When 2011 began, Osama bin Laden was still alive, U.S. troops were still fighting in Iraq, and Iran could only dream about capturing our most advanced spy drone. By the end of the year -- everything had flipped upside-down. America's shadow wars grew, as its conventional conflicts shrank. Secret tech was suddenly not so secret any more. Dictators in place for decades suddenly found themselves out of jobs, thanks in no small part to Facebook. Even the ordinarily sacrosanct Pentagon budget was suddenly under fire. It was, in retrospect, a decidedly crazy, thoroughly exhausting, and utterly exhilarating year. It's hard to imagine what more could be in store for 2012.
No wonder al-Qaida didn't come close to bombing the U.S. at home, unlike its efforts in 2009 and 2010. Instead, it lost two of its most important figures; a treasure trove of its data; and suffered the kind of setbacks that have Washington talking about capital-V Victory.