How does one use the Internet to advance a cause? The first step is to throw away most of the assumptions you've held for years:
Yet there is a sense that the old rules do not apply anymore. This is period of blurring borders, flattening hierarchies, and heightened ambiguity. Those who are competitors and enemies one day are
collaborators and allies the next. Those who stand alone, no matter what their strength, find even the smallest networks in opposition to be daunting. Something is different: the emergence, significance, and importance of the network structure within a world of complexity. The life form and organizational structure that is most in evidence in this new world of ideas and media is the network-social networks, electronic networks, media networks, to name a few. The United States has declared war on a network.
Until just recently, there were roughly two ways that the policymakers viewed the world: Realpolitik has been practiced over the past 500 years by historical luminaries such as Richelieu, Metternich, Bismarck, and Kissinger. Diplomats play political chess with nation-states, balancing and maneuvering one against the other to gain political advantage or equilibrium. This is a world of fault lines:the global alliances leading to the world wars, the subsequent Cold War, or the Clash of Civilizations suggested by Samuel Huntington.
Global Interdependence or "Liberal Internationalism" regards the world as moving to an intertwined organism composed of international players-governmental and nongovernmental-for whom reality is interreliance among nations and cultures, economies and environments, and lack of control over many of the actions that affect one's own locale. It recognizes that people belong to several communities at the same time, have multiple self-images and identities, and need to see themselves as world citizens as well. Here, informal diplomats use soft power, the attractive power of ideas, to survive or prevail.
Some alternative views had gained attention:
Media Politik-Lee Edwards describes the interrelationship between the mass media and world politics in liberal democratic, authoritarian, and totalitarian regimes. He suggests, as many observers have before, that "there is a strong but always shifting correlation among government, journalism, and public opinion in foreign policy making". In essence, Edwards places the role of media as a central player in the
conduct of world politics.
Cyberpolitik: David Rothkopf, in Cyberpolitik: The Changing
Nature of Power in the Information Age (Journal of International Affairs 51, no. 2,) suggests that "the realpolitik of the new era is cyberpolitik, in which the actors are no longer just states, and raw power can be
countered or fortified by information power."
Noopolitik: John Arquilla and David Ronfeld coined this termfrom Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's concept of noosphere, the sphere of ideas. Arquilla and Ronfeldt wrote The Emergence of Noopolitik for the National Defense Research Institute (Santa Monica: RAND, 1999)."Noopolitik is an approach to statecraft, to be undertaken as much by non-state as by state actors, that emphasizes the role of soft power in expressing ideas, values, norms and ethics through all manner of media". It incorporates not only mass and cyber media but also the concept of soft power and thought leadership in developing strategy on the world stage.
So where does Net Politik begin? With this simple observation:
The Internet has greatly lowered the costs of transmitting information, enabling people to bypass traditional intermediaries whose power revolved around the control of information: national governments, the diplomatic corps, transnational corporations, and news organizations, among others. As a result, nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs), academic experts, diasporic ethnic communities, and individuals are using the Internet to create their own global platforms and political influence. As the velocity of information increases and the types of publicly available information diversify, the very architecture of international relations is changing dramatically.
A strategy to exploit the above realities is NetPolitik:
Tthe word Netpolitik has been suggested-to describe a new type of diplomacy that succeeds Realpolitik. Realpolitik, the German term for "power politics," is an approach to international diplomacy that is "based on strength rather than appeals to morality and world opinion." Netpolitik is a new style of diplomacy that seeks to exploit the powerful capabilities of the Internet to shape politics, culture, values, and personal identity. But unlike Realpolitik-which seeks to advance a nation's political interests through amoral coercion-Netpolitik traffics in "softer" issues such as moral legitimacy, cultural
identity, societal values, and public perception.
Some may dismiss this as Internet hype, but I think this is different. Consider this claim: "We're at the beginning of the third fundamental economic revolution in the history of humanity," argues Bill Coleman, chairman and chief strategy officer of BEA Systems, an enterprise software company. "The agriculture revolution had to do with the quantity of food that could be produced to feed the population. The industrial revolution was fueled and lubricated by the quantity and velocity of capital. But what's really changing the world today is the dramatic increase in the quantity and velocity of information."
I'd Highly suggest reading the full document. It was prepared by people such as William Perry, Madaline Albreight, to name a few. However, I'll leave you with their conclusion:
Perhaps the most important imperative in Netpolitik is to recognize that it exists. The Internet and other information technologies are no longer a peripheral force in the conduct of world affairs but a powerful engine for change. Global electronic networking is not only remaking economies, but transforming people's values, identities, and social practices. Moreover, these changes are not just occurring within the boundaries of nationstates but in all sorts of unpredictable transnational communications.
These changes are enabling all sorts of newcomers to enter the fray of international politics. NGOs, diasporic communities, critics of land mines and human rights abuses, antiglobalization protesters, journalists,
indigenous peoples, and others are finding their own voices on a global public stage. More ominously, the very technology that is empowering civil society and businesses is enabling political extremists to build global
terrorist networks and pioneer alarming new forms of warfare. The new transnational flows of information are transforming some fundamental terms of power in international affairs. New types of soft power involving moral legitimacy and respect, credibility as an information source, and cultural values are coming to the fore.
Military and financial powers that traditionally have belonged to the dominant nations are now constrained in new ways by soft power and the politics of credibility. A tighter skein of global interdependence may mean that unilateralism by any single nation, especially the United States, could be a more problematic policy approach.
Netpolitik is still an unfolding doctrine. It seems to be characterized, however, by a higher velocity of information, new time pressures on thoughtful policymaking, a more robust pluralism in international affairs, and new challenges to the power of the nation-state and traditional diplomacy. Netpolitik seems to be a volatile force because of its great reach: affecting everything from the exercise of state power and military might to issues of deep personal identity and social values. We barely understand how the Internet is being used across the world; understanding how it is remaking the conduct of international politics will require much more research, study, and debate.
Which is why, in the end there may be great wisdom in "the humility of listening" to each other's stories. Since time immemorial, stories have conveyed rich bodies of complex information in deeply human ways. Thanks to the Internet, more segments of the earth's inhabitants can now tell their stories. This is a significant development in human history. What may matter most in the future is our ability to hear each other's stories, learn from them, and perhaps develop a new global story.