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Week In Review: Analysis and Commentary, 97-02-09

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By Dr. Chris P. Ioannides

Sacramento, California, February 9,1997

WHAT IS ALL ABOUT: There is an emerging consensus that the world has entered the information age. Increasingly, nations and societies are seen through the lenses of this information age, and the world is categorized along the dichotomy of the informed and the uninformed; the computer literate and illiterate; those who have access to the Internet and those who do not.

In this respect, the Internet has become the hallmark of the information age while it is being integrated to the other electronic news media. At the same time, the net is offering a most valuable service to democracy, to free speech and to the unimpeded circulation of ideas. Those ideas especially that facilitate the political and cultural discourse here in the United States and throughout the globe. Our world has been indeed "wired" by the Internet and has become a true global village. That is precicely the reason why authoritarian regimes want to control or manipulate the Internet. They fear the exposure of their citizens to the ideas of freedom, democracy, human rights, free enterprise and economic advancement along with social justice.

How all this is related to this column "Week in Review"? I thought it was important to let the readers of the HRI website how I view the role of the Internet in our democracy. For I do subscribe to the notion that the United States--with all its imperfections and limitations--constitutes the beacon of freedom, democracy and human rights around the world. In order for America, however, to perform this global leadership role, the American public, our elected officials and our policy makers need to have an informed opinion about the regions, the cultures and the countries towards which US foreign policy is directed. Lack of understanding of far away societies can lead to disastrous consequences. The Shah's Iran is a case in point and should be didactic given the enormity of US foreign policy failure.

Equally important is the condition that, for American policy towards a region or a country to be sustainable and successful in the long run, this policy has to enjoy the support of the American people. Our support that is. The new Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, stated just this, last Friday. Addressing schoolchildren she said:"We cannot pursue policies abroad that are not understood or supported at home." The Secretary of State is obviously referring to the need of educating our citizenry on foreign affairs.

The Internet does have an important role to play in this regard, for it comes to fill an information vacuum especially in the area of foreign news. The HR-Net offers a rich variety of news sources on Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, the Balkans. The US plays a very important role in this region and our government's policy should be based on the understanding of the multifaceted dynamics and complexities of this geopolitical and multi-ethnic area.

The purpose of this column, therefore, is to perform, to the extent that is possible, the role that the Secretary of State is asking us to play. To better inform and enlighten our citizens on foreign policy matters. In this case, the foreign policy we are interested in, revolves primarily around Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. Out of the enormous amount of news that one can find on the Internet about this region, I will attempt to analyze and comment on what I believe is important and relevant for the better comprehension of these countries and the region in general.

To begin with, allow me to to point out some of the issues I will be discussing every Monday. They include, relations between Greece and Turkey, their domestic dynamics and the regional role of each country; the Cyprus issue; developments in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean and American policies towards these areas; the role of Greek- Americans in the formulation of policies vis a vis these countries and these regions. And of course, I will comment on the crises that these volatile regions have been generating for some time now. It is a sad thought that such crises are likely to re-occur in 1997. The Eastern Mediterranean is over-militarized and at the same time, these armaments, mostly American, are probably going to be used, at some point. Irrespective of who emerges as winner -- if there is one -- in a Greek-Turkish conflict, American interests in the area will be burried, in all likelihood, under the ashes of a catastrophic war.

May be, just may be, a better informed American public, can ask its government to act so as to prevent such war. And perhaps, the Internet can help to educate as many Americans as possible about the risk of war in a region that has already experienced too many wars and its peoples have sufferred enough. Because I believe that the Internet is freedom's tool in our hands in order to serve democracy and promote a value system that cherishes human rights and opposes bigotry, militarism and authoritarianism. Because I believe this, I have hope that the Internet can make a difference in educating our citizens in this particular area of foreign affairs.Also because I believe this, I hope that that we become more self-conscious in the way we communicate and inform others in our journey in cyberspace.

And a final thought for today. As in the real world, there is good and bad in virtual reality and cyberspace, for they are human creation and cannot escape the human condition. It is only logical then, that we should seek to advance cyberspace civility and goodness. Yes fellow surfers, there is such a thing such as cybergoodness that shines where is dark.

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