The CPD Blog is intended to stimulate dialog among scholars and practitioners from around the world in the public diplomacy sphere. The opinions represented here are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect CPD's views. For blogger guidelines, click here.

For years, Hosni Mubarak and other Arab leaders relied on a straightforward mantra: “It’s me or the Islamists.” American presidents and other Western leaders shuddered at the word “Islamists” and embraced their thuggish allies. What could be worse than Islamists?

U.S. public diplomacy followed that pattern. Over the years, there was some splendid rhetoric from Condoleezza Rice, Barack Obama, and a few others, but the “public” at which public diplomacy was aimed was always carefully limited to exclude the Islamist community.

Cultural diplomacy encompasses everything from training in modern dance to training in modern politics. At first glance, it seems a relatively non-threatening way to project identity and influence, but its impact can be profound. China’s President Hu Jintao recently warned that “international hostile forces are intensifying the strategic plot of Westernizing and dividing China,” and added that “the international culture of the West is strong while we are weak.”

We Americans tend to take our presidential campaigns lightly. We see them as fodder for Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, and we become so enamored with the incessant polling that we watch the candidates as if they were race horses approaching the finish line.

MEXICO CITY --- While attending a meeting here recently, I referred to Mexico as a “major power.” A government official said he was surprised. “We are a major power,” he said, “but nobody knows that.”

Mexico is the 11th largest nation in the world, with 114 million people. Its GDP of $1.6 trillion is 12th largest in the world. It has a labor force of 47 million. But it is still dismissed by many as an inconsequential player in world affairs.

DOHA --- When the Islamist Ennahda Party won 40 percent of the vote in Tunisia’s first free election since the overthrow of Zine Abidine Ben Ali, the party’s leader, Rachid Ghannouchi said, “We will continue this revolution to realize its aims of a free Tunisia, independent, developing, and prosperous in which the rights of God, the Prophet, women, men, the religious, and the non-religious are assured because Tunisia is for everyone.”

DOHA --- On November 1, the Al Jazeera Network celebrated its 15th birthday with splendor – a party for about a thousand people attended by the Emir of Qatar, the young Yemeni woman who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize, and the mothers of Arab Spring martyrs Khaled Said and Mohammed Bouazizi. The celebration was well deserved; the channel that began broadcasting six hours a day in 1996 has become one of the world’s most important media companies.

LONDON --- For much of the past decade, “soft power” has been touted as a means for making foreign policy more effective by emphasizing enticement rather than coercion, conversation rather than conflict. The concept has won applause, but putting it into practice has often been half-hearted, especially by nations that possess significant military muscle. They prefer macho diplomacy and remain wary of the public diplomacy that puts soft power into practice.

While the Arab political system is being rebuilt after this year’s regional upheaval, Arab states should also look outward and consider how they wish to reposition themselves within the global community.