The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight


March 13, 2006

During one IR seminar in grad school (this would have been about 1985), George Quester pointed out on several occasions that a good book could be written comparing international relations and mobsters. Has anyone done that in the past two decades?

Maybe the point is too obvious. It certainly would not be especially controversial to realists like John Mearsheimer:

For Realists, all states are basically black boxes that behave the same way. If the United States has to be ruthless, the United States will be ruthless. That’s the argument that Realists make.

Like mobsters, self-interested states are fully prepared to use violence to get what they want (or need). International life under anarchy can be just as nasty and brutal as Hobbes imagined it. Only a balance of power can provide a semblance of order, which is not to be confused with peace or justice.

Maybe this explains why I like film noir, “hard-boiled” fiction…and HBO’s “The Sopranos.”

Partial spoiler alert: don’t read any further if you did not see the first episode of the latest season. I thought the second most interesting aspect of last night’s episode was the revelation that FBI agent Harris, who Tony Soprano knows well as evinced by the encounter at the Italian eatery, had just returned from a lengthy assignment in Pakistan working on terrorism.

What does his re-appearance mean about how the FBI weights threats: mafia or terrorism?

Or, was this information an example of Chekhov’s gun? After all, Harris is apparently carrying a parasite from Pakistan.

And the somewhat mysterious attack on Hesh Rabkin and his yarmulke-wearing son-in-law (Eli) could simply foreshadow something much more menacing.

You know: the mafia and terrorism, connected.

At the end of the show, of course, Tony dials 9-1-1.

The creative people potentially have a lot to work with here.

Finally, and this isn’t related to the terror angle, is it significant that Harris has a new partner named Goddard?

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.