Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 film The Godfather has become a cultural landmark, referenced in everything from The Simpsons to The Sopranos. With The Godfather Doctrine (Princeton), John C. Hulsman and A. Wess Mitchell have applied the differing views of mob boss Don Corleone’s three sons (excluding the hapless Fredo) to differing schools of American foreign policy. The hotheaded Sonny is a neocon, while adopted son and family consigliere Tom Hagen represents what the authors call “liberal institutionalism.” Michael Corleone represents the authors’ preferred model of realism, since he senses that a shift is under way on the streets toward a more diffuse power arrangement.
The analogy works up to a point, especially with Sonny, for whom violence is always the first option. But the authors stretch the idea beyond its limits. America’s alliances and enmities around the globe are too complex to be successfully squeezed into the template of three fictional gangsters dealing with Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo.