Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cyber Diplomacy

Last night I had the pleasure of attending my first official "state" dinner. It was at the Canadian Consul General's residence in Los Angeles. On the evening of the hottest weather ever recorded in downtown LA, we dined by candlelight, as the heat killed the electricity, and discussed cyber politics, warfare and diplomacy. In attendance were a few USC colleagues, a professor from that institution on the other side of town, the Canadian Fulbright chair, the very interesting Dr. Ronald Deibert of the Munk Centre at the University of Toronto, and of course the Consul General.

Now, for the most important part, the guests enjoyed a delicious four course meal, starting with a cilantro chili corn avocado soup [which I am going to have to figure out how to recreate], a farm fresh greens salad, halibut & salmon with veggies and pilaf, and a delicious berries, cream and meringue dessert.

Over the course of the meal we discussed the power of the internet, the capacity for interdisciplinary work, the inconsistency and lack-there-of government policy regarding internet security and the political will/absence-of-will to change the path that the world is heading towards--the cyber arms race.

From a PD practitioner's perspective, the conversation yesterday evening left me with the desire to look further into the ability to turn the cyber arms race that is occurring globally -- which many/most of us don't know about or understand -- into a moment for cyber public diplomacy. There are so many actors at play in this field, from governments to private corporations to civil society actors and individuals--most of whom have a lot of money at stake [Google, RIM (BlackBerry)]-- that there are just enough influential actors that might make PD possible in this scenario. I learned in more than one MPD class that in order for a PD initiative to have a chance at succeeding all of these actors and the international institutions must "buy-in" and fund the project/initiative/campaign.

So I'd like to turn the potential fear of cyber arms race -- which could also lead to over-regulation of the free and public internet by democratic (and non-democratic) governments -- into a moment in which public diplomacy can shine. These various actors should come together to discuss this "cyber world" and advocate and push to avoid the cyber arms race and restriction of internet freedom (and the unforeseen consequences that could arise from that action). Cyber diplomats need to use this key moment to bring the cyber world closer together and fight to maintain the internet freedoms that we support and use every day. If we stopped thinking of the world with eyes from the 20th century - where the biggest and strongest wins the war -- and turn to the 21st century where public diplomacy, transparency and multilateralism can provide security far better than cyber guns, bombs and firewalls -- we could turn the cyber arms race into cyber diplomacy.

Interestingly enough, over the next few days, the U.S. government, along with 12 other countries and 60 private firms are launching the first tests with the new "plan of attack" against a "cyber-blitz" that could be launched by an enemy at our power, water and banking systems. Clearly, the cyber arms race has already begun, once again, the public diplomats must race to catch up...

1 comment:

  1. my name is hani sulastri hamid
    im working on thesis about cyber diplomacy of israel defence force after operation cast lead. It is difficult for me to find any matters about cyber diplomacy because it is a new topic. do you have any books or journal about this topic? actually I really need about definition of cyber diplomacy. this is my email im_hanie@yahoo.com thank you