdered Russian journalist in honor of female human rights defenders who put their safety at risk. In accepting it, Zaitouneh said the Syrian people "deserve much more than complicit silence, or timid criticism from those who have failed to refer this regime to the International Criminal Court despite acknowledging its crimes."

ZAITOUNEH
Muse: Syrian protesters.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? Syria.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Democracy in all seasons.
Reading list: Books? No place or time for books in the revolution.
Best idea: One revolution is not enough.
Worst idea: Toppling Assad would lead to civil war.

MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images; Peter James Field/agencyrush.com

The world cheered when peaceful pro-democracy movements overthrew autocratic governments in Tunisia and Egypt this year, but old fears that long-banned Islamist movements in both countries would rise to prominence, endangering the rights of women and minorities and fostering violent extremism, quickly resurfaced. So too, however, did leaders of those movements who seem determined to say all the right things when it comes to Islamism and democracy.

"We have continuously defended the right of women and men to choose their own lifestyle, and we are against the imposition of the headscarf in the name of Islam," said Rached Ghannouchi, the 70-year-old former socialist turned Islamist leader of Tunisia's al-Nahda (Renaissance) party who returned home in January after 22 years of exile in London, where he'd fled after a decade of torture and imprisonment in his home country. After winning a plurality of 40 percent in Tunisia's first-ever democratic elections, Ghannouchi's party is a major power broker in the new government.

Khairat El Shater, the top financier of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, spent a dozen years in prison under Hosni Mubarak before being released after the revolution. He also sought to reassure the West, writing in the Guardian, "The success of the Muslim Brotherhood should not frighten anybody: we respect the rights of all religious and political groups." The leadership of the now-legal Muslim Brotherhood is very much up for grabs, and Shater is seen as a leading candidate to head the party and perhaps, one day, the country: a media-savvy engineer who became prosperous as a textile and furniture trader, developing a knack for working with foreign investors.

Given the audiences these leaders command, there's little hope for democracy unless they are on board. So far, they seem to be playing a mostly productive role. Let's hope it stays that way.

GHANNOUCHI
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list: Borj Roumi, by Samir Sassi; History of Tunisia, by Hedi Timoumi.

LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images; MOHAMED OMAR/EPA

As military leaders and tribal chieftains hijack Yemen's revolution to settle long-running scores, it's easy to forget that the original uprising was guided by the same peaceful principles that motivated protesters across the Middle East. The day after demonstrators toppled Tunisian despot Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in January, Tawakkol Karman, a 32-year-old mother of three who runs an organization to protect freedom of expression and human rights, rallied a few of her friends outside Sanaa University to cheer the Tunisians' success -- the first sign that the Arab Spring had reached Yemen.

As the protests gained momentum, Karman improbably stepped to the forefront of this deeply patriarchal society, articulating a nonviolent spirit and democratic principles to define the revolution. President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime, unable to deter this bothersome activist with threats, finally ordered her arrest in a nighttime raid, a misstep that turned her into a cause célèbre and only added to the ranks of the protesters. Her eventual release did nothing to temper her resolve. "This is not the victory I seek," she said. "I was ready to stay in jail if the demonstrations would have toppled Ali Abdullah Saleh." But though Karman has been celebrated worldwide for her bravery -- and shared the Nobel Peace Prize for her audacity in helping launch the Arab Spring -- Yemen remains in turmoil, and the political paralysis in Sanaa has left the country defenseless against religious extremism and economic decline.

MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images


As the world watched Egyptians throng Tahrir Square to call for the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak's regime, they turned their TVs to the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera. And Wadah Khanfar, the channel's top executive for eight years before he stepped down this past September, is the one responsible for transforming the pan-Arab satellite network into the most influential media source in the Middle East and a revolutionary inspiration in its own right, giving voice to the long-suppressed aspirations of a new generation of Arab citizens.

Whether the United States, Iran, or pre-revolutionary Egypt, Al Jazeera's coverage has long been a target of unhappy governments. In 2004, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld excoriated the channel's coverage of the Iraq war as "vicious, inaccurate, and inexcusable," and Mubarak's goons attacked the station's Cairo bureau and arrested its reporters during the height of this year's uprising. But Khanfar brought the network into its own during this year of Arab revolt, providing granular detail and a level of cultural understanding that was simply unmatched by its competitors and getting millions of viewers around the world addicted to its online live feeds from Tahrir Square. During the height of the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera witnessed a whopping 2,000 percent increase in visits to its English-language website, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the network for delivering "real news" from the region.

Khanfar's allies have bedeviled him as much as his enemies: Qatar's ownership of the network led to persistent questions of objectivity, and diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks that showed him altering Al Jazeera's coverage under U.S. pressure may have hastened his departure. Nevertheless, Khanfar's decision to focus on the stories of Arab citizens, and not their brutal, venal rulers, has been vindicated. As he put it, "It is the growing periphery of the Arab world -- the masses at its margins, not its feeble and decaying center -- that is shaping the future of the region."

Muse: The youth.
Stimulus or austerity? A bit of both. Austerity should focus on defense and foreign interventions, and stimulus to create jobs.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Awakening.
Reading list: A Peace to End All Peace, by David Fromkin; Secret Channels, by Mohamed Heikal; Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future, by Stephen Kinzer.
Best idea: Trust the choice of people in defining their destiny.
Worst idea: Becoming subservient to the centers of power.

John Ritter

In May, a video appeared on YouTube featuring Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi computer consultant and longtime women's rights activist, driving her car in the city of Khobar. In Saudi Arabia, the only country on Earth where women are prohibited from driving, the video, quickly blocked by Saudi authorities, became a viral sensation. Later, Sharif encouraged Saudi women to take part in a nationwide day of driving to protest the ban, which is widely enforced but not actually written in Saudi law.

The clip -- and Sharif's later imprisonment -- sparked a movement. Dozens of videos of Saudi women driving in defiance of the ban have continued to appear on the Internet, the first major challenge in more than a decade to Saudi Arabia's restrictive rules targeting women, the harshest in the world. Meanwhile, though the Saudi government has now granted women the right to vote in the 2015 elections -- with permission from a male relative, of course -- a woman was recently sentenced to flogging for being caught in the driver's seat (the sentence was later commuted). Part of the reason women are increasingly defying this harsh treatment is Eman Al Nafjan, author of Saudiwoman's Weblog, one of the most influential English-language blogs on Saudi Arabia, as well as a postgraduate student in Riyadh and mother of three. She not only amplified the driving videos and the protest on her blog, but called out Saudi authorities for setting up a fake Twitter feed to discredit Sharif. Saudi Arabia may not have seen the upheavals experienced elsewhere in the Arab world this year, but Nafjan thinks the driving protest is a sign of things to come. "There's no denying that the country is fertile ground for a revolution," she writes.

NAFJAN
Muse: Gandhi.
Stimulus or austerity? Reasonable austerity.
America or China? Both and neither.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring all the way.
Reading list: Inside the Kingdom, by Robert Lacey; Deaf Sentence, by David Lodge; The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright.
Best idea: A two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Worst idea: Sarah Palin for president.

SHARIF
Muse: Peaceful demonstrators bringing down dictatorships.
Stimulus or austerity? A middle ground: more safety nets.
America or China? America.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring.
Reading list: The Women Who Broke All the Rules, by Susan Evans and Joan Avis; Inside the Kingdom, by Robert Lacey; Rosa Parks: My Story, by Rosa Parks.

Abdul Jalil al-Nasser


It was poetic justice that Muammar al-Qaddafi's regime, which collapsed under the weight of its crimes this year, was brought low by a man who called the Libyan government to account for one of its worst atrocities. Fathi Terbil, a 39-year-old Libyan human rights lawyer, had bravely taken up the case of the estimated 1,200 people massacred in a 1996 uprising at the notorious Abu Salim prison. When Qaddafi's security forces, panicking at the first rumblings of dissent, arrested him in Benghazi in February, he assumed a central role in the origin story of the Libyan uprising.

The first people to gather outside the prison to demand Terbil's release were the families of the victims of the Abu Salim massacre. (Terbil himself was one of them -- his brother was killed there too.) Thousands more soon joined them, igniting the protest movement that eventually snowballed into a full-blown revolution. As the revolt gained momentum, Terbil's iconic black-and-white checkered kaffiyeh and New York Yankees cap became symbolic of the diverse, youth-driven spirit of the Libyan revolt. Now, as a member of the council at the heart of Libya's new interim government, representing the youth movements, Terbil is trying not only to bring justice to victims of past crimes, but to build a government under which such crimes cannot happen again. It's no easy task: The utter destruction of any independent organization over four decades of Qaddafi's Libya meant, in Terbil's words, that the erstwhile rebels were starting "as if we had just been born today."

David Degner

Gene Sharp, an 83-year-old Boston-based academic, was not on the ground in Tunis or Cairo, but his tactics certainly were. For more than half a century, Sharp has been working to turn the philosophies of nonviolent protest devised by Henry David Thoreau and Mohandas Gandhi into a blueprint that can be put into practice by activists around the world.

Over the last few decades, his handbook for peaceful revolt -- the 1973 classic The Politics of Nonviolent Action, which covers everything from "camouflaged meetings of protest" to "disclosing identities of secret agents" -- has been deployed by protesters from Burma to Zimbabwe to the "color revolutions" that swept through the former communist world. In 2005, Sharp, often called the Clausewitz of nonviolence, was discovered yet again by the April 6 Youth Movement, a youth activist group that became one of the central organizers of the protests that this year brought down Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.

April 6 also took inspiration and practical instruction from the Center for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS), a group led by Srdja Popovic, a onetime marine biology student turned revolutionary, and composed of other veterans of Otpor ("Enough" in Serbian), the youth movement that organized the 1990s student uprisings that ultimately toppled Slobodan Milosevic. Today, Popovic's goal is to help spread Otpor's model around the world, and arguably he has succeeded. His group inspired the Arab Spring protesters directly and indirectly, from the Otpor fist that made it into the logo of the April 6 movement to Arabic-subtitled copies of the Otpor documentary Bringing Down a Dictator.

Of course, both Popovic and Sharp are quick to note that the real architects of the Egyptian revolution were the masses who thronged Tahrir Square. "There are two things you need to avoid if you don't want your movement to be doomed: One is violence; the other is taking advice from foreigners," Popovic said this year. But even if they didn't carry revolution in a suitcase to the Middle East, it is undeniable that these bold global proselytizers of nonviolence have helped change the world in a very real way this year.

POPOVIC
Muse: Desmond Tutu.
Stimulus or austerity? Unity -- only united American leaders can overcome the economic and political crisis the United States is facing.
America or China? America, as the ideals of freedom, human rights, democracy, and private entrepreneurship, at least for me, still stand stronger and more important as opposed to marvelous Chinese achievements of economic growth, discipline, and stability.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Arab Spring, with its prospects for democracy for millions, is a definite fact. And whether this winter or next spring will be limited only to the Arab world and countries like Syria, Bahrain, and Iran -- or pose a challenge to other non-Arab autocrats in places like Belarus, Zimbabwe, or Burma -- is yet to be seen.
Reading list: Small Acts of Resistance, by Steve Crawshaw and John Jackson; The Autumn of the Patriarch, by Gabriel García Márquez; Join the Club, by Tina Rosenberg.
Best idea: The Maldives as the first carbon-neutral country.
Worst idea: That Arabs are "too immature for democracy."

Darko Vojinovic; Orjan F. Ellingvag/Dagens Naeringsliv/Corbis