[Marxism] Pax Corleone

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jun 21 17:13:43 MDT 2008

Pax Corleone
by John C. Hulsman and A. Wess Mitchell


IT IS ONE of the most well-known scenes in cinematic history. Don 
Vito Corleone, head of the most powerful of New York's 
organized-crime families, walks alone across the street from his 
office to buy some oranges from the fruit stand. He mumbles 
pleasantly to the Chinese owner, then turns his attention to the task 
at hand. However, his peaceful idyll is shattered by the sounds of 
running feet and multiple gunshots—and he is left bleeding to death 
in the street, as his son Fredo cradles his body.

By a miracle, he is not dead, only gravely wounded. His two other 
sons, Santino (Sonny) and Michael, as well as his consigliere, Tom 
Hagen, an adopted son himself, gather in an atmosphere of shock and 
panic to try to decide what to do next—and how to respond to the 
attempted assassination of the don by Virgil "the Turk" Sollozzo. 
This, of course, is the hinge of Francis Ford Coppola's The 
Godfather, one of the greatest movies ever produced by American 
cinema. However, given the present changes in the world's power 
structure, the movie also becomes a startlingly useful metaphor for 
the strategic problems of our times.

The aging Vito Corleone, emblematic of cold-war American power, is 
struck down suddenly and violently by forces he did not expect and 
does not understand, much as America was on September 11. Even more 
intriguingly, each of his three "heirs" embraces a very different 
vision of how the family should move forward following this wrenching 
moment. Tom Hagen, Sonny and Michael approximate the three American 
foreign-policy schools of thought—liberal institutionalism, 
neoconservatism and realism—vying for control in today's disarranged 
world order.

The Consigliere

AS VITO'S heirs gather, the future of the Corleone dynasty hangs in 
the balance. The first to offer a strategy is Tom, the German-Irish 
transplant who serves as consigliere (chief legal advisor) to the 
clan. Though an adopted son, Tom is the most familiar with the inner 
workings of the New York crime world. As family lawyer and diplomat, 
he is responsible for navigating the complex network of street 
alliances, backroom treaties and political favors that surround and 
sustain the family empire. His view of the Sollozzo threat and how 
the family should respond to it are outgrowths of a legal-diplomatic 
worldview that shares a number of philosophical similarities with the 
liberal institutionalism that dominates the foreign-policy outlook of 
today's Democratic Party.

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."

This is the system that Tom, in his role as consigliere, was 
responsible for maintaining. By sharing access to the policemen, 
judges and senators that (as Sollozzo puts it) the don "carries in 
his pocket like so many nickels and dimes," the family managed to 
create a kind of Sicilian Bretton Woods—a system of political and 
economic public goods that benefited not only the Corleones, but the 
entire mafia community. This willingness to let the other crime 
syndicates drink from the well of Corleone political influence 
rendered the don's disproportionate accumulation of power more 
palatable to the other families, who were less inclined to form a 
countervailing coalition against it. The result was a consensual, 
rules-based order that offered many of the same benefits—low 
transaction costs of rule, less likelihood of great-power war and the 
chance to make money under an institutional umbrella—that America 
enjoyed during the cold war.

full: http://www.nationalinterest.org/Article.aspx?id=17008

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