Category Archive 'You’ve Got Mail (1998)'

29 Apr 2008

The Godfather (1972) and Foreign Policy

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In Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail (1998), Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) explains to Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) the divinatory capabilities of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972):

Kathleen Kelley: What is it with men and the Godfather?

Joe Fox: Hello? Hello?

The Godfather is the I Ching.

The Godfather is the sum of all wisdom.

The Godfather is the answer to any question!

What should I take on my vacation? “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

What day is it? “Mawnday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday.”

The answer to your question is “Go to the mattresses.”


John C. Hulsman and A. Wess Mitchell agree with Joe Fox, and proceed to view US Foreign Policy post-9/11 as a kind of re-enactment of The Godfather.

9/11 is the shooting of Vito Corleone at the fruit stand. Different members of the Corleone crime family propose different responses to the crisis. Consigliere Tom Hagen, the Liberal Institutionalist, insists on a policy of negotiation. Santino Corleone, the Neocon Hardliner, overrules him and implements a unilateralist policy of armed force with unfortunate results for Santino.

Our authors think the US should reject the extreme policies of Tom and Sonny, and rely instead upon the Pragmatism and Realism of Michael Corleone, and conclude with a certain smug note of triumph at having pulled off their extended cinematic metaphor.

It seems to this reader, though, that these moderates must have left the theater a bit too early. Michael’s moderation is actually only a pretense, a pose of weakness intended to induce the Corleone family’s enemies to drop their guard. Michael proceeds not only to “hit” all the heads of the Five Families, he even eliminates a family member, his own brother-in-law, who betrayed the family by acting as an informer to the enemy.

If George W. Bush were to have behaved like Michael, he would have given some conciliatory speeches, negotiated a deal with Iran, and then arranged –while the inauguration ceremony for his second term was underway– to nuke Pyongyang, Teheran, Riyadh, Moscow, and Beijing, while also taking care to have the editors of the New York Times and Washington Post taken for a ride.


Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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