The Wall Street Journal‘s Jerry Seib has a nice column today describing efforts by a group of senators — led, of course, by the Three Amigos: John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman — to provide funding to stymie Iran’s efforts to censor the Internet. As Seib notes, the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act “authorizes the U.S. government to develop proxy Web servers and Web addresses beyond the reach of the Iranian government, and to deploy technologies that would allow Iranians to go to those sites anonymously to stay in touch with one another and the outside world via the Internet.” This bill has already passed the Senate and is now awaiting an appropriation. But here’s the really interesting part of the article. Seib writes:
The idea is uncomfortable for the Obama administration, largely because some advocates of Internet-freedom legislation have in mind helping Chinese dissidents, not Iranian democracy protesters. Wrangling with China’s leaders, on whom the U.S. is depending for help with, among many other things, putting pressure on Iran, is a much trickier proposition.
Come again? The Obama administration doesn’t want to facilitate the free flow of information into China? It would prefer that the Chinese people be subject to censorship by their Communist government? If this were any other administration I would find that amazing. But coming from President Obama — who made no attempts to speak directly with the Chinese people during his recent visit and did everything possible to make nice with the ruling oligarchy — it is eminently believable. It is also deeply misguided. The U.S. has a long-term interest in fostering the growth of a free, liberal, and democratic China. The existing regime, while willing to do business with us (and buy up our debt), is also fostering a dangerous showdown with Taiwan in an attempt to bolster its nationalist credentials — a showdown that could eventually embroil us in war. Moreover, China consistently opposes U.S. interests in such flashpoints as North Korea and Iran, and it is fostering close ties with some of the worst thugs on the planet.
That doesn’t mean we should try to overthrow the existing regime by force. It does mean that, at a minimum, we should help dissidents and do more to facilitate accurate information getting to the people. That the Obama administration apparently views this as a dangerous policy shows a narrow realpolitik orientation that bodes ill for American foreign policy in the years ahead.