The Green Lantern Theory of Politics, Domestic and International Editions

Dan Drezner derides the "Green Lantern" theory of international relations:

I'm sympathetic to generating forward momentum for Israel/Palestine peace talks, but it strikes me that people who bewail the lack of progress on this issue suffer from the liberal variant of Matt Yglesias' Green Lantern Theory of International Relations.  Given the state of Israeli public opinion and the state of Palestinian political coherence,  a Netanyahu-led Israeli regime was not going to acquiesce to outside pressure.  An Obama administration that tried such pressure and failed would actually be in a weaker position than they are now. 

Similarly, on Gitmo, when Obama seemed to push forward on this issue, he ran up against the political reality that Americans like closing Gitmo down in theory more than in practice.  And Obama then acted... politically. 

What I find striking is that many people who consider themselves part of the "reality-based community" now want the Obama administration to absorb the Bush administration's ontological beliefs and thereby create their own realities. 

I'm not sure I find it so striking.  Isn't the Green lantern Theory of Domestic Politics the essential impetus behind the "Pass the Damn Bill" movement? 

When your people are out of office, it's obvious that there are limits to the ability of will to overcome political reality.  That appreciation seems to ebb when you realize that if everyone were just more forceful, they could pass your agenda.

This is a lesson that Republicans would do well to absorb now, by the way.  If they ever get into office again, it would be nice if they arrived already appreciating that a steely gaze is not a good substitute for a workable policy platform.


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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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