Netpolitik: What the Emergence of Networks Means for Diplomacy and Statecraft

Charlie Firestone and Leshuo Dong at the Aspen Journal of Ideas: “…The network is emerging as a dominant form of organization for our age of complexity. This is supported by technological and economic trends. Furthermore, enemies are networks, players are networks, even governments are becoming networks. It makes sense to understand network principles and apply them for use in the world of diplomacy. Accordingly, governments, organizations and individuals should heed these recommendations:

  • Understand and apply two-way communications and network principles to all forms of diplomacy with the aim of earning the sympathy, empathy and where applicable, the loyalty of future generations. This is a mindset shift for governments, diplomats and citizens around the world.
  • This means engaging the world’s populations to communicate with each other. That will entail physical connections to the global common medium, an ability to have what you send be received by others in the form you send it, end to end, and literacy in the communications methods of the day. The world’s population should have a meaningful right to connect.
  • Of course, if there is to be a global communications network, it needs to be safe, so governments remain in the role of protector of the environment needed for users to trust in their networks. States have a role to protect against cyberwar, cybercrimes, and loss of a person’s identity, i.e., security and privacy online. But these protections cannot be a screen for illegitimate governmental controls over or unwarranted surveillance of its citizens. Nor can governments be expected to shoulder that burden alone. Everyone will need to practice a basic level of Net hygiene and literacy as an element of their digital citizenship.

As networks proliferate, principles of netpolitik will emerge. Governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and every citizen would be well advised to be thinking in these terms in the years ahead….(More).”