Question for the Week

Two quotes, and a question that, I think, naturally follows:

First, this is an excerpt from the piece President Obama published in the latest issue of Newsweek. In the piece, he explains why Haiti matters to America and Americans, and explains why we-- as individuals and as a nation-- must act to aid the people of Haiti:

But above all, we act for a very simple reason: in times of tragedy, the United States of America steps forward and helps. That is who we are. That is what we do. For decades, America's leadership has been founded in part on the fact that we do not use our power to subjugate others, we use it to lift them up—whether it was rebuilding our former adversaries after World War II, dropping food and water to the people of Berlin, or helping the people of Bosnia and Kosovo rebuild their lives and their nations.

With this language, Obama comes closer to enunciating a true liberal worldview than he has previously.  I think he means it, I think he believes it, and I think that as the Obama Doctrine becomes increasingly clear, it will be formed around the arguments he makes here.

Second, this is a tweet, translated from Chinese, that has circulated widely among Chinese Twitterers:

The sin of Facebook is that it helps people know who they wanna know. The sin of Twitter is that it allows people to say what they wanna say. The sin of Google is that it lets people find what they wanna find, and Youtube let us see what we wanna see. So, they are all kicked away.

President Obama is writing about helping the victims of a natural disaster, which is something we can and should and will do. But his language here-- about using American power to lift people up-- has much deeper implications. In the world we live in today, unfettered access to the internet is all but a natural right. As this Tweet makes clear, it is how we know, say, find, and see what we want. And if it is our goal to lift up individuals, ensuring access to the internet has to be a crucial part of that goal.

So, the question: Given what has happened with Google and China-- with increasingly stringent censorship and revelations of a vast global espionage campaign-- is it even possible for the U.S. and American companies to carry on business-as-usual with Beijing?

This Thursday, when Secretary of State Clinton delivers a "major address" on internet freedom, I think we'll hear a response to this question. If the Obama Administration is serious about the liberal values it has enunciated, that response can't be a positive one.