Monday, January 5, 2015

President Obama as Stringer Bell

Hawkish Republicans face a big challenge these days: how to distance themselves from the foreign policy failures of the Bush/Cheney administration but not buy into the isolationism of libertarians like Sen. Rand Paul. Today Colin Dueck and Roger Zakheim took on that challenge in an article titled: Toward a Reform-Conservative Foreign Policy.

Throughout the article, they define President Obama's foreign policy approach as "retreat." What strikes me is that their underlying assumption is that military power is the only power. In other words, a nation is in retreat if it is not either waging war or threatening to do so. It is the only tool in their tool box.

Those of you who read here regularly will recognize that I have often referred to this as a reliance on dominance as the only form of power. Because some of us recognize partnership as an alternative form of power, we are able to see a President who is not in retreat - but is actively engaging and providing leadership all over the globe.

As I was contemplating all of that, I thought about the character Stringer Bell (played by Idris Elba) in HBO's series The Wire. Those of you who have watched the series will remember that Stringer is second-in-command of the Barksdale gang. While the leader - Avon Barksdale - is in prison, Stringer attempts to bring all the rival Baltimore gangs together to stop killing each other and instead, share territory, product and profits. But some of the leaders - including Avon once he gets out of prison - have a hard time imagining anything but war.

Here is a clip from Season 3 where Stringer tries to talk Avon into seeing the possibilities of partnership instead of constant war (you will have to click the link to watch because embedding is not allowed). Rather than wasting all of their resources on killing each other and constantly going in and out of jail, Stringer explains the possibilities of "seeing nothing but bank" and that "we can run more than corners B...[we can] run this goddamn city."

In the end, of course, Avon lacks Stringer's vision and can't see the possibilities. These "reform conservatives" sound exactly like Avon in their inability to contemplate anything other than failed attempts at military dominance.

President Obama echoes Stringer in being able to envision a different way.
For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes -- and, yes, religions -- subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared.
P.S. I know that Avon had Stringer killed - in part over this disagreement. But no, we don't need to take the analogy that far :-)

1 comment:

  1. Idris Elba went on to play Nelson Mandela, so he was on to something.