2012: Diplomacy & Revolution

Monday, March 19, 2012
7:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
The Robert H. Smith Center at Montalto

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“Seductiveness of Revolution”
Ambassador Tony Quainton

Ambassador John Limbert

The world today is witnessing domestic political turbulence on a scale not seen since the end of World War Two.  Popular discontent, centered on basic issues of quality of life and personal freedom, has already produced revolutionary, if unfinished, change in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen, and is having a major impact elsewhere in the Middle East (e.g. Syria, Bahrain).  Beyond the Arab world, actual or potential revolutionary instability exists in outh Asia (e.g. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), sub-Saharan Africa (e.g. South Sudan, Somalia), Latin America (e.g. Venezuela), and Europe (e.g. Serbia/Kosovo). America’s diplomats, from the earliest days of our country’s history, have been called upon to interpret such revolutionary events and develop or influence the U.S. response, from the Place de la Bastille to Tahrir Square.

The goal of the conference, a joint initiative of the American Academy of Diplomacy and the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, was to investigate in depth the current and future roles and requirements of American diplomats in revolutionary situations.  Should diplomats limit their activities on the ground to analyzing events and making recommendations to Washington, or should they also be taking the initiative to engage actively with government officials, opponents, demonstrators, and the wider public? What new tools do diplomats have at their disposal (e.g. social media, personal engagement), and how should they be used? In fluid, revolutionary situations, how to strike a balance between risks and rewards, both to American interests and to the diplomats personally?