The Top 10 Foreign Relations Blunders of 2012

A year in review of what went wrong on the world's stage.

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The world changed in 2012. Arab spring uprisings took hold and forged new, fragile governments in countries such as Egypt. Attacks on American facilities brought an already frenzied presidential campaign to a boiling point. And states throughout the globe pushed the limits of what their neighbors might allow them to do. Amid a year roiled with foreign developments, not everything went right.

Check out this list of the top foreign policy blunders of 2012 that might have changed the outlook of the world.

1) Obama Repeatedly Bungles the Name of a Nobel Laureate

President Barack Obama became the first president to visit Myanmar earlier this fall, and made the decision most advisors would consider fool-proof of holding a press conference with Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the most highly lauded icons of democracy.

Unfortunately, he did not pronounce the Peace Prize laureate's name correctly, reports Reuters, substituting the second syllable with "Yan."

As her Norwegian-bestowed title suggests, the graceful Suu Kyi did not correct the president.

2) The Trip of Gaffes

This almost deserves multiple entries, but for the sake of partisan fairness we'll keep it to one. Romney's gaffe-laden overseas campaign trip began with a critique of British efforts to host the Olympics this summer. A cursory appraisal of the planning process left the Republican nominee (and former Olympic Organizing Committee CEO) "disconcerted" by what he saw.

Brits have said the comments brought the usually fractured country to unprecedented levels of unity in its distaste of Obama's opponent. As one put it, it was the first time Londoners spoke to one another on the Underground since it was used as a bomb shelter during World War II.

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Romney went on to raise eyebrows in Israel and Palestine after proclaiming the Israeli economic state is healthier than Palestine due to the Jewish culture.

He polished off the tour by holding high the Polish economy as a champion of "economic liberty" and "smaller government." Unemployment there was about 12 percent.

3) 'Sanctuary!'

This is less of a bungle and more of what one foreign policy expert calls a "one-man foreign policy wrecking crew."

Julian Assange made headlines in recent years for dumping gigabytes of classified documents on the Internet through his site Wikileaks. The results of his creation are still being felt throughout foreign affairs circles, particularly as one of the leakers, Pfc. Bradley Manning, began his pre-trail hearing in late November.

The notoriously slippery Australian has repeatedly dodged any international ramifications, despite many enraged bureaucrats.

Western powers may have been assuaged after Sweden issued rape charges against Assange while he was in the United Kingdom. But before he could be extradited, he stole into the Ecuadorian Embassy in June, where he remains as of this writing. Embassy spokespeople have said they are concerned that facing trial in Sweden may end with a similar trip to the U.S. to face charges for the leaks.

4) The 'Pivot' to Asia

The way America has framed its new policy toward the Western Pacific exposes the importance of choosing words carefully.

Many Asian nations were puzzled by the Obama Administration's choice of the cryptic word 'pivot' for its new policy to Asia. European allies felt shunned by interpreting the word by its definition, where an object leaves one point for another.

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Top leaders, all the way up to Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have backtracked on how this phrasing was perceived, stressing to Europe that the U.S. remains focused on issues there, and will need those alliances to help establish this new Asian presence.

"Words matter. Words spoken by military and political officialdom have sometimes destructive weight and speed in the info age," one foreign policy expert tells U.S. News. "Significant foreign policy positions (much less shifts in policies) must be carefully crafted and thoughtfully explained. Loose slogans uttered by well-intentioned government officials can create a mess and 'wag the dog.'"