Googleing COIN

Following WWII we had to conduct the Berlin Airlift in order to contest the Soviets for control of West Berlin. This was both a physical and moral demonstration of our resolve to ensure Democracy survived in Berlin. It was also a physical manifestation of an IO theme – it broadcast around the world, recorded in history books and can now be googled on the WWW. In the latter it continues to provide one of the best examples of the values the United States holds closest, the resources which the United States can employ to altruistic ends and the will of a society founded on democratic principles.

During the Cold War Voice of America continued to broadcast hope to those who were walled off from liberty. It was the consoling voice to tell listeners that “we know you are still there, and we hear you – you are not forgotten – we are working on your behalf”. It provided hope and comfort.

Now we have the Internet. It is the ultimate tool for self-expression. Thomas Friedman in The World is Flat, says it enabled the democratization of information. Think about that. It allows people to get to the truth, or truths, of the world. It allows them to evaluate the information they are being told by comparing and contrasting it. It allows them connect, cooperate, collaborate, communicate. Self empowerment – what does that sound like? How about liberty?

Friedman uses allot of examples – like the public calling BS on the CBS investigation into the President’s Air National Guard record. How do you pull the wool over the eyes of people when they can easily whisk it away with a few mouse clicks. Why did China’s agreement with Google have conditions? I think the Chinese understand the power of Google better then we do, funny since we are the ones who are supposed to promote liberal democracy (no time or place to argue party politics here)

Friedman talks about the fiber optic globe in Google HQs that lights up proportionately to where the most searches are going on. He says that the two darkest places were the Middle East and Africa (BTW – what an ISR tool!). Is there a correlation to the lack of the democratization of information and the conflict that ensues? Earlier in the book he discusses the economic development of states and peoples through the use of IT – it provides the base for self start ups. It provides access to opportunities for both ends on the conversation. For many of these states they have skipped a generation (or parts of it) and proceeded right to an economy made possible by IT. He talks about how the fiber optic cable, the micro processor and the PCs, Lap Tops, PDAs and cell phones are exponential-izing the flattening of the world (hence the title)

So amongst all the talk about the Informational aspect of the DIME, the people as the Critical Capability of the AIF CoG, the need for Inter-Agency capacity, etc. and the discussions we’ve had on blogging – why are we shying away from what may allow the people of Iraq to make their own political choice and providing the lasting solution to peace? I for one am convinced that our values speak for themselves. They are good. They have been misrepresented by Osama and company, skewed, twisted, etc. to provide the foundations and justification for hate of those things which are good.

I think it is because we fear that because we can’t manipulate the WWW better the groups like AQ then our values will held to an unfair standard and people might choose poorly. Maybe we should not ask if we can be better at out manipulating AQ, but how about millions and millions of people? Imagine, millions even billions of people being able to compare ideas, being able to communicate, being able to know the true nature of people like Osama, being able to see the faces of Holocaust victims, being able to see the stricken from 9/11. Yes they will be able to see our own warts, but who comes out ahead?

I’m fairly sure we can’t avoid it anyway. There are already some ISPs in Iraq, but what if instead of dreading we encouraged it? What if we provided the means for all the good things – such as self empowerment, and the ability to thrive, to succeed, to stand own their own, to restore dignity, to explore, to learn – to choose? Isn’t that what we hold up as the ultimate prize in their struggle?

Who might help us to lay the IT foundations? I’d start with those who have the first hand benefit of how it changed them, and understand that as the world becomes flatter (hat tip to Friedman), the more everyone benefits – it increases the supply and consumer base. So maybe we ask India and China to help out with an IT investment up front. Then maybe we leverage the different communities of CoPs – since they are among the most altruistic and free – to help with the multitude of problems in business, education, law, military, etc. – as a bonus those willing to help will be able to do so in large part by being on line.

Some may argue it’s a genie – but I ask you to look at the greater world and what they have done with IT – is it a negative or positive force? Does it empower states, groups or individuals the most? Friedman points out another thing – it allows the small to act big, and the big to act small. Groups come together for like interests, but how many in a group share 100% like interests. I’d argue the strength of the Internet goes to the Individual above all others, it allows them to found, join and leave groups by giving them the freedom to do so. It exposes the true nature of groups, and allows people to make good and bad choices.

Empowering individuals is cost effective as it emphasizes the freedom of “self-empowerment”. If we know we can't create the bureacracy to meet our Informational needs, maybe we should take adavantage and extend the one that is already available - the Iraqi people through the Internet.