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Consigliere Diplomacy

donputin0726.jpgFor fans of the iconic film “The Godfather,” John Hulsman and A. Wess Mitchell’s article in the National Interest, which proposes a mafioso view on dominant foreign policy paradigms, will be quite amusing. For anyone who’s read a few more books about diplomacy and international relations, they’ll find the satire a bit thin and perhaps even recklessly simplistic – but also amusing. It should be noted that Sean Guillory has already applied the rich theoretical insights of the Godfather to Russian politics…

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).

But even if Tom doesn’t know the world is shifting, Sollozzo does. Like the two-bit petty tyrants that challenge Washington with mounting confidence in today’s world, Sollozzo senses that fundamental changes are underway in the global system and knows that they give him greater latitude for defying the Corleones than he had in the past. As Sollozzo tells Tom, “The old man is slipping; ten years ago I couldn’t have gotten to him.” The consigliere is wrong about Sollozzo. He is not, like challengers in the past, out to join the Pax Corleone. He is an opportunist who will take things as they come—either as a revolutionary power or a status quo power, but certainly as one out to accelerate and profit from the transition to multipolarity. 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.”