Personal favorites from 2011

Personal favorites from 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, I decide to spend a couple of hours looking back over the year’s posts and picking my personal favorites.  Of course, the one that I’d take back was my January 16 entry on "Why the Tunisian Revolution Won’t Spread," but you can read my defense of this error here.

As for the rest, here are my personal favorites from 2011:

1. American Exceptionalism.  Ok, technically not a blog post, but I’m still glad that FP asked me to write this and I still stand by the the main points.  And please note: I wasn’t saying the United States was a terrible country; we’re just not as virtuous, special, or divinely-blessed as we think we are.

2. Wishful Thinking.  My reaction to re-reading this post was simple: it’s a pretty good guide to the foreign policy pathologies of the current GOP candidates.  Especially #10 ("Everything Will Be Fine after the Next Election").

3. End of the American Era/Offshore Balancing  For a more complete version of this argument, go here.

4. Does Europe Have a Future?    I wrote a lot about Europe and its troubles this year (who didn’t?), but this was my favorite take on the situation.  I still think the EU can escape its current morass only if it can generate economic growth in the trouble southern zone.  But even if it manages this miracle, I’m betting that: 1) Europe will get weaker relative to other regions, 2) European unity will remain fragile or decline, and 3) the highwater mark of transatlantic cooperation is behind us.

5. Attack Iran?  Are You Kidding Me?   A recurring theme in this year’s postings was my continued opposition to a war with Iran.  For other comments on this issue, go here, here, and here.

6. Power Corrupts (especially if you’re male)   Lord Acton was sounding like a realist when he said "absolute power corrupts absolutely."   Especially when you’re dealing with men.

7. Who’s Winning in the Arab Spring?  Who’s Losing?   I hadn’t read this one since I’d posted it, and I thought it held up pretty well.   Maybe it makes up for missing the initial wave.

8. Nationalism Rocks!   Actually, nationalism has upsides and downsides.  But you can’t ignore it, unless you want to get lots of things wrong. 

9. Why We (Keep) Fighting.   I could have added a sixth reason: because some of the loudest cheerleaders for war have learned nothing from the past decade.  But Matt Duss got there first.

10. Oh yeah…that "special relationship."  As you might expect, I wrote a number of pieces on US Middle East policy and U.S.-Israel relations.  As always, these posts tended to generate the most vociferous reactions (on both sides), a phenomenon that is itself worthy ofnote (and a little disturbing).   In any case, this post was my favorite, even if I was aiming at a pretty fat target.

11. What’s going on in Asia?  These two posts should be read together, as they pretty much summarize how my thinking on Asia is evolving.  But I’m not done thinking yet.

12. Peace.  Because I remain an optimist, even if it opens me up to repeated disappointments. 

And my New Year’s Resolution?   To read more and to write just as much.  What I haven’t figured out yet is what I’m going to cut out.   Because time and resources are finite (something most American strategists have yet to learn), and successful grand strategy is all about setting priorities and deploying resources effectively.  So unless you’re a war-monger, human rights abuser, criminal gang leader, international terrorist or corrupt financier,  I hope all of you manage to do that in 2012 too. 

 Gorshkov25, Shutterstock