May 07, 2008

"The Godfather" Doctrine

For all you film-world-meets-international-relations geeks, there is an interesting article by John C. Hulsman and A. Wess Mitchell in the Los Angeles Times on the "Godfather Doctrine":

It is one of the best-known scenes in cinematic history. Vito Corleone, head of one of the most powerful organized-crime families in New York, crosses the street to buy some oranges from a fruit stand. Seconds later, his peaceful idyll is shattered as multiple gunshots leave him bleeding in the street -- victim of a hit by Mafia rival Virgil "the Turk" Sollozzo.

By a miracle, he is only badly wounded. Two of his sons, Santino (Sonny) and Michael, and his adopted son and consigliere, Tom Hagen, gather in an atmosphere of shock to try to decide how to save the family.

This, of course, is the hinge of Francis Ford Coppola's movie, "The Godfather." It is also a startlingly useful metaphor for the strategic problems and global power structure of our time. The don, emblematic of Cold War American power, is struck by forces he did not expect and does not understand, as was America on 9/11. Intriguingly, his heirs embrace very different visions of family strategy that approximate the three schools of thought -- liberal institutionalism, neoconservatism and realism -- vying for control of U.S. foreign policy today.

Dr. iRack recommends you read the whole thing, and then chime in if you have a better movie-as-frame-for-world-politics pick.