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The car used by the Charlie Hebdo killers to escape is discovered by police on Jan. 7
The car used by the Charlie Hebdo killers to escape is discovered by police on Jan. 7
Patrick Randall

PARIS — The brazen terrorist attack against the French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo that left at least 12 dead Wednesday has shocked the nation and the world. But it doesn't come in a vacuum, following a series of attacks in the past few years that have no parallel in any other Western country.

There are cultural and historical explanations for why France has long had to struggle against extremist violence, but the recent uptick is notable relative to other European countries facing similar situations.

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Geopolitics

Is Soft Power Dead?

With an activist Supreme Court creating a gap between democratic rhetoric and reality in the U.S., and Russia and China eager to flex military muscle, the full-force return to hard power looks bound for dominance.

U.S. flag and Chinese flag

Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — Russia's war in Ukraine rages on, tensions are erupting in the South China Sea and now abortion rights are being stripped away in the U.S.: Looking around the world, we have to ask: what is left of the notion of soft power?

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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How can we talk about the power to convince when the power to coerce is increasingly the norm? And when there is such a gap between rhetoric and reality in the U.S. and in Russia and China, hard power almost seems to have become part of soft power?

“We will lead the world not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Joe Biden said the day after his election. But what kind of example was he talking about? That of the Supreme Court’s judges, whose decision promises a terrible future to women and to all those who still wanted to believe in an enlightened and liberal America?

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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