new media

Since such 'hard power' options are unavailable to them, small states are often left with 'soft power' as an only means of influencing their adversaries. Soft power comes in many flavors, including public diplomacy and propaganda, traditionally costly endeavors.

"I tell all our ambassadors, remember, you only have one mouth but you have two ears, so use this as a way not just of communicating with the citizens of the country where you are serving, but also understanding the point of view of people who may not be sitting at a mahogany table inside the embassy," says Alec Ross, the State Department's senior adviser on innovation.

Westerners are savvier to the use of soft power, particularly when non-democracies such as China try their hand. The Canadian ambassador to Beijing, who put up photos of his official car online, prompted a thousand Chinese to comment on the embassy’s microblog, showing that engaging with Chinese 400 million citizens is a useful way to help achieve its foreign policy aims.

As a public diplomacy tool, the Internet has become a heaven-sent gift for Foggy Bottom. Clearly, there is a very determined effort underway to upgrade the image of the State Department from a rather staid and slow-pokey bureaucracy to a hopping, hip, and super-connected organization.

Events in Egypt and countries across the Middle East and North Africa have shown in the 'Arab Spring' that internet platforms and technologies should be seen for what they are: effective tools for the conduct of political campaigns in authoritarian contexts.

This isn’t an accident. Forget the non-existent “Twitter revolution”: information simply spreads faster than it used to do, in myriad ways. Around the world, the poor own mobile telephones. The middle class has internet access...Countries and cultures do change...