On Wednesday, October 29, The Institute of World Politics hosted several extraordinary public service leaders as panelists for an event on the topic of “Digital Soft Power: The Frontline of Defense in the War Against Extremism.” The event was sponsored by the Center for Human Rights and International Affairs, which is a project of IWP and the non-profit organization Good of All. Through its partnership with IWP and other academic centers around the world, Good of All promotes human rights in direct relation to and as affirmed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948.
The distinguished panelists included Matthew Daniels, J.D., Ph.D, IWP professor and founder of the Center for Human Rights and International Affairs; IWP founder and president John Lenczowski; the Honorable William H. Webster, former Director of the FBI and former Director of Central Intelligence; the Honorable William S. Sessions, former FBI Director; and General Richard Myers (USAF, Ret.) Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2001-05).
After a brief introduction explaining the mission and background behind Good of All and the Center, each panelist presented on the notion of using digital media as a device in the fight for universal human rights. The statements focused on the ability of digital soft power, through avenues such as media and social networking, to truly affect populations throughout the world in the battle for human dignity and freedom.
Judge Webster began by commenting on how the digital age, which currently exists, must be recognized and utilized in this fight. Similarly, Judge Sessions explained how the United States must take on the challenge to find ways to make soft power work instead of resorting to military force. He explained that the battle of ideas the US is currently fighting must draw serious attention, contemplation, and reaction by policy leaders. If not, radical ideas will win the day. General Myers stressed the cross section between universal human rights and the digital age. Through information technology and communications, it is important to take advantage of the current digital revolution. He also argued that the military instrument of statecraft is often overused and that diplomacy or soft power is underutilized.
Following these comments, Dr. Daniels led a question and answer session. The Q & A addressed the concerns of the audience related to the issue of regimes blocking the internet and the ways in which the digital world can be used to spread and incite evil. Overall, the event created an atmosphere in which critical ideas about human rights and the developing digital world were combined in order to create a better understanding of the national security threats which the United States and the Western world face today. The innovative instrument of digital soft power has the ability to defeat such threats in the name of human dignity and freedom.
The event also served to launch the new website softpower.org.