Keep on rockin’ in the free world

In light of former Fugee member Wyclef Jean’s campaign to become the president of Haiti, Stephanie Carvin asks some terrific questions:  I got to thinking – what other musical super stars could run as leaders to help fix the nations of the world? In what way could Lady Gaga help with nation-building projects? Could Paul McCartney ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

In light of former Fugee member Wyclef Jean's campaign to become the president of Haiti, Stephanie Carvin asks some terrific questions

I got to thinking – what other musical super stars could run as leaders to help fix the nations of the world? In what way could Lady Gaga help with nation-building projects? Could Paul McCartney advise the World Bank in any way (other than being able to possibly fund a small third world nation by himself for a year)?

I'll leave it to others to answer the latter two questions -- but the first one is a real doozy.  Carvin offers some intriguing possibilities.  As someone who's researched the link between celebrities and world politics, however, it's worth pondering the question further. 

In light of former Fugee member Wyclef Jean’s campaign to become the president of Haiti, Stephanie Carvin asks some terrific questions

I got to thinking – what other musical super stars could run as leaders to help fix the nations of the world? In what way could Lady Gaga help with nation-building projects? Could Paul McCartney advise the World Bank in any way (other than being able to possibly fund a small third world nation by himself for a year)?

I’ll leave it to others to answer the latter two questions — but the first one is a real doozy.  Carvin offers some intriguing possibilities.  As someone who’s researched the link between celebrities and world politics, however, it’s worth pondering the question further. 

For me, the musicians I’d want in charge are the ones who demonstrated the ability to persist over time (which disqualifies Lady Gaga for now), the ability to fashion a coherent agenda (which disqualifies Bono), and the ability to avoid a shame spiral that embarrasses the country in question (which disqualifies Britney Spears and many, many others).  

So, which musician would I trust with, say, American hegemony?  Here are my top 5: 

5)  Flea, Red Hot Chili Peppers.  This band has stayed vital for close to two decades, and a crucial moment was Flea’s decision to re-recruit guitarist John Frusciante when the band’s fortunes were flagging.  The result was Californication and the Chili Peppers’ return to relevance.  Sounds like someone who could make good staffing decisions.  Downside:  could raise constitutional issues — Flea was born in Australia. 

4)  Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters.  After 1994, he could have gone through the rest of his life resting on his laurels as the drummer for the greatest American punk band in history. Instead, he became a frontman and formed the Foo Fighters.  And here just has to be a negotiating advantage from listening to this song before going into serious international negotiations.  Downside:  Grohl would need to get a serious grip on his coffee addiction

3)  Justin Timberlake.  The only member of ‘N Sync to thrive after the death of boy bands.  The only ex of Britney Spears to be known for something other than dating Britney Spears.  The only person I know who can be consistently funny on Saturday Night Live.  Clearly, he’s a survivor.  Downside:  Hmmm… sure, Timberlake is a survivor, but is he responsible for the demise of Britney and boy bands? 

2)  Snoop Dogg.  Anyone who needs his own translator is bound to confuse and obfuscate his adversaries.  Also, the man never seems rattled by anything — exactly the kind of cool head we need in the White House.  Downside:  there could be reasons beyond temperment that he’s so mellow. 

1) Madonna.  She’s been in vogue for decades now.  She’s been a true blue survivor, a ray of light to other female singers looking to break into the music industry.  If there’s anyone who knows how to properly game a situation, it’s her.  Downside:  There’s this. And this. This too.  Oh, don’t forget this.  Also, I’m not sure she thinks she’s an American anymore. 

Readers are warmly invited to proffer their own suggestions for musico-political royalty. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he is the co-director of the Russia and Eurasia Program. Twitter: @dandrezner

More from Foreign Policy

A closeup of Russian President Vladimir Putin
A closeup of Russian President Vladimir Putin

What Russia’s Elites Think of Putin Now

The president successfully preserved the status quo for two decades. Suddenly, he’s turned into a destroyer.

A member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police is seen in front of an electoral poster of President Emmerson Mnangagwa
A member of the Zimbabwe Republic Police is seen in front of an electoral poster of President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Cafe Meeting Turns Into Tense Car Chase for U.S. Senate Aides in Zimbabwe

Leading lawmaker calls on Biden to address Zimbabwe’s “dire” authoritarian turn after the incident.

Steam rises from cooling towers at the Niederaussem coal-fired power plant during the coronavirus pandemic near Bergheim, Germany, on Feb. 11, 2021.
Steam rises from cooling towers at the Niederaussem coal-fired power plant during the coronavirus pandemic near Bergheim, Germany, on Feb. 11, 2021.

Putin’s Energy War Is Crushing Europe

The big question is whether it ends up undermining support for Ukraine.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres attends a press conference.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres attends a press conference.

A Crisis of Faith Shakes the United Nations in Its Big Week

From its failure to stop Russia’s war in Ukraine to its inaction on Myanmar and climate change, the institution is under fire from all sides.