VIDEO: The latest from Wesley Clark
Wesley Clark is 62 years old. He is a retired four-star general, and is the former supreme allied commander of NATO. He’s a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a former (and perhaps future) presidential candidate. He’s a West Point valedictorian and a Rhodes Scholar. He also has a MySpace page, and a Facebook page, and he posts videos to YouTube.
The past year has seen public figures embracing sites like these to varying degrees. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Sam Brownback all announced their candidacies via Webcasts. Many 2008 presidential candidates have official MySpace pages. (Some have more friends than others — John Edwards: 12,253; Tom Tancredo: 957.) Edwards has embraced video blogging. Former candidate Mark Warner even hosted a town hall–style meeting last summer in Second Life. Of course, YouTube can also provide less flattering glimpses of candidates, as with the infamous George Allen “macaca” kerfuffle, and David Obey’s “idiot liberals” outburst last week.
But Clark is using online technology a little differently. He’s not a candidate (at least not yet). He’s trying to prevent a war. Last month, Clark helped launched StopIranWar.com, a site billed as a “one-stop resource for all Americans” to help avoid a looming catastrophe like the one playing out in Iraq.
On the site, Clark uses YouTube for video blog entries. In his stiff but straight-talking way, he teams with Jon Soltz, an Iraq veteran and chairman of VoteVets.org, to explore and explain the military ramifications of a potential attack on Iran: what it would mean from a strategic perspective for our overextended National Guard and reserves, for the troops on the ground in Iraq, and for our interests across the region.
There are only two clips up so far, but Clark and Soltz also text blog (each post branded, of course, with the requisite Del.icio.us, Digg, and Technorati markers, and open for comments). Most interesting, though, is how Clark embraces the many ways of amplifying his message across cyberspace. Visitors are encouraged to add Clark as a friend on Facebook and to join his “Securing America’s Future” MySpace group. He employs the mapping program Frappr — a site originally conceived by its founders as a means of keeping in touch with post-college friends — to help connect constituents in far-flung areas. The site even uses Flickzor to allow visitors to send and receive video messages.
More prosaically, users are given the YouTube code and encouraged to post Clark’s videos on their own blogs. There’s an online petition, audio presentations of Clark’s media appearances, form letters meant for Congress — even downloadable T-shirt transfers.
The site’s ultimate efficacy remains to be seen, of course. But it would be nice if the Bush administration could approach Middle Eastern diplomacy with the same open mind and innovative thinking that Clark is using trying to prevent their next foreign policy blunder.
On the Web
Wesley Clark on MySpace: //www.myspace.com/securingamerica