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by Michael Hornblow

Winners Losers
1. Mohamed Morsi 1. Bashar al-Assad
2. Kim Jong Un 2. General Petraeus
3. Malala Yousafzai 3. Hamid Karzai
4. Aung San Suu Kyi 4. Pakistan
5. Angela Merkel 5. Hugo Chavez
6. Hilary Clinton 6. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
7. Barack Obama 7. U.S Mid East Diplomacy
8. Turkey 8. The Pope
9. American Diplomats 9. Susan Rice
10. The British Royal Family 10. Greece

It is the end of the year with the awards season upon us and Obama’s second term about to begin. We enter 2013 with a lot of uncertainty and unfinished business. So we thought it might be useful and thought-provoking to resume our top ten winners and losers list, last done in 2004.

Two thousand twelve was not a year of unalloyed misery. There were a number of bright spots and successes which we will discuss. The Obama Administration tried to pivot to East Asia and the Pacific, but the Middle East, still encumbered by its uncertain spring, demanded our attention and we reluctantly complied.

Mohamed Morsi, the President of Egypt, emerged as our top choice. He consolidated his power, outwitting the generals and emerged as the go-to guy in the Middle East, the only leader with ties to both Israel and Hamas, the only person who could have brokered a cease fire with both sides in Gaza.

In North Korea, Kim Jong Un also consolidated his power and emerged along with his wife a beautiful and lucky woman who has as her husband the sexiest man in the world, according to The Onion, a satirical magazine.

And if anyone doubts that women may be taking over just look at the next four names on our list. Malala Yousafzai, aged 15, was shot in the head on October 9 by a Taliban gunman as she was on a school bus in Pakistan, a result of her open desire to attend school without fear and with her recovery has become even more a symbol for young women around the world seeking empowerment. Nobel Prize laureate (1991) Aung San Suu Kyi has led a peaceful revolution in Burma, one of the year’s great successes. Angela Merkel has proved that nothing can happen with the EU and the debt crisis without her blessing. And Hilary Clinton has won general acclaim for her tireless work as Secretary of State and as she retires from that job, to perhaps prepare for an even bigger one, we wish her more “happy trails.”

Barack Obama with his victory had to make our list, but foreign policy in 2012 was not a priority.

When we look at the Middle East in general and Syria and Iraq and Iran we cannot avoid Turkey which borders all three. Turkey in 2012 became a front line state with Syria, harboring thousands of Syrian refugees and engaging in sporadic cross-border warfare. It has become, despite its anti Israel/pro Hamas positions, perhaps our most important NATO ally.

The death of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty reminded all of us that American diplomats are often on the front lines, in harms way, and deserve recognition and thanks.
And finally the British Royal family had a great year with the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics and it was capped by the announcement that Kate is pregnant and an heir, possibly female, is enroute, thereby ensuring that this great brand will endure for years to come.

The choice of number one loser was easy, Bashar al-Assad had little competition. This former ophthalmologist cannot see that his situation is getting worse by the day and it is likely that in 2013 he may have to leave Syria and seek refuge elsewhere, if he is still alive.

Sadly, former CIA Director Petraeus who’s star seemed so bright, who seemed to have a brilliant future, has fallen from grace and we can only hope that he will reemerge in a responsible position in either the public or private sectors as he still has much to offer this country.

In 2012 after 11 years we have begun to disengage from Afghanistan and thus Pakistan becomes a bit less important. Hamid Karzai continues to be a difficult ally, blustering and criticizing many of our efforts while he and his family pocket our dollars. He is likely to linger for a while, but as little more than the mayor of Kabul. There seems to be no alternative to him at present. And Pakistan will also continue to try our patience. It is a country that continues to disappoint, torn apart by sectarian strife and lacking strong leadership.

Elsewhere Hugo Chavez continues to survive but in a much weakened state after several bouts with cancer. As of December 5 he had not been seen in public for twenty days and is in Cuba for treatment. As Brazil and other countries in the region get stronger, Chavez becomes increasingly irrelevant. Ditto for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His term of office ends August 3, 2013 and he will leave the presidency with his country and its economy in disarray.

Elsewhere in the region we have withdrawn from any effort to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians, seem again to be “leading from behind” in Syria and there is also the Bengazi bungle which has provoked much criticism. The State Department should have realized that Bengazi was too dangerous and followed Britian’s example by closing down the consulate. But our U.N. Ambassador, Susan Rice, has taken much of the criticism as a result of her TV appearances after the attack and finally withdrew herself from consideration as Hilary’s successor.

For Vatican watchers it is clear that the Pope is in decline. His public appearances and trips are shorter and he seems to have less influence on the world stage. Problems with sexually abusive priests continue and a discreet succession struggle may be taking place. The final indignity for the Pope was the admission by his butler to stealing and then leaking sensitive documents to the press.

And finally there is Greece and there is no possibility that we need to worry about “Greeks bearing Gifts” as they can’t afford any. “Greece” for some Obama critics has become a metaphor for what the U.S. might become. Sadly at the moment the only thing Greece has going for it is yogurt.

This list and the comments reflect my personal views not those of American Diplomacy or its parent corporation’s Board of Directors. They will not agree with some of the names on the list and the argumentation and neither will many readers. We all hope that some of you may be interested enough, or provoked enough to comment or offer your own lists and American Diplomacy will try to publish them. So please fire away.



Michael Hornblow
Michael Hornblow

Michael Hornblow has served as Associate Editor of American Diplomacy.

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