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Parsing Networked Foreign Policy

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, September 15 2010

NDN policy analyst Sam DuPont has a 17-page look at the state of the Clinton State Department's so-called "21st Century Statecraft" push, and here's a taste, coming after a run-down of the various programs and initiatives that fall under the 21CS (I just coined that) banner:

These initiatives, while different in their objectives, emerge from a common idea and argument: with the growth of the global information and communications technology (ICT) network, the State Department has a powerful new tool to pursue its goals, and must view universal, uncensored access to this network as a core foreign policy objective.

Read Sam's piece for as a catch-up on what State is up to here.

That said, the paper seems to only highlight the still gapingly-open question running through 21CSTM. Amongst the things thus far that I count as qualifying in some form as part of this new brand of digitally-enhanced U.S. foreign policy: sending executives from U.S. tech companies to Baghdad and Bogotá, getting American embassies all over the world on Facebook, asking Twitter to stay up and running during Iran's post-election protests, Apps4Africa, Secretary Clinton throwing the weight of the U.S. behind the concept of "Internet freedom," getting diplomats to tweet, setting up a mobile reporting tool for narco-violence in Juarez, using text-messaging to raise millions for post-earthquake relief in Haiti, bringing Iraqis to the U.S. to intern in American companies, using the web to mentor in the Muslim world, sending out cell-phone sized videos of President Obama's Cairo speech, and studying how mobile bank empowering women in developing countries.

I'm sure I'm missing some. What I'm not sure is that there's anything connecting all those bits other than at some point bits and bytes were involved.

DuPont glosses 21st Century Statecraft as "part of a mode of thinking at the State Department that understands the world as a network not just of states, but of individuals, organizations and associations." I suspect many long-term diplomats -- and military leaders, and the anthropologists they've employed -- would suggest that they've long seen the world in that way (at least, it seems like it would have been hard for any of them who lived through the '60s and not see it that way), but that seems a useful starting place. What does network-awareness mean, though, for American foreign policy? What, in the name of American citizens, is the U.S. pushing for? Supporting? Funding? Sam's paper's a start, but there's still room for plenty more analysis.

(While we're on the topic, we're going to have a relevant note of disclosure coming out in this space soon. Consider this a disclosure that there will be a coming disclosure.)