Week 14 Ben Halperin

Cohn and Abdo provide a unique contrast in how governments utilize or control the Internet and social media. Cohn notes the government’s shift away from America.gov to a “‘more proactive’ Web engagement strategy” (Cohn). They describe that their new strategy is based on the idea that “people don’t visit you, you have to go to them.” This more proactive web strategy involved using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Because the content is being put on these websites, the government is having their content made shorter to fit Facebook posts and over several Tweets. To go along with this effort, the government has also added increased emphasis on translation services. This is very important because other countries’ governments and, perhaps more notably, their citizens can find out about American foreign policy issues. These services allow for American policies to be spread, perhaps to countries with political strife and mistreated populations, like Iran.

Abdo’s piece outlines the lack of support that the Americans gave the Iranian protesters during the events of 2009. At the time, the protestors were demanding many different things, and were “far less unified in its goals” than Egypt in its rebellions. Abdo also notes how the U.S. was far more supportive of the Egyptian protestors than of the Iranians. She then explains that if the Iranians had similar American support, perhaps the 2009 Iranian rebellions would not have lost its legs. In much the same way, had the Iranian protesters utilized the American foreign policy sites, they could have been better suited in the protests. The protestors could have been more informed about the Americans’ stance on issues, and could align themselves thusly. With these translations of information on social networking sites, the world’s massive young population could be in a better place to communicate with their governments and get what they want. Perhaps with the State Department’s new social media strategy, the Iranians would not have needed similar support that the Egyptians got to go forth with their rebellion. They would have known to be more direct in their goals and would have not been stopped.

What do you think? Do you think the 2009 Iranian protests would have been more successful with more American support? Or if they had more succinct goals?

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3 Responses to Week 14 Ben Halperin

  1. I’m going to take a stab at answering your question and in my honest opinion, I think that US support might not necessarily be as meaningful in affecting the outcome. First, I think you have to define what you mean by US support because clearly, the US was pro-Mousavi so if you mean moral support and condemnation, there was US support. If, however, by support you mean an interventionist war, then it’s a different matter, though I must add that the US would never do that (it lacks justification and resources amongst others). Hence, realistically, the US could never have supported Iran in that sense. If, however, you mean support in terms of foreign pressure (which was evident), I think that one would have to consider not merely US pressure but how Iran reacts to that pressure. I’m hypothesizing that the extent of that support in being able to affect the regime’s actions in large part depends on whether the US is central in Iran’s economic relationship (or if Iran stands to lose from increased US pressure). I’m guessing not because US has already a ton of sanctions on Iran and yes, it hurts, but not enough because Iran can depend on its copious oil reserves.

  2. alexilexa says:

    While I find that Iranian protests COULD have been more successful with more American support, I do not believe that American support (utilization of American foreign policy sites and translation of information on social media networking sites) would be the sufficient or necessary factor of Iranian revolution’s success. While American support in internet/social media sites would help in motivating the crowd, there are still many other factors that are needed for a successful revolution which American support would not satisfy (such as hierarchical organization, communication on the grounds etc.). As such, it is too simple to claim that American support would have made the Iranian protests more successful.

    • Alexilexa, nobody claims that foreign intervention (US invovlement) is the only condition. It is but one of many variables that affect regime behavior.

      And I think you’re really making somewhat confusing statements, you write that ‘As such, it is too simple to claim that American support would have made the Iranian protests more successful.’ and on the other hand, you also write that ‘While I find that Iranian protests COULD have been more successful with more American support …’ These statements indicate divergent points so I think you need to clarify which you believe, and give more adequate examples of why/why not.

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