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The Godfather Doctrine: A Foreign Policy Parable Hardcover – March 1, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691141479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691141473
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 4.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"In The Godfather, Mafia don Vito Corleone is shot down on the street by rivals, taken by surprise in a world where the rules have changed and a new course must be charted. Corleone's circumstances mirror the state of our nation and hold lessons for its future, according to the two international-relations experts who wrote The Godfather Doctrine, out this week. Co-authors John C. Hulsman and A. Wess Mitchell are a rare pair: entertaining and instructive."--Boston Globe

"Still, as much as I like The Godfather, I never thought of it as the guide to American foreign policy options in the 21st century. Fortunately, two other guys did. The Godfather has always been a joy to watch; however, given the present changes in the world's power structure, the movie becomes a startlingly useful metaphor for the strategic problems of our times. . . . [A] cute little book."--Kevin Horrigan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"If, as Emerson posited, events are 'in the saddle' and riding humankind, how do Obama and the Americans who turn their lonely eyes to him sort it all out in the world of globalization? Together. Emphatically. Through the untinted prism of realism. That's what the authors argue. The 'Pax Corleone' allegory, so imperfect and ironic, is their clever yet thought-provoking way of summoning us to become, pragmatically, our best selves. Dream City, Reality City--can they coexist, even ascend, in peace? For 10 recessionary bucks, The Godfather Doctrine forces us to think about how."--Gene Krzyzynski, Buffalo News

"It's a fun take on the basic issues of foreign policy."--Michael Maiello,

"George Kennan. Henry Kissinger. Michael Corleone? Yes, at this critical historical juncture, the fictional antihero is making a foreign-policy offer that two specialists in the field believe we can't refuse. The Godfather's 'unlikely wisdom' for our challenging times--as a new president attempts to preserve America's global standing in the face of war, economic crisis, and rising great powers--is elucidated in this funny, smart book, an expanded version of a widely read article John C. Hulsman and A. Wess Mitchell published last year. The Godfather Doctrine creatively transposes the iconic 1972 film that director Francis Ford Coppola intended as an allegory of American capitalism onto contemporary geopolitics. . . . [An] inspired metaphor."--Robert Litwak, Wilson Quarterly

"It's more a sliver than an actual book (and literally the size of a passport), but The Godfather Doctrine by John C. Hulsman and A. Wess Mitchell is one of the best foreign-policy 'books' I've read in a long time. . . . They make a good argument, and The Godfather Doctrine is too much fun to be read only by policy wonks."--Martin Zimmerman, San Diego Union Tribune

"Enjoyable and intelligent. It's a great, short read."--Andy Welch, Western Daily Press

"It would be easy to dismiss this book as a gimmick or a novelty were it not for two considerations: the prestige of its two authors and its unambiguous assertion of American decline."--Dennis Phillips, Australian Review of Public Affairs

"While the message of this work . . . is scarcely unique, its appearance and approach certainly are unusual. Made to resemble a US passport, this slim volume argues for a return to realism in US foreign policy by means of allegory based on the 1972 Francis Ford Coppola film The Godfather."--Choice

From the Inside Flap

"When it comes to American statecraft, the imperative of the moment is to think anew. In that regard, John Hulsman and Wess Mitchell perform a dual service. They persuasively demonstrate just how tired the existing foreign policy debate has become. And their Godfather Doctrine offers an alternative that is as provocative as it is entertaining."--Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism

"[B]rilliant . . . full of insight and humor . . . about the debate between liberal institutionalists, neocons, and realists in foreign policy. And it's all about The Godfather, one of the greatest political movies of all time."--Andrew Sullivan, Atlantic Online

"A brilliant, compelling analysis. The core message of this book is that America's power is in decline. I agree with the authors that many if not most of the foreign-policy elite in Washington have not really accepted this fact. The Godfather Doctrine causes us to think about America's dwindling superpower status in an approachable and upbeat way, and enables us to consider the different options for addressing it."--Mitchell A. Orenstein, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

"This book makes an important contribution to the ongoing debate about U.S. foreign policy post-Bush. The use of the Godfather analogy is very effective--it works as an entertaining and accessible vehicle for laying out important doctrinal differences and the potential consequences of our foreign-policy choices."--Jeffrey J. Anderson, Georgetown University

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Justin Howe on March 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book. The authors use the movie "The Godfather" as a very clever analogy to explain their view on U.S. foreign policy. This is not your average lofty academic rant. It is refreshingly interesting and easy to read and understand. It is a great introduction to the three schools of thought on U.S. foreign policy: Neoconservatives, Liberal Institutionalists, and Realists.

I was most impressed by how the authors kept things interesting. By using comparisons from the movie, they make it very easy to come away with a pretty good understanding of the three different foreign policy camps. I think books like this are great because they reach such a broad audience. Both academics and the average person will find this to be a good read. I happen to agree with their common-sense conclusions. Whether you agree or not I think you will find it very thought provoking.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Levi Kovacs on August 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is really an extended essay based on an article previously published by the authors. Even so it is interesting and well written. They use the movie The Godfather to explain the three main approaches to foreign policy: Liberal-institutionalism, neoconservatism, and realism. The authors favour realism as the best approach, but they are evenhanded towards the other two pointing out both strengths and weaknesses.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section is an introduction that explains the authors' intent, the world situation, and why the movie The Godfather makes for a good comparison. The main body of the text covers the three approaches and why in the end realism provides a better approach than the others. The authors feel that realism would allow the US to approach the world with calculation in its use of diplomacy and/or force depending on the situation. This they say is similar to how Michael Corleone goes about dealing with the challenges he faces in the movie. The final chapter attempts to answer some criticisms of their previous work and to offer some policy prescriptions to illustrate their points. While I do not necessarily agree with all of their policy recommendations, the authors do provide support for their reasoning in a persuasive manner.

This is a fun and easy read. It should be enjoyed by both those interested in politics and international relations and fans of the movie. Even if you disagree with the authors' views it is a great jumping off point for thought and discussion.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John Alberti on April 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Slow, fact setting opening, but necessary. Take your time reading it the first time through. After the part about Tom Hagen, you pretty much have to finish it all.

Great read, it's worth taking a look at.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Niki Holroyd on April 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I would recommend this to anyone interested in politics. It is interesting and doesn't take one side or the other.
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