The List

Stocking Stuffers for Wonks

Fifteen gift suggestions for that special international relations nerd in your life.

Having trouble figuring out what to get someone who spends all day talking about the merits of collectivizing eurozone debt and the high stakes of the Senkaku Islands dispute? Well, we can't help if you're having trouble living with that person, but as the holidays approach, FP is here with some gift suggestions to make life a bit easier. And if that person happens to be you, well, here's 15 holiday presents to make you or your loved one the envy of the foreign policy community.

A drone of your own

If your only idea of a drone is the remotely piloted military machine raining death on the hinterlands of Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, think again. 2012 was the year of the drone, and they have now become a huge consumer phenomenon -- so much so that former Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson left the publication this fall to work full-time on his drone startup. Drones are now widely available on the Internet, and sites like udrones are selling them for as low as $550, which includes an autopilot and GPS system (the camera kit comes separately). If that's out of your price range, there are some less expensive options -- though as the price decreases, the features begin to drop off. For $299, the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Quadricopter gives you an HD video-equipped drone that you can control using a smartphone or tablet. The lack of an autopilot system, however, limits its range to about 165 feet. The major difference between the larger, more expensive drones and the smaller cousins is autopilot, which allows you to plot missions and set the drone on its merry way. Just keep in mind that federal regulators are unlikely to bless your plan to deliver Mexican food by unmanned aerial vehicle.

The soundtrack of China's political transition

Long before Xi Jinping became a household name during China's once-in-a-decade leadership transition this year, it was his wife Peng Liyuan -- an accomplished Chinese folk and opera singer, and the civilian equivalent of a major general in the People's Liberation Army -- who was the superstar. If China experts are going to put in long hours parsing the mysterious machinations of the Communist Party, they might as well have the Chinese first lady's best tracks -- from "On the Fields of Hope" to "Putting the Horses to Pasture on the Mountain" -- playing in the background. (For music fans hoping to familiarize themselves with 2012's other super-topical musical act, keep in mind that Pussy Riot doesn't record albums.)

Risk meets American decline

In a year that's featured ample talk about doomsday scenarios, American exceptionalism, rising Asian powers, and declining U.S. military spending, Fantasy Flight Games has come out with the perfect board game. In its remake of the 1986 classic Fortress America, the United States, after unveiling a massive satellite- and laser-equipped missile defense system, must repel an invasion by the Asian People's Alliance from the west, the Central American Federation from the south, and the Euro-Socialist Pact from the east. As FP gaming editor Michael Peck wrote in a review, it's "the classic game of Risk meets classic American paranoia, seasoned with a touch of poetic justice. Now it's America's turn to experience foreign military intervention."

A full serving of national security leaks

When the Obama administration came under fire earlier this year for allegedly disclosing classified information for political gain, White House critics cited the leaks in two scoop-filled, agenda-setting books -- Daniel Klaidman's Kill or Capture and David Sanger's Confront and Conceal -- as well as a handful of articles (a Justice Department probe into the leaks is ongoing). Sanger details the government's cyberattacks on Iran's nuclear facilities, while Klaidman delves into the administration's drone program and targeted killing policies. For full effect, deliver the gift in a shadowy garage or dark alley.

Mark the passage of time with Putin

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin is also a strong man, as FP's slideshows -- which include photos of him locked in a tense judo match with a Japanese schoolgirl and fastening a satellite transmitter onto a tiger -- attest. Why not tag along with an (often shirtless) Putin on his many adventures from the comfort of your own home with this 2013 Putin Wall Calendar? If you buy it this month, there's a special bonus: for the remaining few days of December you'll be able to pencil in meetings below a picture of Putin as a boy, looking as no-nonsense as ever.

The complete OBL raid package

If 2011 was the year the U.S. military killed Osama bin Laden, 2012 was the year the entertainment world cashed in on the operations. Members of SEAL Team 6, the unit that carried out the raid, consulted on the video game Medal of Honor: Warfighter, which earned them strict reprimands from their superiors in the military. Matt Bissonette, another member of the group, wrote a first-hand account of the mission, No Easy Day. National Geographic also got in on the action, with its documentary Seal Team Six. And tickets will soon go on sale for Kathryn Bigelow's upcoming film, Zero Dark Thirty, which has been billed as the definitive dramatic treatment of the raid and has been making waves for its unsparing look at the CIA's use of interrogation tactics. Buy them all, and throw in this Joe Biden-inspired bumper sticker for good measure.

Israeli war games

With Israel and Hamas at each other's throats again this fall, the depressingly violent conflict in the Middle East increasingly looks like a stalemate -- one in which the players keep making moves but the game never comes to an end. If that sounds like fun, then your favorite, die-hard Israel-Palestine watcher should enjoy "A Reign of Missiles," a new board game that puts the player in control of the Israeli military, balancing both diplomacy and kinetic action while trying to halt rocket attacks from Gaza. Carry out too aggressive a military campaign and the international community imposes penalties detrimental to Israel's long-term interests. Bungle the military campaign and Hamas scores a major diplomatic victory. Obviously, it's a bit of a downer. But the game is free and hosted on our website -- all you'll have to do is print out the component parts.

Kiss and tell

Do everyone on your list this year a favor and buy Paula Broadwell's cringingly fawning biography of David Petraeus. They all want to read it -- they're just too embarrassed to be spotted walking out of Barnes & Noble with the unfortunately titled All In: The Education of David Petraeus under their arm. That can easily be solved with an Amazon bulk order. Just make sure you do a better job of hiding your email records than they did.

Sounds of Silvio

Know someone who's particularly excited about the improbable comeback Silvio Berlusconi might stage in the upcoming Italian elections? Or maybe just excited about his engagement to the 27-year-old former TV host Francesca Pascale (the woman Berlusconi described as beautiful on the outside, but even more beautiful on the inside")? Drop them a link to this syrupy Bunga Bunga mix -- inspired by Silvio's infamous orgies -- and call it a day.

A stake in the European debt crisis

Take a page from Bar and Bat Mitzvahs -- where giving Israel bonds as presents is par for the course -- and buy Greek bonds. Sure, they're a risky bet, but if Greece manages to stay in the eurozone they could prove to be a smart investment. With S&P's decision to upgrade Greek bonds by five notches from selective default to B-, this might be the perfect time to buy. Still, it might be better to think of the purchase as an act of charity.

Obama's "gifts"

After his resounding loss to Barack Obama, Mitt Romney famously complained to his donors that he had been defeated because his opponent had handed out "gifts" to various constituencies in an effort to win votes. True, it might be difficult to put a bow on the Affordable Care Act and leave it under the Christmas tree, but that doesn't mean you can't give gifts in the style of the 44th president. Just visit his official store, give mom something to wear to the inauguration, and tell her this is her payment for voting for Barry.

Mongolian coal

Got a Grinch on your list this year? Send them packing to the third annual Coal Investors Conference and Exhibition in Mongolia. With passes to the conference in the thousands of dollars, however, it's worth noting that this would be one expensive lump of coal. The conference is occurring against the background of a Mongolian economic bubble. GDP was up 17.5 percent in 2011, a spike in output largely driven by the country's coal, copper, and gold boom. But there are dark clouds on the horizon for future economic growth in the country, so punch your coal enthusiast's ticket to the country before Mongolia's boom withers away.

Clothes from Karimova

It seems like the world's authoritarian rulers are falling fast these days, but Islam Karimov, the president of Uzbekistan, is still standing strong. And his daughter, Gulnara Karimova, has cashed in on her father's status by launching her own fashion line, which is available online. But her father's reputation -- human rights groups have accused his government of harsh crackdowns on opposition groups and using torture extensively -- has made it difficult to get her line off the ground. She was disinvited from New York Fashion Week after human rights groups pressured the organizers (never mind that the show, which she moved to the restaurant Cipriani, was panned). It might not be your ticket, but it's big in Moscow.


Know someone who's sunk into a depression now that the second Homeland season is over? Cheer them up with official gear from the show. For the wannabe undercover agents on your list, Showtime offers a T-shirt emblazoned with the words, "What Would Carrie Do?" Just make it clear to whomever you give it to that bursting into tears or gulping down pills Carrie-style over Christmas dinner is not an option.

Cidade Maravilhosa

Seats don't go on sale until August 2013, but who cares? A promised ticket to soccer's biggest stage is undoubtedly the best present any soccer fan could receive. Never mind the geopolitical implications -- like the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the 2014 World Cup will mark Brazil's arrival on the world stage -- or the rampant violence in Rio de Janeiro's favelas, into which the police have launched repeated military-style assaults to reclaim the neighborhoods from druglords; a trip to soccer's Mecca in 2014 will be a pilgrimage for soccer fans to one of the sport's holiest sites. Set that against the backdrop of the hype that will surround Lionel Messi -- the greatest player of his generation (and perhaps of all time) who hasn't yet won a World Cup -- and the months of June and July in Brazil will be a spectacle unlike any other.

Of course, if that seems a bit pricey and your tastes are a bit more refined, we may have just the thing.

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The List

America’s Exceptional Gun Culture

Four reminders about just how entrenched guns are in American society.

Though the issue has been largely on the political backburner for the last four years, last week's tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut has already prompted a new push for gun control laws by the Obama administration and congressional Democrats. The president suggested in his speech in Newtown on Sunday that he would use "whatever power this office holds" to prevent similar events from happening in the future, and White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday that the White House would consider supporting congressional proposals for "common sense gun control measures like the assault weapons ban." (Even the National Rifle Association has pledged to make "meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.")

Such a push is likely to meet stiff resistance from Second Amendment advocates. But even if it passed, the United States would still be a major outlier when it comes to gun ownership and culture. As the following facts and figures from around the world make clear, when it comes to the right to bear arms, the Land of the Free is in a league of its own

The stockpile of civilian-owned guns in the United States dwarfs all other countries

According to the 2007 Small Arms Survey -- the best, most recent study of the number of guns available in the world -- civilians in the United States own roughly 270 million small arms, which is more than the next 17 countries combined (the runner-up on the list is India, with 46 million firearms. The rate of ownership in the United States -- 90 firearms per 100 people -- is also the world's highest (again the runner-up, Yemen, is a distant second with 60 firearms per 100 people). The report notes that there are around 650 million civilian-owned firearms in the entire world, which means more than 40 percent of these are in the United States, and that about 4.5 million out of the roughly 8 million new firearms manufactured annually are purchased in the United States. Keep in mind that the United States represents less than five percent of the world's population.

"Children in other industrialized nations are not dying from guns"

Gun violence is killing and injuring American children at an astoundingly high rate. In the United States, only car crashes and cancer claim the lives of more children between the ages of 5 and 14 than firearms, according to a 2002 study that appeared in the Journal of Trauma-Injury, Infection, and Critical Care. "Children in other industrialized nations are not dying from guns," the authors wrote. "Compared with children 5-14 years old in other industrialized nations, the firearm-related homicide rate in the United States is 17 times higher, the firearm-related suicide rate 10 times higher, and the unintentional firearm-related death rate 9 times higher. Overall, before a child in the United States reaches 15 years of age, he or she is 5 times more likely than a child in the rest of the industrialized world to be murdered, 2 times as likely to commit suicide and 12 times more likely to die a firearm-related death."

The investigators also found a clear link between elevated levels of guns and child mortality rates across U.S. states, suggesting that more guns lead to more child deaths not only across international borders but also across the United States. Critically, the authors concluded that children living in states with large numbers of guns were not more likely to be victims of violence or suicide that did not involve firearms. Instead, the presence of guns makes possible a kind of violence that few young people could inflict on themselves or one another otherwise.

The United States is the gun-related murder capital of the developed world

In no other developed country do as many people die in gun-related homicides than in the United States. According to statistics compiled by the United Nations, 3.2 out of 100,000 Americans were killed by guns in 2010. As a frame of reference, consider that Japan, a country with one of the world's most notorious mafias, the yakuza, has virtually eliminated gun-related homicides.

Of all the countries in the world, Honduras has the highest gun-related homicide rate, with 68.4 deaths for every 100,000 people. But Honduras, like its fellow Latin American countries Colombia (27.1 gun-related deaths for every 100,000 people) and Mexico (10 per 100,000 people), has been engaged in a brutal drug war against well-funded and well-armed cartels and gangs. These factors are not at play in the United States, which is vastly richer and has a significantly more effective state apparatus.

The United States is nearly alone in enshrining gun rights in its Constitution (sort of)

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, in full, reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Over time, this amendment has been interpreted as guaranteeing individuals the right to possess a wide variety of firearms and, in many cases, to be able to carry those guns concealed on one's person or openly in a hip holster. U.S. courts have repeatedly upheld that interpretation, most recently in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller. In a 5-4 ruling, the justices struck down Washington, D.C.'s ban on handguns and rejected the notion that the Second Amendment permits individual gun ownership only for those participating in a "well regulated militia."

It is important to note that critics of the Heller ruling argue that it applies a distorted reading of the Second Amendment that deliberately removes the text from the context of its drafting. Many historians claim that the amendment was drafted in response to British efforts to disarm unhappy colonists, and that the maintenance of private arms was seen as an integral part of preserving the ability to muster a militia. In this reading, the Second Amendment does not protect the individual right to bear arms.

The Heller ruling places the United States within a decidedly small club of nations -- alongside Guatemala, Haiti, and Mexico -- that guarantee the right to bear arms in their constitutions. According to the United Nations, these countries also experience relatively high rates of firearm-related homicides. While data is unavailable for Haiti, the United States and Mexico both saw around 10,000 gun deaths in 2010, while Guatemala, a significantly smaller country with only 15 million people, witnessed 5,000 gun deaths. If easy access to guns is supposed to guarantee safety and reduce gun violence, the experiences of these countries simply don't support that theory.

Scott Olson/Getty Images