That doctrine relies on downplaying "hard" power capabilities and relying more on "outsourcing" U.S. security concerns to international institutions like the United Nations, negotiating with military competitors (think: the New START nuclear agreement with Russia) and embracing "soft" power initiatives (think: diplomatic "engagement" with Iran).

Aljazeera, the government-funded satellite TV channel, has also stirred opinion in many of the Arab revolutions of the past year, especially Egypt, extending the tiny peninsula’s “soft power” across the region.

A soft-power campaign that included documentary films on Russian television and denunciations by Russian officials of human rights violations preceded the uprising in April 2010 that overthrew Kurmanbek S. Bakiyev, a corrupt autocrat who had sometimes thwarted Russian interests, particularly regarding the American base, which the Russians wanted shut down.

And yet, Mexico's economy is growing, tourism is rebounding... and the middle class is continuing to expand. So the key question going into 2012 is: Can anyone put back together Mexico's broken image, both on the world stage and at home?

Nigeria may be able to polish its reputation and assume a wider role on the global stage if its upcoming gubernatorial polls are as seemingly free and fair as last week's presidential election, analysts say.

The top U.S. diplomat for the Arab world gave Washington's firm endorsement of the uprising that ousted Tunisia's longtime ruler, even as a crisis over the North African country's transitional government continued to simmer.

November 9, 2010

But invisible things such as oxygen, God and foreign affairs can still be consequential. And last week's election will have the scariest kind of influence on America's role in the world: massive and unclear.

Foreign policy is typically the executive branch’s domain because that is the branch that decides who the US negotiates with and what gets offered in those negotiations. However, Tuesday’s Republican victory, particularly the GOP takeover of the House and leadership of some key committees, has the ability to affect the US's dialogue, and in some cases policy, on a few key US relationships with other countries.