Greece debt crisis
A variety of economic factors and political decisions left Greece teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and caused a panic in the euro zone, culminating in a series of monetary bailouts. But the Greek crisis, which may end up being repeated in Italy and other European countries, has had an enormous impact on the European bloc and worldwide. And the uncertainly of how Europe will cope with the situations has dragged on throughout 2011, leaving economies struggling to come out of recession even more hamstrung.
Debt ceiling fight
In a showdown set up by the midterm elections that saw Republicans take over the House of Representatives and provide a foil to President Obama, a Democrat, lawmakers wrangled several times over raising the federal debt ceiling. Though both sides recognized it needed to be done, Republicans sought to secure as many spending concessions from Democrats as possible to make good on campaign promises of getting the country's fiscal house in order. But the stalemate and brinkmanship that highlighted how difficult compromise is to come by in Washington, D.C., led a bond rating agency to downgrade the country's credit rating.
As of mid-December, the final combat troops from the United States were removed from Iraq, marking the end of the war that began in 2003. The war began under President George W. Bush under the assumption that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and after the nation refused to fully cooperate with the international community regarding inspections. After the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime, no such weapons were found, though the leader was hunted down, tried, and later executed for crimes against humanity. In total, the war is suspected to have cost about $1 trillion, the lives of about 4,500 U.S. soldiers and those of at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians. An additional 32,000 U.S. soldiers were also wounded.