Hi-Def Smackdown: Foreign Policy Film Festival

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Stephen M. Walt
, the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations at Harvard University who blogs at Foreign Policy started with the question, “If Foreign Policy had a film festival, what movies should we show?”

Excluding pure war movies, spy capers, documentaries, and overt propaganda films, he went on to list his personal top ten list. His list includes Independence Day and Casablanca. Have you seen these movies?

It did not take long for Daniel W. Drezner, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University who also blogs at Foreign Policy to come up with his own top list, writing:

“Someone once said that the only proper way to critique a film is by making another film. Following that logic, I think the only way to critique Steve’s list is to make my own. Using Steve’s criteria, the overlap between our top ten list is pretty small: Dr. Strangelove and Casablanca.”

Then he went on and listed eight other films that “I think are essential watching for international relations junkies.” See his post here.

Last week, Fred Kaplan who writes the “War Stories” column for Slate and reviews films for Home Theater jumped into the fray with his post, Hillary Clinton, Watch These Movies! He writes, “Off the top of my head, here are 25 that neither Walt nor Drezner mention—and that, to my mind, beat all of theirs.” See Kaplan’s list here.

Yesterday, Dan Drezner responded with a post, Fred-o, you broke my heart, askingwhat act of hubris could make Kaplan claim that any film on his top-25 list is better than Dr. Strangelove?”

And the foreign policy high-def movie smackdown is off and running! Oh! I love watching a spirited competition!

You think FSI might want to put together a course over in Arlington for new students to view and discuss these films? Maybe? Um, don’t hold your breath.

You might be better off organizing your own foreign policy film festival at post for brain candy and professional development. No offense to consular folks who works really hard, but entry level officers who work the visa line sometimes have second thoughts about their new career when they spend their first 2-4 years doing visa work. Why not have a film festival while you work your way to that front row seat in world affairs? If your boss assumes that a foreign policy film festival is just blundering into statecraft and nothing to do with professional development, you may paraphrase Captain Renault’s quote: We musn’t underestimate “American blundering”. I was with them when they “blundered” into Berlin in 1918.


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