arab spring

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. 

The adoption of Tunisia’s new constitution should set in motion a wide-ranging overhaul of laws and public institutions, Al Bawsala, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch said today. The constitution, which guarantees many fundamental rights and freedoms, should be implemented in a way that will provide the highest degree of protection of Tunisians’ human rights.

The optimism of the Arab Spring seems to have evaporated in the past three years. Just look at Syria and its brutal civil war. Or Egypt, where the third anniversary of the revolution was marked by more violence, and where a new military strong man seems to be gaining the upper hand. But then there's Tunisia, the nation where the Arab Spring began.

Egypt's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom the military has endorsed for the presidency after he ousted a civilian leader, has emerged as a nationalist icon in the mould of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Sisi, 59, has not yet said whether he will seek the country's highest office, but Egypt's military commanders on Monday said in a statement that "the people's trust in Sisi is a call that must be heeded as the free choice of the people."

Egypt will hold a presidential poll this year before parliamentary elections, interim president Adly Mansour said Sunday, in a move seen to benefit army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The election process would have to start before mid-April, according to a timetable included in a constitution adopted in a referendum this month.

Last November, senior government officials held a ceremony in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, unveiling a monument to the revolution’s martyrs. The monument was simple, though its significance was not. It consisted of a stone pedestal on a circular base in the center of Tahrir Square. A military band played. At a brief unveiling ceremony that morning, Egypt’s interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said it was meant to honor “the martyrs of the January 25 and June 30 revolutions.”

Iran is now our new favorite place to discuss at dinner. It is still one country. They seem to speak English there. Americans know we have a strained relationship with Iran from all those hostage movies, but we remain fascinated with all things Persian. America’s top destination remains Europe. It has countries we can visit — museums and hotels and attractions, such as the changing of the guard.