I know TIME’s "Person of the Year" has become little more than a provocative end-of-the-year play for page views, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with that. But this year’s choice, announced today, of "The Protester" strikes me as a really bad call. It’s quite true that the protest movements in the Arab world, in Greece, in Israel, and the Occupy movement in U.S. share some things in common. All represent a challenge to the legitimacy of current economic and political arrangements. All have skillfully employed various social media tools to drive and organize that challenge. It’s important to recognize this, not least for what it says about the shared human desire for dignity and self-rule.

But the significance of the Arab Awakening should — must — stand apart from these other movements. The change that the people of the Arab world have sought, and the dangers that they have braved, and the punishments they’ve suffered to bring that change, are of an entirely different order than those other movements. TIME’s acknowledgment that "The stakes are very different in different places" is frankly insulting for its extreme understatement. The parents and families of the 256 children tortured and murdered by Bashar al-Assad’s regime are in a completely different class than those who camped out in Zuccotti Park and McPherson Square. As Jules told Vincent, "It ain’t the same f****n’ ballpark, it ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same f****n’ sport."

There’s still a long, tough road ahead for reform in all of these countries. Some far longer and tougher than others. But 2011 belongs to the Arabs, bruv. Believe it.

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“We knew at the outset that the task would be difficult. We acknowledged that publicly and privately. We knew this would be a road with many bumps— and there have been many bumps—and that continues to this day. But we are not deterred. We are, to the contrary, determined more than ever to proceed to realize the common objective, which we all share, of a Middle East that is at peace with security and prosperity for the people of Israel, for Palestinians, and for all the people in the region. We will continue our efforts in that regard, undeterred and undaunted by the difficulties, the complexities or the bumps in the road.”—George Mitchell, special envoy for Middle East peace, remarks with Prime Minister Netanyahu, September 29, 2010

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From Afghanistan and Iraq to Pakistan, Somalia, and South Sudan, the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, is engaged daily in trying to help some of the most troubled nations on the planet make a lasting transition to stability, open markets, and democracy. Few areas of the agency’s work are more challenging or more controversial.

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