War Dogs, Boomtowns, and Dead Dictators

Foreign Policy’s most popular photo essays of 2011.



On the day after Osama bin Laden’s assassination, we came across a throwaway line among the stories on the 9/11 mastermind’s death: The U.S. commando team that took down the al Qaeda head was made up of 79 soldiers — and one dog.

Good thing, then, that we already had Chief Canine Correspondent Rebecca Frankel on staff — who was a grizzled veteran of the war dog beat for Tom Ricks’s Best Defense blog. Frankel knew intimately the value of dogs in the military — a long legacy harkening back to World War II. and with thousands of their counterparts today serving with valor from Baghdad to Kabul.

Thus was born the War Dog photo essay, which, along with its successor, became FP’s most successful feature ever, with a whopping 11 million page views. Frankel continues to write a weekly column for Tom Ricks’s Best Defense blog, where she profiles canines and their trainers on deployments across the world’s war zones.

Courtesy K9 Storm Inc.

Foreign Policy’s annual Failed States Index profiles the world’s most vulnerable countries (and reliably prompts angry denials from their governments). These stunning images portray life in the 60 worst-ranking countries on the Index — an existence too often dominated by squalor, poverty, and war.

Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Anders Behring Breivik, a far-right xenophobe, shocked the world when he murdered 77 people, many of them children, with a car bomb attack in the Norwegian capital of Oslo and a shooting rampage on a nearby island on July 22. These images of Norway’s cushy penal system — where prisoners have flat-screen televisions and mini-fridges in their rooms — stood in stark contrast to the cold-blooded horror of Breivik’s crimes.

Alex Masi


Muammar al-Qaddafi ruled Libya with extraordinary brutality and legendary eccentricity for over four decades, before his regime came crashing down this year. In an FP exclusive, we partnered with Human Rights Watch emergencies director Peter Bouckaert and photographer Michael Brown, who discovered never-before-seen photos in the ex-dictator’s compounds and offices, to provide a unique look into the Brother Leader’s private life.

Michael Christopher Brown

When the U.S. war in Afghanistan began, the first iPhone was not yet a gleam in Steve Jobs’s eye — and forget having an app for that. But as America’s longest war stretches on, a group of photojournalists told the story of U.S. Marines in southern Afghanistan through these remarkable photos taken and edited on the now-ubiquitous device.

Teru Kuwayama and Balazs Gardi


The unbelievable 18 days of protest that toppled the Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak still stand out as the signature event of the Arab Spring. This photo essay captured the men and women that brought down a dictator.



Chris Hondros, one of the most recognizable war photographers of his generation and a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy, was killed this year while on assignment in the Libyan city of Misrata. We felt his loss deeply, and this photo essay provided a glimpse into his extraordinary body of work.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

The Bangkok-based Dhammakaya movement may have begun as a reaction against the excesses of Buddhism in Thailand, but it soon developed cult-like rituals all of its own. Journalist Ron Gluckman and Luke Duggleby went inside the walls of the UFO-like headquarters to provide FP with an exclusive look at the evangelical movement’s otherworldly ceremonies.



Across the world, ,more than 50 million girls under the age of 17 are married, but nowhere is the practice of child marriages so particularly widespread as rural Afghanistan. These remarkable and heart-wrenching photographs provide a glimpse into the world of these Afghan girls, while Anna Badkhen’s dispatch showed that boys are also being forced to grow up too soon.

Stephanie Sinclair / VII


The world’s fastest growing cities aren’t where you think they are. From the booming Chinese port city of Beihai to the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, these seven cities have the potential to change the geopolitical map.

George Lu via Flickr

Two decades after the collapse of the USSR, the former Soviet satellites have drifted apart. This sweeping photo essay explores how life has changed across Russia’s sphere of influence — from Ukraine, with its contentious political divide, to authoritarian Uzbekistan.

Warrick Page/Getty Images

The war in Afghanistan is not just a man’s war. These intimate iPhone photos provide a glimpse into the lives of a U.S. Marines Female Engagement Team on patrol in eastern Afghanistan. 

Rita Leistner 

From Yemen to Tunisia, children have been on the front lines of the Arab revolutions this year — waving flags, carrying signs, and even directing protesters. They have also been its cruelest victims, as images of injured and dead children have served to outrage citizens across the region.


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