In the year to mid-2011, the pace of history quickened. Strategic Survey 2011: The Annual Review of World Affairs includes a special chapter on the Arab Awakening, in which protests against autocratic rule spread like wildfire across the Arab world, toppling the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and bringing conflict elsewhere. An earthquake and tsunami killed thousands in Japan, and triggered the worst nuclear accident for 25 years. As war dragged on in Afghanistan, Western leaders agreed on a plan to withdraw from combat. A daring raid into Pakistan by American special forces killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden but caused fury in Islamabad. Meanwhile, the high level of food prices caused mounting concern, as did the provocative military actions of the North Korean regime. China’s economy, military power and global influence continued to expand.

In the year to mid-2011, the pace of history quickened. Strategic Survey 2011: The Annual Review of World Affairs includes a special chapter on the Arab Awakening, in which protests against autocratic rule spread like wildfire across the Arab world, toppling the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and bringing conflict elsewhere. An earthquake and tsunami killed thousands in Japan, and triggered the worst nuclear accident for 25 years. As war dragged on in Afghanistan, Western leaders agreed on a plan to withdraw from combat. A daring raid into Pakistan by American special forces killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden but caused fury in Islamabad. Meanwhile, the high level of food prices caused mounting concern, as did the provocative military actions of the North Korean regime. China’s economy, military power and global influence continued to expand.

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  • Events at a Glance

    July 2010–June 2011 July 2010 9 Pakistan: Two bombs kill 105 people in the Mohmand region of northwestern Pakistan. 11 Uganda: Bomb attacks on a rugby club and a restaurant in Kampala kill 76 people as they watch the football World Cup final on television. Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab claims responsibility and says Uganda and Burundi must withdraw peacekeeping troops from Somalia. Three Kenyans are later charged with murder. 12 Sudan: International...
  • Chapter 1: Perspectives

    This was a year in which the pace of history quickened. Revolutionary fervour suddenly seized the Arab world. Dictators were toppled by fearless and determined street protests, and more leaders were threatened with the same fate. Just as at the end of the Cold War, decades-old certainties crumbled along with corrupt regimes and their oppressive security agencies. There were no certainties at all about what would follow. The revolutions in Tunisia...
  • Chapter 2, Part I: The Arab Awakening

    As 2010 drew to its end, there was little indication that extraordinary upheavals were about to take place in the Arab world. The region seemed frozen in its old ways, with authoritarian regimes firmly in place and tamed populations struggling to cope with economic malaise and political stagnation. The permanent features of the region’s security and political landscape – the vicissitudes of the Israeli–Arab peace track, the prospect of a protracted...
  • Chapter 2, Part II: Strategic Policy Issues

    Digital Activism and the Arab Awakening When young activists stormed the streets of Tehran in summer 2009, many observers proclaimed a ‘Twitter revolution’. Though in the end no revolution occurred, the international attention that the protesters attracted by using social media resonated with activists worldwide, prompting many to adopt digital tools. In 2011, the world watched in awe as Tunisians, and then Egyptians, rallied together against their respective governments, using social...
  • Chapter 3: The Americas

    United States: Broken Consensus Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, is not a thrilling speaker. As he stood in front of a microphone on Governor’s Island in early August 2010, his voice struggled against the wind and the water traffic of New York Harbour. But the mayor’s text was hard and clear. His short speech – answering a campaign to stop the development of a Muslim and ecumenical community...
  • Chapter 5: Europe

    For Western Europe, the year was dominated by the sovereign-debt crisis. Financial rescue packages were organised for Ireland and Portugal, and at mid-2011 efforts were under way to arrange a second bailout for Greece, the first having proved insufficient. The austerity measures that governments had to impose on their electorates to meet the terms of the emergency loans increasingly seemed politically unsustainable. Governments fell in Ireland and Portugal. Therefore, there...
  • Chapter 6: Middle East/Gulf

    Iran: Domestic Struggle Dims Hope of Nuclear Deal Defying tough sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council and tougher measures adopted by the United States and its allies, Iran further expanded its controversial nuclear programme. Computer malware reportedly launched by Israel and the United States destroyed a portion of the Islamic Republic’s uranium-enrichment centrifuges, while trade controls limited its ability to produce more advanced centrifuge models. Such limitations contributed to...
  • Chapter 7: Africa

    Emerging from the global economic downturn, Africa averaged 3% economic growth in 2010 on the back of higher commodity output and exports from petroleum-centred economies such as Nigeria and Angola, and resurgent mineral exports and manufacturing investment from South Africa. China and, increasingly, India remain major trade and development partners for Africa, as do the European Union and the United States. African diasporas have become major investment partners for the...
  • Chapter 8: South and Central Asia

    Afghanistan: Goal Set for Troop Drawdown Afghanistan and the international community are engaged in an attempt to neutralise the Taliban insurgency and develop the capacity of the Afghan state and its armed forces ahead of the end-2014 deadline that NATO leaders have set for handing responsibility for the country’s security to President Hamid Karzai’s government. The first milestone on the route towards that deadline was in July 2011, when the United...
  • Chapter 9: Asia-Pacific

    Japan: Disaster Overshadows Political Wrangles Japan has endured its most calamitous year in recent memory. On 11 March 2011 it suffered three interlinked disasters – the 9.0 magnitude Great Tohoku Earthquake, the tsunami it triggered, and the reactor meltdowns and release of radiation at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The earthquake and tsunami claimed at least 15,000 lives and displaced up to half a million people in the Tohoku region...
  • Chapter 10: Prospectives

    The assertion of people power across the Arab world and its possible spread to other regions was a defining feature of the year to mid-2011. For the coming year, the defining question will be what sets of personalities stay in power and who assumes, and for how long, the mantle of power in affected countries. In a time so consumed by the collective popular desire for change and democratic representation that...
  • Strategic Geography 2011

    Turbulent times Even in their wildest dreams, few in the middle of 2010 could have imagined the shape of the world 12 months later. It was a year of unexpected ‘black-swan’ events, with uprisings across the Arab world, a new war in Libya and a nuclear crisis in Japan. Arriving on top of a longer-term geopolitical transition of power from West to East, such events left the impression of a...
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