Clearly, The National Interest knows my weak spots

Longtime readers of this blog can well imagine how I would reacted to the following request: “Pssst… Dan, would you be interested in writing an article about how glamorous celebrities like Angelina Jolie are taking an interest in foreign policy?” The result, “Foreign Policy Goes Glam,” is the lead article in the November/December issue of ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

Longtime readers of this blog can well imagine how I would reacted to the following request: "Pssst... Dan, would you be interested in writing an article about how glamorous celebrities like Angelina Jolie are taking an interest in foreign policy?" The result, "Foreign Policy Goes Glam," is the lead article in the November/December issue of The National Interest. Here's the opening: Who would you rather sit next to at your next Council on Foreign Relations roundtable: Henry Kissinger or Angelina Jolie? This is a question that citizens of the white-collared foreign-policy establishment thought they?d never be asked. The massive attention paid to Paris Hilton?s prison ordeal, Lindsay Lohan?s shame spiral and anything Britney Spears has done, said or exposed has distracted pop-culture mavens from celebrities that were making nobler headlines. Increasingly, celebrities are taking an active interest in world politics. When media maven Tina Brown attends a Council on Foreign Relations session, you know something fundamental has changed in the relationship between the world of celebrity and world politics. What?s even stranger is that these efforts to glamorize foreign policy are actually affecting what governments do and say. The power of soft news has given star entertainers additional leverage to advance their causes. Their ability to raise issues to the top of the global agenda is growing. This does not mean that celebrities can solve the problems that bedevil the world. And not all celebrity activists are equal in their effectiveness. Nevertheless, politically-engaged stars cannot be dismissed as merely an amusing curiosity in foreign policy.You'll have to read the entire article to see where I come down on the question of celebrity activism. I will say the following: 1) You like how I got the Unholy Trinity of celebrity bad behavior into the first paragraph? I tried, I mean really tried, to cram as many celebrity mentions into the piece as possible. To my everlasting regret, I failed to include Salma Hayek. Clearly, I'm not worthy. 2) This was the perfect article to write during the dog days of summer. The most amusing moment came when I actually had to buy an issue of Esquire for an article... the very same one Ron Rosenbaum shredded in Slate this summer. 3) I'm surprised to discover that I'm a little more sanguine about celebrity activism than Gideon Rachman, Christopher Caldwell, Henry Farrell, and just about every woman I talked to about this story (Angelina provokes some strong reactions). It's not like I have great faith in celebrity activism -- it's just that I'm unwilling to indict the entire category of behavior. As I argue in the essay, some celebrities are competent in their activism, and some are? something else. And some have a sense of humor about the whole thing. 4) Standard disclaimer: no celebrities were harmed during the drafting of this article. Go check it out. [The role of celebrities in world politics? Isn't that... a bit low-brow?--ed. C'mon, it's not like I was shoe-blogging.]

Longtime readers of this blog can well imagine how I would reacted to the following request: “Pssst… Dan, would you be interested in writing an article about how glamorous celebrities like Angelina Jolie are taking an interest in foreign policy?” The result, “Foreign Policy Goes Glam,” is the lead article in the November/December issue of The National Interest. Here’s the opening:

Who would you rather sit next to at your next Council on Foreign Relations roundtable: Henry Kissinger or Angelina Jolie? This is a question that citizens of the white-collared foreign-policy establishment thought they?d never be asked. The massive attention paid to Paris Hilton?s prison ordeal, Lindsay Lohan?s shame spiral and anything Britney Spears has done, said or exposed has distracted pop-culture mavens from celebrities that were making nobler headlines. Increasingly, celebrities are taking an active interest in world politics. When media maven Tina Brown attends a Council on Foreign Relations session, you know something fundamental has changed in the relationship between the world of celebrity and world politics. What?s even stranger is that these efforts to glamorize foreign policy are actually affecting what governments do and say. The power of soft news has given star entertainers additional leverage to advance their causes. Their ability to raise issues to the top of the global agenda is growing. This does not mean that celebrities can solve the problems that bedevil the world. And not all celebrity activists are equal in their effectiveness. Nevertheless, politically-engaged stars cannot be dismissed as merely an amusing curiosity in foreign policy.

You’ll have to read the entire article to see where I come down on the question of celebrity activism. I will say the following:

1) You like how I got the Unholy Trinity of celebrity bad behavior into the first paragraph? I tried, I mean really tried, to cram as many celebrity mentions into the piece as possible. To my everlasting regret, I failed to include Salma Hayek. Clearly, I’m not worthy. 2) This was the perfect article to write during the dog days of summer. The most amusing moment came when I actually had to buy an issue of Esquire for an article… the very same one Ron Rosenbaum shredded in Slate this summer. 3) I’m surprised to discover that I’m a little more sanguine about celebrity activism than Gideon Rachman, Christopher Caldwell, Henry Farrell, and just about every woman I talked to about this story (Angelina provokes some strong reactions). It’s not like I have great faith in celebrity activism — it’s just that I’m unwilling to indict the entire category of behavior. As I argue in the essay, some celebrities are competent in their activism, and some are? something else. And some have a sense of humor about the whole thing. 4) Standard disclaimer: no celebrities were harmed during the drafting of this article.

Go check it out. [The role of celebrities in world politics? Isn’t that… a bit low-brow?–ed. C’mon, it’s not like I was shoe-blogging.]

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

More from Foreign Policy

Vladimir Putin speaks during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Vladimir Putin speaks during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

What Putin Got Right

The Russian president got many things wrong about invading Ukraine—but not everything.

Dmitry Medvedev (center in the group of officials), an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who is now deputy chairman of the country's security council, visits the Omsktransmash (Omsk transport machine factory) in the southern Siberian city of Omsk.
Dmitry Medvedev (center in the group of officials), an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who is now deputy chairman of the country's security council, visits the Omsktransmash (Omsk transport machine factory) in the southern Siberian city of Omsk.

Russia Has Already Lost in the Long Run

Even if Moscow holds onto territory, the war has wrecked its future.

Sri Lankan construction workers along a road in Colombo.
Sri Lankan construction workers along a road in Colombo.

China’s Belt and Road to Nowhere

Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy is a “shadow of its former self.”

Dalton speaks while sitting at a table alongside other U.S. officials.
Dalton speaks while sitting at a table alongside other U.S. officials.

The U.S. Overreacted to the Chinese Spy Balloon. That Scares Me.

So unused to being challenged, the United States has become so filled with anxiety over China that sober responses are becoming nearly impossible.