Voice

Are there any realpolitik films?

Your humble blogger will not be blogging with great frequency over the next few days, as he'll be drinking power-schmoozing diligently going to panels attending the American Political Science Association (APSA) meetings in Washington.  I have to present at a few panels this year, so blogging will be on the lighter side (though if I have time, I want to revisit this question about millennials and foreign policy attitudes). 

Here's a topic for discussion.  Yesterday I had a disturbing dream involving some hybrid of a normal APSA meeting and The Highlander.  Today I finally went to see The Expendables with an IR colleague, which led us into a deep discussion of how much of a bad-ass Dolph Lundgren is how most movies that have any IR component are essentially idealist in their orientation.  This led my companion to ask me an interesting question:  "Has there ever been a film with an explicitly realist take on world politics?" 

I went back and consulted my list of top IR films and came up empty.  I then consulted Steve Walt's list and came up empty again.  In theory Independence Day has some very crude balancing behavior, but let's face it, that's pretty weak beer.  Both The Americanization of Emily (on my list) and Wag the Dog (on Steve's list) are very cynical movies, but I don't think the logic of realpolitik plays that big a role in either film.  The best example that comes to mind is an old Star Trek episode -- A Private Little War -- but that's not a movie. 

In the end, I can offer two proper film suggestions.  The lesser film would be No Way Out (1987), but I can't explain why this is a realist movie without spoiling the ending. 

The better example -- or, at a minimum, the better film -- would be The Godfather (1972), which is not exactly about international relations, but is about negotiating an anarchic environment.  For more on this selection, see John Hulsman and A. Wess Mitchell's The Godfather Doctrine, which started as an article in The National Interest.  As they argue: 

Unlike Tom [Hagen], whose labors as family lawyer have produced an exaggerated devotion to negotiation, and Sonny [Corleone], whose position as untested heir apparent has produced a zeal for utilizing the family arsenal, Michael has no formulaic fixation on a particular policy instrument. Instead, his overriding goal is to protect the family's interests and save it from impending ruin by any and all means necessary. In today's foreign-policy terminology, Michael is a realist.

Still, this is a thin list.  Additional suggestions are welcomed in the comments. 

Daniel W. Drezner

Your humble blogger was so wrong

I see that, over the weekend, Megan McArdle, Brad DeLong and Tyler Cowen all posted about stuff they've gotten wrong as bloggers.  This is an excellent topic to post about.  Bloggers are supposed to prvide real-time analysis on breaking events -- of course we're going to get a lot of stuff wrong.  As Brad correctly notes: 

f you don't mark your beliefs to market occasionally, and throw out worthless intellectual trash, you ossify--you become one of those demented old coots detached from reality ranting unintelligibly at the moon.

Looking back on my eighth (!!) year of blogging, here are the big things I think I got wrong over the past year: 

1)  The Green Movement did not cause Iran's regime to crack upScore one for the Leveretts -- Iran's regime has effectively silenced the Green movement, without any visible internal cost.  Indeed, the regime now seems entrenched enough so that the fundamentalists and conservatives can now ignore reformists and start turning on each other.  I confess, I though the Ashura protests marked an inflection point on Iran.  Nope.  The regime has suffered some serious costs from its internal repression, but Khamenei ain't going anywhere anytime soon. 

2)  Iceland was willing to pay the price of financial isolation.  I knew that Icelanders were outraged at the notion that they had to help bail out Icesave depositors in England and the Netherlands.  I also thought, however, that when the question was put to a referendum, Icelanders would pause for a moment and consider the ramifications of financial isolation.  Um... whoops

3)  The G-20 was been far less useful than I anticipated.  A year ago at this juncture I was pretty pessimistic about the prospects of G-20 macroeconomic policy coordination.  I was hopeful, however, that the G-20 could function effectively as a mechanism to pressure China into revaluing the yuan. 

And... things are worse on both fronts than I anticipated.  At Toronto, the G-20 encouraged contractionary fiscal policies way too early, helping to push the global economy into double3-dip territory.  On the yuan, China has niminally pledged to let the yuan float, but acual movement has been pretty meager.

It only took me about 15 minutes to come up with this short list.  I hereby invite and encourage all commenters to root through the archives to find other screw-ups.