Digital Walls, Digital Holes

Details of the conversation between Bill Gates and Chinese Premier Hu Jintao when they met recently at the Microsoft campus near Seattle, and afterward at a $20,000-per-plate dinner at Gates’ Lake Washington compound, are somewhat scarce. A new deal between Microsoft and Chinese computer-maker Lenovo to pre-load Windows on the company’s Chinese-made machines probably was eagerly discussed. It is less likely that Hu and Gates were eager to talk about the Chinese government’s Internet censorship and control policies. In recent debates about that issue — in international human rights circles, in the national media and even in the halls of […]

We Invented It, Let’s Use It

As the “global war on terrorism” enters its fifth year, it has become increasingly evident that the United States and its allies are involved in an ideological war, in which propaganda and moral suasion will play a large part. Some Bush administration officials, such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have recently jettisoned the “GWOT” moniker in favor of the less martial and more comprehensive “struggle against violent extremism.” National security advisor Stephen Hadley has also begun emphasizing the ideological nature of this conflict, recently telling a reporter that the United States is involved in “more than just a military war […]

Technology as Democratic Catalyst

Democracy, it seems, is resurgent. Yes, it is too early to tell whether the winds of change that have been blowing in the former Soviet republics and the Arab world in recent months will result in sustainable gains for freedom and liberalism. But the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, anti-Syrian protests in Lebanon, tentative steps toward a multiparty system in Egypt, municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, a revolt against authoritarianism in Kyrgyzstan — these are not insignificant events. After this dizzying succession of revolutions over the last few months, the question on many people’s minds — scholars, pundits and polemicists alike […]

Uncle Sam’s Blog

The Bush administration’s latest budget contains a significant increasein spending on ”public diplomacy” — government-sponsored programs tocommunicate with the citizens of other countries through the media andcultural and educational exchanges. The increase has been met with asigh of relief from foreign policy watchers who believe publicdiplomacy is an essential pillar of American ”soft power” and havewatched that pillar slowly crumble since the end of the Cold War. During the Cold War, the US Information Agency led America’s publicdiplomacy assault, broadcasting Radio Free Europe to Soviet Blocstates, broadcasting the Voice of America throughout the world, andsponsoring numerous alternatives to state-sponsored media […]