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DUBAI --- From boil to simmer and back again. It never ends. Political passions in the Middle East do not cool.
I have been visiting Arab countries frequently during the past five years, which certainly does not make me an expert. But I have been here often enough to pick up on the change in mood during the past few months. The cautious hopefulness that flowered after the Arab uprisings of 2011 has withered, replaced by a fearful fatalism about what lies ahead.
The use of Twitter as a diplomatic tool fits in nicely with the new sense of political empowerment that has accompanied the rise of social media. As Internet connectivity rates continue to grow (particularly through the rapidly expanding availability of smartphones), Twitter helps foster an unprecedented sense of community among members of global publics.
Egypt’s president, Mohamed Morsi, is visiting the United States for the first time since taking office, and in an interview with the New York Times shortly before departing Cairo, he provided insights not only about his style of leadership but also about how Egypt has changed since the 2011 revolution that marked the end of Hosni Mubarak’s lengthy rule.
Ten years ago, the Innocence of Muslims controversy would not have happened. YouTube did not exist, and without this means of reaching a global audience the offensive snippets of the “film” would never have been seen.
Americans’ attention rarely strays beyond domestic discontents these days, and when it does extend overseas it is most likely to settle on the endless war in Afghanistan or the challenging puzzle that is China.
Cultural diplomacy has avid supporters partly because this facet of public diplomacy usually is not controversial and has a high feel-good quotient. Sending an orchestra to China or a dance troupe to Algeria has value because each such venture opens doors and minds. Reflexive resistance to cultural diplomacy is far less than occurs when more blatantly political efforts are undertaken.
SIMI VALLEY, CALIFORNIA --- The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is a lovely memorial on a hill, overlooking many miles of California countryside. It also hosts thoughtful discussions about Reagan’s legacy, including a recent one that marked the thirtieth anniversary of his speech to the British Parliament – the “Westminster speech” – in which he proposed an assertive future for builders of democracy.
Nearly everyone likes cultural diplomacy in principle, but some remain skeptical about its value. It is seen by many as soft power at its softest, safe and fuzzy, with more aesthetic rewards than diplomatic ones.
For those of us committed to using cultural diplomacy as a significant force in advancing the national interest, that kind of condescending view is aggravating and we always welcome solid evidence that it is wrong.
Performance of Congress-Financed Alhurra TV: Do Viewership Numbers and American Taxpayer Money Spent Add Up?
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