Edited by Amy Wong:
On Feb. 15, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented her second speech regarding Internet freedom, providing a more detailed exposition on this idea that she first mentioned in her 2010 speech on the subject. Moreover, she foisted this idea into America’s foreign policy framework. The recent state of affairs has indicated that the United States’ talk of Internet diplomacy has already evolved into the stage of concrete implementation.
Hillary’s two speeches on Internet freedom not only have obvious personal flair but also reflect the U.S. response to the world’s changes in the age of the Internet, as it makes long-term strategic considerations. When a concept turns into a type of policy and becomes reality, an ideology is born. Not unlike the Monroe Doctrine of the past, we can take Hillary’s concept of Internet freedom and call it the “Hillary Doctrine,” and at present, as a multi-polar world gradually forms, we can look at this as America’s effort at maintaining stability and reviving its status as the leader.
America’s “distinguishing feature,” as per the “Hillary Doctrine”
Hillary’s Internet freedom ideology is not at all about promoting Internet freedom on a global scale. In reality, at its core, it uses Internet freedom to strengthen America’s management of the cyber world and then to expand U.S. national interests on the Internet. The U.S. State Department thus defined and emphasized Internet freedom in order to protect America from suffering the traditional restrictions of sovereignty in global information space. This explains why Internet freedom and the export of freedom values are unrelated. The core idea is instead to broaden the scope of usefulness for U.S. sovereignty and to expand America’s national interests; this is a kind of “closing in” on Internet information space.
Hence, we can understand why, when making her speech on Internet freedom, Hillary called the exposure of U.S. diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks as a “mistake.”* At the same time, in countries that subsidize nations at odds with U.S. interests, she defines the domestic opposition’s use of the Internet to acquire information that it then implements to protest against and even overthrow the government as “proper.”* Thus, we can again see the appearance of a double standard.
Whether they admit it or deny it, a tendency towards pragmatism still exists in American foreign policy. And in some sense, this tendency towards pragmatism involves a rather strong sense of opportunism. On the issue of Internet freedom, this is shown in how different countries receive different treatment, according to America’s past and present actions; even the U.S. itself is unable to implement an unrestricted flow of information in any amount of time or under any circumstances. This has already been proven by U.S. national information strategy and national military strategy, by the Patriot Act, and by the recent joint submission of an amendment to the Federal Information Security Management Act by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Joe Lieberman and Sens. Susan Collins and Thomas Carper.
By making the Internet freedom strategy a tool of American foreign policy, in reality, they are drawing a line on Internet space: When it comes to America’s national security, those who obey will prosper, and those who do not will be exterminated. Meanwhile, national security, the meaning of which remains vague, was the instrument the U.S. executive branch wished for long ago following 9/11, which can go so far as to force American’s to give up some of their rights.
In some sense, the Internet freedom strategy that Hillary forcefully carries out is in fact clearly Cold War thinking, namely the drawing of a line between ideology and U.S. interests. The ultimate goal of this is none other than to boost U.S. leadership status, recovering America’s lone hegemony in a unipolar world.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War soon followed and a global structure of multi-polarization has been increasingly taking shape. Yet Cold War thinking has never truly disappeared, but from beginning to end, like a ghost, it hovers around the heads of people like Hillary, impossible to drive off. To put it bluntly, the emergence of a multi-polar global structure is a reality that people like Hillary do not want to accept. Internet freedom, which is at the core of the “Hillary Doctrine,” is in the midst of leading to the emergence of a kind of Cold War Internet defense attack, and if allowed to go unchecked, it could lead to a Cold War style split in the Internet world, maybe even of epidemic proportions.
Unilateralism, which the U.S. is already pursuing, has already been proven by both history and real evidence not to lead to heaven but rather to hell. That the world is forming a multi-polar structure is already an unavoidable trend; it will not be diverted merely because of America’s determination, thereby recovering the United States’ status as the lone hegemony. There is no way to use the concept of Internet diplomacy — with Internet freedom at its center — to realize this goal. The “Hillary Doctrine” is thus doomed, unable to realize the honor and glory of the American Dream as in the days of old.
Meanwhile, the events in North Africa and the Middle East happened without contribution from Internet and social networking — whether it be Twitter, YouTube or Facebook. These things were merely tools of revolution, regardless of what flower or color they were. They were, however, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Both Hillary’s encouragement of Internet freedom and righteous indignation were merely expressions of U.S. concern for whether the turbulent situations in North Africa and the Middle East were in its national interests. Hillary’s eye is fixed on whether the U.S. can, in the end, control its strategic status in the region as well as its oil resources. This is a sort of opportunist pragmatism.