This month, I had the pleasure of joining some top-notch Fletcher alums at the SXSW Interactive Festival for a discussion at the emerging edge of foreign policy and social media. It’s a topic that I blogged about in my first weeks as Dean of The Fletcher School, and one that continues to play an important role in world events.
Yesterday, the Turkish government began blocking access to YouTube, following last week’s move by Prime Minister Erdogan to block Twitter — a move that is meeting resistance in Turkish courts as well as an international community of free speech advocates. The incident reminds me of a question that a young Russian woman asked of our panel at SXSW. She wondered if the U.S. was implementing any programs to encourage other nations to be open in their use of social/digital tools.
As I said in my response to her: “I think the biggest thing we can do is communicate through example… that the more our leaders use these tools effectively and admit the facility of open source diplomacy and foreign policy, the more likely it is that other nations will step up to follow.” This was true of our own military, which went from being very closed in terms of its use of social media and over time developed a comfort level and fluency with these tools — an inevitable result of their widespread use and adoption by our citizens. I remain optimistic about the continued spread of these tools for collaboration and bridge building in the international realm.
I hope you’ll watch and participate in the dialogue we started in Austin.
I also invite you to join us at our upcoming conference Turkey’s Turn? Perennial Linchpin or Emerging Hub? April 10-11, 2014. It promises to be a very timely discussion following the nationwide municipal elections in Turkey. We hope to see you there!
Dean Stavridis with his basset hound, Lilly.
Dean James Stavridis is the 12th leader of The Fletcher School since its founding in 1933. A retired Admiral in the U.S. Navy, he led the NATO Alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 as Supreme Allied Commander.