updated 2/20/2011 9:57:16 PM ET 2011-02-21T02:57:16

1.Libya's civil war

America's role in implementing the no-fly zone could end up being a major turning point in the history of the Obama administration.  For now, watch to see if the president can give a strong enough speech Monday to neuter the skeptics and convince the public that his actions have been prudent and necessary.

2. The Arab spring goes on

The tough cases right now are Syria (with a regime unfriendly to the United States and tight with Iran) and Jordan (a close American ally and a bulwark against Iranian expansion).  Both countries are dealing with protests and violence.  While Libya will claim the bulk of the media attention, behind the scenes, quiet American diplomacy to finesse these two hot spots is in overdrive.

3. Deficit politics on the edge

Last week ended with bitter rhetoric from Republicans challenging the Democrats' commitment to real spending cuts.  With Senator Harry Reid and other Democrats vowing to protect Social Security from any reductions, it will be tough to get even short term spending deals to avoid a government shutdown or default.  Time, once again, for White House leadership.

Related: Last week's Driving the Week Web chat

4. Japan rides the nuclear rollercoaster

Radiation level readings around the damaged nuclear plant and in Tokyo continue to fluctuate, with the government consistently stressing the more encouraging news.  The world is still holding its breath for a conclusive-and favorable-outcome.

5. 2012 contenders start to gallop

After a weekend of Iowa politicking, the Republicans who want to run against Obama are now stepping up some aspects of their nascent campaigns.  Perhaps most important: auditioning to stand toe-to-toe with the incumbent on the public stage.  So far, no Republican has shined when presenting a contrast on Libya, but this week offers them another shot.

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