Politics (part 1)

I have been reading Tom Barnett’s latest book, Blueprint for Action (see his blog here). He is much more hawkish than I have been, but then again knows a helluva lot more than I do about the international situation. It’s forced me to try to educate myself a little bit about foreign policy matters — though I’ll be the first to admit I’m as stupid and naive as someone can be about this stuff.

Anyway, his view of the relation between US and the rest of the world seems to me captured by the following analogy. I plan to offer a different analogy in a Part 2 post.

Imagine a classroom of 30 students. The teacher is gone, never to return. Let’s say 10 students are model students — mature, together, courteous. Another 10 are just the opposite — unruly, rude, belligerent. The other 10 are “swing,” meaning they’ll sometimes join the Civilized and other times play with the Unruly. Suppose you are a member of the Civilized — indeed, a leader in that group. What should you do?

You could urge your group to band together and try to ignore the Unruly. You could let the Swings join or quit as they please. And you could hope you’ll be left alone. Fat chance.

Or, you could actively encourage the Swings to join you and gain further strength in numbers. You’ll do this through diplomacy and helping them with whatever it is they want to do.

But you’ll also have to do something about the Unruly. What can you do? You can try diplomacy, like with the Swings, but this won’t always work. Barnett’s idea is this. You get active. You pick on ones you think are ripe targets, and you and some other Civilized members can corner them and say, “Why don’t you join us? If you do, we won’t beat the crap out of you.” If they resist, you beat the crap out of them, and continue doing so until they are ready to join. Once they join, you be sure to give them all the connections and incentives to stay in — now they are friends. Then on to the next Unruly, and so on.

The plan, in the end, is to get everyone Civilized. If you don’t, there will always be problems.

So how fair is this analogy?

About Huenemann

Curious about the ways humans use their minds and hearts to distract themselves from the meaninglessness of life.
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1 Response to Politics (part 1)

  1. ganselmi says:

    It’s a very strong analogy for realpolitik, which is certainly a major component of how the US has operated in the world since the end of WWII. But I would also say that there is another component to the US’s relationship with the rest of the world – one which complements the realpolitik model – and that is the Wilsonian idealism, which is based on the hope that visionary international leadership can also work to foster the “better angels” of the otherwise unruly kids.


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