It’s time for the “manchildren” inside the Obama administration, and waving the pom-pons around it, to plug in their iPads, because they’re going to have to work overtime to defend this one. “But… but… What would Mitt Romney do?” isn’t going to cut it this time, boys. The latest foreign policy blunder by the Obama administration is by far the worst of his administration, and will cause lasting damage to U.S. interests and freedom in general.
No, it’s not the crisis in the Crimea, though that is certainly a disaster, the final nail in the coffin of the “reset” and the first battle in a new Cold War. No, it’s not the ongoing collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, or the chaos and mass murder in Libya, which are on the same scale as the atrocities we intervened to prevent. It’s not even the farce of negotiations with Iran, which is pushing ahead with its nuclear program, regardless.
It’s the decision to relinquish control over Internet domain names. As of next year, by Obama administration fiat, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) will no longer be in charge. Instead control will pass to some other international body–most likely, L. Gordon Crovitz points out in today’s Wall Street Journal, the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU), favored by the world’s tyrants.
Like almost everything at the UN, the ITU is controlled by authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China, who marshal voting blocs of unfree countries to drown out free ones. These are countries that want to be able to shut down their citizens’ access to the Internet, and to prevent online activism of various kinds. U.S-controlled Icann is the last defense against the kind of censorship and repression that would entrench their power indefinitely.
Why is the Obama administration giving up control over the Internet’s domain names? For one reason alone: it is embarrassed by the NSA scandal, and wishes to make amends. In a continuing pattern of craven surrender and appeasement–a stark contrast to its bullying approach to domestic opposition–the Obama administration is trying to buy goodwill by giving up a strategic asset that, Crovitz notes, is akin to control of the high seas.
Just as the U.S. Navy has made the world safe for free trade and prosperity, Icann has helped make the Internet an oasis of freedom and entrepreneurship. To give up American power on the Internet is to give up on an open Internet, period. That may be a shock to those who resent American power in any form. But it is the truth–and this is Obama’s worst foreign policy blunder, because it is so vain, so damaging, and so completely avoidable.