If you were asked to name the five top foreign-policy stories of 2011, it probably wouldn't take too long. You'd have to put the Arab Spring on top of the list. Next would come the Eurocrisis. Getting Osama bin Laden probably also rates. Then what? Fukushima? Turmoil in Pakistan? Year of the Drone?
There might be a little debate about how to order these or which not to include. And there could very well be a discussion about whether to include arguably bigger, slower-moving stories like climate change, advances in social networking, growing risks of securitization, financialization of commodities, failures to develop effective supranational governance mechanisms, and demographic shifts creating political pressures from Russia to Israel to China to Europe and beyond.
But since the year has already flashed by like a fever dream, leaving us all in the need of a shower and some serious rehydration, making such lists is not all that difficult. The real feat is in picking the most important foreign-policy stories of 2012. That requires daring, creativity and a willingness to place one's trust in the idea that no one will go back and check on these predictions in a year.
And that's why they pay me those big blogger dollars -- to dust off the FP Ouija board and tell you what is waiting for you just around the turn of the year. So here they are: the most important foreign-policy stories of 2012.
Leadership change in power centers worldwide
Ok, I'll admit it, this one is too easy. We know that changes or key elections are coming in the United States, China, important countries in Europe, Mexico, Egypt and elsewhere. It happens every year. But given the precarious nature of the world, its propensity for volatility, and the pivotal nature of the countries involved, this will be a dominant story throughout the year.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images