As the year ends, however, a closer look illuminates thousands of courageous men and women who work ceaselessly for the elusive hope of peace. I asked some of the smartest, globally-minded people I know — my students at the Harvard Kennedy School and my three daughters — to suggest those people, from the celebrated to the unknown, who gave us hope in an otherwise turbulent year. Here are their and my heroes.
To salvage the Russian economy, Putin should withdraw from Ukraine and accept a compromise.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's problem is that he was born on third base, but thinks he hit a triple. Putin's tenure in office has, until now, been lubricated by high oil prices that account for 60 percent of Russian exports and, along with natural gas, more than 50 percent of its budget.
Before Putin's economic system began to melt down, oil and gas exports fueled the growth of a Russian middle class. Putin showered petrodollars on them with pension increases, wage increases to government employees and other public spending.
• Nearly three years after the collapse of Muammar Qadhafi’s regime, Libya has become a failed state, reaching levels of instability never before experienced in North Africa and the Sahel
• More than 1,700 competing clans, regional and Islamist militias are vying over control of what remains of the state; some radical groups are gaining ground amidst horrific and anarchic violence that has spilled over into neighboring states (Egypt, Tunisia, Niger, Algeria, and Mali); and regional powers are exploiting the disorder to pursue their own interests in the country
The freeing of Alan Gross and an unnamed US intelligence asset has opened the door for relaxing restrictions on banking, remittances, and travel. This, along with the restoration of diplomatic relations, will move Cuba further down the path of reform. After the review process, Cuba should be expected to be removed from the State Sponsor of Terrorism list, which will open the island to the reform pressures that come with the access this brings to international financial institutions. Engagement is what brings about change and will eventually allow Cubans to one day live in a free society.
But as 2014 limps to an end, there are reasons to question this mantra.
On several fronts, there are glimmers of optimism about easing decades-long confrontations in ways that would strengthen the coalition against the group that calls itself the Islamic State.