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May 09, 2008

American Foreign Policy, Analyzed Through the Prism of The Godfather

Pretty interesting.

Be aware that this isn't really an ego-stroke article for neocons like me (and many of you); Sonny is the "neocon" in this analysis, and his singular mode of dealing with threats -- "Attack" -- is deemed disastrous (and his own ultimate undoing).

It's not really terribly insightful, despite being written for the National Interest by the "Alfred von Oppenheim Scholar in Residence at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, Germany." But it is clever how the brothers Corleone are cast as archetypes representing legal-diplomatic
liberal institutionalism (Tom Hagen), unilateral neocon Jacksonianism (Sonny) and "realism" (Michael), the latter just a Goldilocks-like not-too-hot-not-too-cold middle position.

Quite frankly Maureen Dowd has used The Godfather as the pop-cultural hook for a thousand mix-and-match moroncolumns, so this isn't a new idea. But it is well-done.

Here's Tom the liberal:

First, like many modern Democrats, Tom believes that the family’s main objective should be to return as quickly as possible to the world as it existed before the attack. His overriding strategic aim is the one that Hillary Clinton had in mind when she wrote in a recent Foreign Affairs article of the need for America to “reclaim its proper place in the world.” The “proper place” Tom wants to reclaim is a mirror image of the one that American politicians remember from the 1990s and dream of restoring after 2008—that of the world’s “benign hegemon.”


It is this “Pax Corleone” [i.e., the peaceful situation in which order is maintained due to the pre-eminence of the Corleone Family Superpower] that Sollozzo, in Tom’s eyes, must not be allowed to disrupt. In dealing with the new challenger, however, Tom believes that the brothers must be careful not to do anything that would damage the family business. The way to handle Sollozzo, he judges, is not through force but through negotiation—a second trait linking him to today’s liberal institutionalists. Like more than one of the leading Democratic contenders for the presidency, Tom thinks that even a rogue power like Sollozzo can be brought to terms, if only the family will take the time to hear his proposals and accommodate his needs.

Throughout the movie, Tom’s motto is “we oughta talk to ‘em”—a slogan which, especially since the publication of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, is the line promoted by the lawmakers and presidential hopefuls of the Democratic Party, who now say that immediate, unconditional talks with America’s latest “Sollozzo” (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) are the only option still open to Washington for coping with the Iranian nuclear crisis.

The party’s growing veneration of diplomacy as the sine qua non of American statecraft rests, as it did for Tom, on two assumptions: first, that despite their aggressive posturing, the Sollozzos of the world would rather be status quo than revolutionary powers; and, second, that the other big families have a vested interest in sustaining the Pax Corleone and will therefore not use the family’s distraction with Sollozzo as an opportunity to make their own power grabs. Working from these assumptions, today’s consiglieres have prescribed the same course of action regarding Iran that Tom prescribed for dealing with Sollozzo: a process of intensified, reward-laden negotiation that they believe will pave the way for his admission as a normalized player into the family’s rules-based community.


But the hope Tom offers the family is a false one.

For in order to be successful, the consigliere’s diplomacy must be conducted from a position of unparalleled strength, which the family no longer possesses. Tom no longer has the luxury of always being the man at the table with the most leverage. The era of easy Corleone dominance is over. Power on the streets has already begun to shift into the hands of the Tataglias and Barzinis—the mafia equivalent of today’s BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China). Like the current international system, the situation that confronts the Corleone family is one of increasing multipolarity—a reality that is lost on Tom, who thinks he is still the emissary of the dominant superpower (a delusion that many Democrats apparently share).


The other families have no more incentive to thwart his maneuvers than Russia and China have to thwart those of Iran. And because Tom fails to see this, his strategy is the wrong one for the family, and the wrong one for America.

Thanks to Jeff Larkin.

Already Done! See-Dub takes on the article at Michelle Malkin's.

He has two big problems:

First, Michael is pretty "neocon" in his outlook, too. He's just not as dumb about it as Sonny. But apparently the author missed the whole baptism sequence.

And this line:

MICHAEL: I don't feel I have to wipe everybody out, Tom. Just my enemies.

Second, and this is a great point -- Who's Fredo in this analogy? You know, the idiot clown who "goes against the family" and actively supports the family's enemies?

You know who.

Thanks to DPUD for that.

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posted by Ace at 03:34 PM

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