In global politics, it was a year of highs and lows. Readers were mostly interested in the lows.
- By David KennerDavid Kenner is the Middle East editor at Foreign Policy. He is based in Beirut, Lebanon, and has been with FP since 2009 (a long time, he knows). He worked for FP previously in Cairo, where he covered the early days of the Arab Spring, and before that in Washington. He has attended Georgetown University and the American University of Beirut and has reported from Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.
In writing this article last year, I noted that Foreign Policy’s readership appeared most interested in clicking on stories about the darkest corners of the planet — and expressed hope that happier subjects would predominate in 2010. Well, consider my hopes dashed.
Another year has passed, and our readers are still captivated by the world’s most blighted places. FP’s most popular articles from 2010 included images from the world’s failed states, a list of the planet’s most tyrannical despots, and an angry plea for why the rest of us should care more about flood-ravaged Pakistan.
The major news of the past year also did much to drive page views. Amidst the conservative resurgence in U.S. politics, FP’s account of how other countries perceive the Tea Party was a hit. In a year when China passed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy and appeared poised to continue its torrid rise, you clicked on a forecast that the Chinese economy will reach a whopping $123 trillion in 2040. And as Julian Assange’s release of thousands of U.S. State Department cables sparked apoplexy throughout the diplomatic establishment, a profile of some of the most colorful personalities in the WikiLeaked cables surged in popularity.
Overall, Foreign Policy had a blockbuster year in 2010, which witnessed our traffic grow more than 250 percent. Here’s to an even brighter 2011!
Postcards from Hell
The success of this piece — our most popular article ever, with 5 million pageviews and counting — shows that FP readers couldn’t look away from some of the planet’s most dismal places in 2010. Compiled in conjunction with FP’s Failed States Index, it provides an inside look at the poverty and violence that continues to wrack the most vulnerable nations on the planet.
FP’s 2010 Global Cities Index measured the influence of 65 metropolises across the world. Don’t have time to visit all of them? This whirlwind photo tour takes you from the high rises of Hong Kong to the beaches of Tel Aviv.
Worst of the Worst
There are at least 40 dictators in the world who go to work, every day, intent on cowing their people into submission and running their countries’ economies and institutions into the ground. George Ayittey surveys the pathologies — and the crimes — of the most destructive leaders on the planet.
Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan
The civil war-wracked country hasn’t always been a land of war and chaos. Mohammad Qayoumi’s photo essay — drawn from a photobook published by Afghanistan’s planning ministry in the early 1960s — transports readers back to the 1950s and 1960s, when progress and modernity in Afghanistan seemed possible.
Top 100 Global Thinkers
What do Bill Gates, John Bolton, and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf have in common? They all had a big idea that landed them on Foreign Policy’s second annual Global Thinkers list. This year, FP got to hear our thinkers’ take on the state of the world in person, when we honored them at a gala held at Washington’s Corcoran Gallery of Art.
World’s Ugliest Statues
The intersection of art and politics is rarely pretty. Here are some monuments designed to memorialize their subjects for eternity, but in the end just made them look ridiculous.
The World’s Ongoing Ecological Disasters
For two months this summer, a gushing oil well captured the attention of the American public, as it leaked almost 5 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico. But as this list shows, a host of less-known environmental disasters continue to dwarf the damage done by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
From Colombia to Indonesia, this photo essay provides an intimate portrait of the people caught up in the violence of the 33 active conflicts raging around the world today.
A stagnant economy, the stubborn war in Afghanistan, and a host of broken promises — from closing Guantanamo Bay to progress on climate change — has some Americans nostalgic for George W. Bush’s administration. But upon the release of Bush’s memoir Decision Points, Stephen Walt makes the case that his tenure really was catastrophic for America’s position in the world.
The Devil Wears Taupe
The polyester suit makes the man — just ask Kim Jong-Il. As this photo essay shows, the world’s worst dictators have long been some of the most successful figures at using fashion to add to their personal mythologies.
China’s New Tomorrowland
The western Chinese city of Chongqing is emblematic of the country’s rapid growth. Matthew Niederhauser’s spectacular photo essay, which accompanies FP contributing editor Christina Larson’s feature article on Chongqing, captures a city that is growing faster than anyone can possibly track.
Ever wonder why the United States hasn’t just sent an army of ninjas to take out Osama bin Laden? Bill Clinton has. Micah Zenko describes some of the most cockamamie military schemes of the past century.
The History of the Honey Trap
James Bond isn’t the only secret agent to use his good looks to gain leverage over his adversaries. It’s an accepted tool of the trade for intelligence agencies, and Anna Chapman is just the latest in a long line of seductive spies. Phillip Knightley discusses infamous cases of “honey traps” that have gotten their man (or woman), and a few that went horribly wrong.
The Grayest Generation
As Phillip Longman explains in his November FP cover story, the world is about to experience an explosion of senior citizens. This photo essay shows how this global aging will transform the world’s social, economic, and political landscape.
The False Religion of Mideast Peace
For decades, Aaron David Miller made the case to American presidents and secretaries of state that they must devote U.S. prestige to forge a resolution to the Arab-Israeli dispute. Now, he explains why he’s no longer a believer in the peace process gospel.
Labor Day in Hell
On the first Monday of September, the United States pays tribute to the contribution that labor and trade organizations have made to American society. But Freedom House’s Arch Puddington reminds us, with this evocative collection of photographs, there are many governments that prefer to repress workers rather than treat them fairly.
10 Traditions You Never Thought Needed Protecting
UNESCO serves as the self-proclaimed defender of threatened national treasures across the globe. But who knew that the famous Peruvian scissors dance or Turkish oil wrestling festivals needed saving?
The Carter Syndrome
President Obama had precious little to celebrate this year, either in terms of foreign policy or his own standing among the American people. Walter Russell Mead’s article discusses the four intellectual traditions that have influenced American presidents’ approach to international affairs, and explains why Obama is at risk of suffering from the same weakness and indecision that bedeviled Jimmy Carter. (Carter had a few choice things to say about that characterization of his administration’s record in a rejoinder published in FP).
Who’s Who in WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks’ release of classified U.S. diplomatic cables has revealed the personal foibles and peccadillos of foreign leaders for all to see. This dossier highlights the leaders who have come off looking the worst in this unwanted international spotlight.
Think Again: Ronald Reagan
The former president and conservative icon has been invoked by a generation of GOP to justify their political stands. But Peter Beinart explains that the Gipper was never the hawk that his modern day followers would have you think.
The Horror, the Horror…and the Pity
As Republicans prepared to sweep the 2010 midterm elections, the Tea Party generated its fair share of commentary, and confusion, beyond America’s shores. From Argentina to Pakistan, the international media registered alarm at the rise of these new conservative insurgents.
I Was Almost a Chinese Dating-Show Star
Benjamin Haas explains why his appearance on an extravagant Chinese dating show was censored. The foreign guy, after all, isn’t supposed to get the girl.
They’re Not Brainwashed, They’re Just Miserable
The lack of public opposition to Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il has led some analysts to believe the North Korean people really buy into the regime’s propaganda. But Marcus Noland, drawing on groundbreaking surveys of North Korean refugees, argues that their eyes are wide open about the nature of the ruling dictatorship — they’re just too terrified to do anything about it.
The conventional wisdom has the facts about China’s rise all wrong — it’s going to be bigger than anyone imagines. Or so argues Robert Fogel, who projects that the Middle Kingdom will grow into a $123 trillion economic hegemon by 2040.
Why Doesn’t the World Care About the Pakistanis?
The flood waters that destroyed the livelihoods of millions of Pakistanis were met with little more than collective shrug by the international donor community. Mosharraf Zaidi says that the apathetic response to this humanitarian disaster reflects Pakistan’s “bad boy” image in the world’s psyche.