The administration is also putting its money where its rhetoric is. On Tuesday, Secretary Clinton gave a speech lauding Internet freedom and warning autocratic regimes around the world that attempts to limit free access to the Internet will not only fail, but will backfire by provoking and emboldening restless populations. While the remarks had been scheduled for several weeks, the timing is fortuitous, as the secretary’s words are given great weight by the role of online communications and social media in bringing down the Tunisian and Egyptian governments and helping Iranian dissidents communicate. Egypt attempted at times to disrupt the protests by shutting down the Internet, and Iran has long sought to block online tools that could threaten the regime.
Accordingly, Secretary Clinton pledged $25-million for developing technologies to let activists and dissidents evade government-imposed restrictions on online communication, enabling both the co-ordination of protests and communication with the Western world. While a small dollar figure, the Internet is an asymmetrical weapon aimed at the heart of autocratic regimes — billions can be spent on restricting Internet freedom, and it will all be wasted if one blogger can bypass the roadblocks and communicate to the outside world what is happening behind these electronic iron curtains. Governments that seek to oppress their people by limiting their access to the Internet are fighting a losing battle, and a small investment by America, spent wisely, could very well yield big results.
As a tense new day dawns in Iran and protests spread across the Arab world, the United States has recovered from its early missteps and taken a measured, and appropriate, stand on the side of the people of Iran. With new digital tools to back up its diplomatic stance, the United States is finally giving the Iranian regime and their nuclear-obsessed madmen something real to worry about. Let’s hope the administration doesn’t waver and continues along this course.
Matt Gurney is an editor at the National Post, a Canadian national newspaper, and writes and speaks on military and geopolitical issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @mattgurney.
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