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The Oscars of Foreign Policy

There's no two ways about it: The last year of foreign policy had more drama than a Scorsese epic and enough thrills to put Avatar to shame. From the fearsome battle in the Afghan hills to the U.S.-China love-hate relationship, and from the serious al Qaeda threats in Yemen to the hard-to-take-seriously pirates off the Somali coast, 2009 was arguably a much more interesting year for global politics than for movies. So with Oscar nominations due tomorrow, we're taking nominations for our own FP Oscars.

Who would you pick for the best actor of the year? Is President Barack Obama holding his own in an unfriendly world, or does the ubiquitous Brazilian President Lula deserve an Oscar? Is Muammar Qaddafi's persona just too good to be true, or do you prefer the smooth, suave diplomacy (and wacky domestic antics) of France's Nicolas Sarzoky?

You tell us what scandals, dramas, tragicomedies, and personal stories are your picks for the history books in 2009. Listed below are the categories and a few sample entries. Send your own nominations to Joshua.Keating@foreignpolicy.com or paste them in the comments below. May the best news win!

Best picture: What one story encapsulates the year?

Best drama: Spies, dissidents, treachery, and truth. Were the adrenaline-pumping protests following the Iran elections the most dramatic event? Or perhaps it was the long, drawn-out U.S. decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. If you have a humanitarian bent, the crises in Haiti, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan might come a heart-wrenching first.

Best comedy: If it isn't a tragedy, the dysfunction of the U.S. Congress is certainly good for a laugh. Then again, how about the Copenhagen Climate conference that ended in a collective shrug? Or the British MPs who used their expense accounts to buy fancy rugs and re-dig their backyard swimming pools?

Best romantic comedy: Gordon Brown requested meeting after meeting with the U.S. president; Obama just didn't have time. Brown gave him a romantic antique biography of Churchill, and Obama gave him a DVD box set. Let's just say the special relationship isn't all it used to be. But then again, there are other comedies in Europe these days ... Berlusconi anyone?

Best romantic drama: Unclear whether this should be a drama or a comedy, but the Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladamir Putin certainly have a relationship worth noting -- as their press photographer has shown time and time again...

Best action: A U.S. ship is seized in the Gulf of Aden and devious pirates take the Maersk Alabama captive on the high seas, demanding a ransom for their deed. But lo and behold! A brave captain sacrifices his freedom to save his crew. And the U.S. whacks three pirates in the end, bringing everyone home safely! Phew!

Best special effects: Hmm, how about that missile launch in North Korea? It hit right on target: the Pacific Ocean.

Best director: Nicolas Sarkozy is a whirling dervish of diplomatic activity.

Best actor: Very few world leaders can also claim their own daily television shows -- and surprisingly humorous ones at that. "Alo Presidente" hasn't exactly skyrocketed Hugo Chavez to fame (his coup attempt back in the 1990s did that), but man has this guy mastered media in the Drudge Era.

Best actress: On a more serious note, few women leaders have been more powerful this year in asserting political freedom than Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi. Or does Hillary Clinton have your vote? As one FP staffer put it, "she's the queen of 'the show must go on.'"

Best supporting actress: Is Carla Bruni the perfect companion for a perfectionist French president?

Best supporting actor: Let's be honest: One man whose entire year has been a story about other people's interests is the ousted president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya. For all his posturing and pontificating, he was never running the show.

Best costume: Libya's Muammar Qaddafi designs his own clothes.

Worst costume: Libya's Muammar Qaddafi designs his own clothes. You decide.

Lifetime achievement award: Fidel? Kim Jong Il? Mubarak? Most of the longest-lasting players on the world stage aren't particularly savory characters. Got someone better?

We'll post a full list of nominees based on your e-mails and comments on Monday, Feb. 8 and give you a chance to vote. The final winners will be announced at the end of the month. 

We promise to keep the musical numbers short.

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What wasn't on the agenda in Davos

I hadn't seen this earlier: John Pomfret relays word that Google's declaration that it would no longer comply with Chinese Internet censorship rules was a verboten subject in Davos this year.

"At China's request, that topic was left off the table at this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Josef Ackermann, chief executive of Deutsche Bank and co-chairman of the event, told Bloomberg News," he writes.

So now China is capable of silencing debate in what's supposed to be an open forum?

Here's more from Bloomberg, which quotes Ackermann saying "China didn't want to discuss Google":

At Davos, participants such as financier George Soros, economist Joseph Stiglitz and French President Nicolas Sarkozy debated technology topics such as social networking and 3-D features used in the motion picture "Avatar." The discussion didn't include the conflict between China and Google, even in panels such as "The Rise of Asia" or "Redesigning the Global Dimensions of China's Growth."

Way to tackle the tough issues, guys.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt did briefly raise the subject on his own, however, according to the Wall Street Journal:

"We like what China is doing in terms of growth...we just don't like censorship," Mr. Schmidt said, speaking at the World Economic Forum's annual summit here. "We hope that will change and we can apply some pressure to make things better for the Chinese people." [...]

Mr. Schmidt maintained Friday that Google wants to continue operating in China. But he said the company didn't want to do so if it had to operate under China's censorship laws. To operate its Web site, Googe.cn in China, Google had to agree to censor its results.

"We would very much like to stay in China. We would very much like the censorship we oppose to improve in China," Mr. Schmidt replied.

Li Keqiang, China's vice premier, didn't address the issue in his speech, but apparently insisted in private that foreign companies must follow Chinese laws.