Diplomacy and Leadership in the Information Age

I have been following the protests in Egypt with interest, as I imagine many of you have been. It’s always inspiring to see people stand up for their rights with a firm dignity rooted in peace. Moreover, to see Muslims and Christians come together in support of democracy gave me great hope, as well as protesters preventing riots, guarding against looters, and patrolling their own demonstrations.

Though I firmly believe this is about Egypt, it is also fascinating to watch the United States foreign policy at work. As the Obama administration’s previously non-committal stance (at least publicly) turned to outright condemnation in the last 24 hours, I wondered about America’s role in the twenty-first century world.

In hindsight, intervention in individual nations’ internal conflicts has not bode particularly well for the US in the last fifty years. However, when we don’t intervene, the US government is often blamed or experiences a level of superpower guilt for any atrocities (e.g. the Rwandan Genocide.)

Is the concept of the superpower over in a more global society? As rural areas worldwide gain cellular and internet coverage, does the free spread of information provide sufficient protection against oppression for both dissidents and ordinary citizens?

Obviously, even if it can or will, we have not arrived yet. It’s far too easy for governments to limit access temporarily (like we’ve seen this week in Egypt) or systematically (as in China.) Human Rights Watch & Amnesty International have plenty to write about every day. But it’s encouraging to believe that that the systematic oppression going on in the world is at least tracked and spoken out against.

I hope that as the situation in Egypt continues, and the ripples are felt in places like Sudan and Yemen, we continue to watch, listen, and amplify voices that need to be heard when their governments fail to listen.

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