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.
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.
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.
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.'"
5) Obama's Hot Mic Gets Frosty in Russia
Politicians often get in trouble for speaking honestly. Obama proved the truth of this maxim when he gave his Russian counterpart a frank appraisal of the election calendar in what both thought was a private moment. Unfortunate for the incumbent, his microphone was still "hot" and the entire world heard his request for President Medvedev to bear with America until after the November election, when Obama says he could be more "flexible."
6) Biden Pulls 'a Biden'
What good is any list of gaffes without including the vice president? The first-in-line raised eyebrows during the most recent campaign season when he asked an audience to raise their hands if they knew someone serving in Iraq or Iran, reports Fox News.
Unfortunately for the journalists in the room, Biden hadn't just revealed a massive shadow campaign in the reclusive Middle Eastern nation. Obama campaign staffers quickly verified he actually meant "Iraq and Afghanistan."
7) Romney's Criticism of Benghazi
Moments after news broke that the State Department facilities in the Middle East had been attacked, the Romney campaign seized the moment to turn the White House response into a political issue.
"I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi," he said in an E-mail to reporters. "It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."
This came before reports that U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans had been killed, causing some (including the White House and, to be fair, the Obama campaign) to accuse the candidate of shooting first and asking questions after.
Some Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, rushed to Romney's defense, echoing his criticism of what they saw as a weak response from Obama.
8) Wait, Which Korea?
The Olympics have long been heralded as a politics-free zone, though many incidents over time (including a certain black glove, and some countries choosing to boycott...) prove this is not always the case.
This became a particular sore point this summer when the North Korean women's soccer team took the field against Colombia. The announcement of their delegation was matched with a South Korean flag on the Jumbotron.
A spokesman for the games admitted the error and said "steps will be taken" to prevent a repeat mistake.
North Korea was reportedly "very upset," according to Reuters.
9) Unilateral Meetings
Most delegations to the United Nations seize the opportunity to meet with their counterpartsschmooze. This wasn't the case when Obama visited the international body earlier this fall.
The White House had scheduled no bilateral meetings with foreign leaders during September's General Assembly, versus the previous year when he had dozens.
"The president just in recent weeks has had intensive consultations with leaders in the region, with the leaders of Turkey, of Egypt, of Israel, of Yemen, of Libya, of Afghanistan, and that process will continue," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, according to CBS. "It is a simple fact that when you're president of the United States, your responsibility as commander-in-chief never ends and you are constantly engaged in matters of foreign affairs and national security. And that's what this president is doing."
Republicans were quick to jump on the president's decision to film an episode of "The View" in New York, arguing he put campaigning above statesmanship.
10) Europe Nominates Itself for the Peace Prize
Suggesting that Europe received the Nobel Peace Prize because the nominating committee is based in Europe is obviously an oversimplification of the issue. But, that's what many detractors have hinted toward the fanciest of continents, following a year marred by austerity measures and other crippling financial woes.
The BBC classified the response as a "love-in," and pointed out that only a few leaders decided to separate themselves from the formal self-congratulation, including U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron.
One British member of the European Parliament wrote, "the self-congratulatory tone taken by the Euro-grandees as they received the Nobel Peace Prize was rude, arrogant and dangerous," the BBC reports.
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Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.