arab spring

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is running for re-election Tuesday, June 3, can be thankful his neighbors do not get to vote. Strong majorities of the publics in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Tunisia and Turkey and half the public in Lebanon voice a very unfavorable view of the embattled Syrian leader, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

Of the world’s seven billion people, about 2.4 billion have access, in some way, to the Internet. The ability to connect many-to-many has led to some remarkable events and phenomena in recent years. The tools did not cause the Arab Spring, but they did allow for better organizing, amplification of messages, and the ability to show the world what was happening minute-by-minute, tweet-by-tweet.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday praised Tunisia as the poster child of the Arab Spring, as Washington unveiled $500 million in new assistance to help revive the North Africa nation’s faltering economy as it continues its march toward democracy.

When I was 19 I read about Plato's Theory of Forms. The theory, crudely put, argues that everything exists in a metaphysical realm in its ideal form, and that everything we have on Earth is a poor attempt to imitate the ideal. So, a cat on Earth is a poor imitation of the ideal cat; and a picture of the earthly cat is even more imperfect because it is even further away from the ideal.

March 4, 2014

Social media can be a powerful tool, especially when considering how it empowers regular people with the ability to reach a large audience. It certainly played a prominent role in the Arab Spring protests of 2010, when protestors took to Twitter and Facebook to document the uncensored reality of their experience.

At a recent series of events in Beijing hosted by the Berggruen Institute, I was asked to speak about social media and the potential harm and good associated with it. My view is pretty straightforward -- I believe that social media is a tool of liberation and empowerment. That may seem fairly audacious when a good portion of the Western world is using Facebook and Twitter to post pictures of what they had for dinner or take quizzes on what TV character they may be. 

Egypt is spiraling toward instability and radicalization. Since last summer’s coup, the military-backed regime has used brute force to try to restore peace and manage its form of “democratic transition.” But its repressive strategy to physically eliminate political opponents, restore stability and end society’s acute polarization is backfiring.

Soft power proponents tend to forget that the purpose of soft power, as with public diplomacy more broadly, is to advance the strategic interests of your country. The goal is not be “nice” or transiently popular, but to advance toward your foreign policy goals. Public diplomats are not social workers, and they should not allow themselves to be seen as such.