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Lessons Learned from a Dictator’s Overthrow

Gordon Gray reflects on the lessons he learned about diplomacy throughout his time as U.S. ambassador to Tunisia during the Arab Spring—and how those lessons should be applied to U.S. foreign relations today.

The massive demonstrations in Algeria and Sudan, followed by the ouster of each nation’s leader, reminded me vividly of January 14, 2011.  On that day, millions of Tunisians took to the streets, standing up to a quarter-century of increasingly authoritarian rule.  Later the same day, following four weeks of demonstrations that had grown throughout the country, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali resigned in disgrace and fled to Saudi Arabia.  As the U.S. ambassador to Tunisia at the time, this was the moment that stands out above the rest when I look back upon my 33-year career as an American diplomat.

For a French translation of this article, click here.

The above excerpt was originally published in The Journal of Diplomacy. Click here to view the full article.

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Gordon Gray

Former Senior Fellow