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BtVS and Foreign Policy

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It has been duly noted that John Kerry recently received the influential and crucial endorsement of Joss Whedon (a moment of silence, please, for Jonah Goldberg, as his “conservatism is ascendent in pop culture” thesis is dealt yet another devastating blow).

Abu Aardvark makes the case, more or less convincingly, that we all should have seen this coming, as the final season of Buffy was, in fact, an extended critique of Bush’s approach to foreign policy:

In Season 7, Buffy tries to seize leadership and ‘build an army’ to face off against the First Evil – whose combination of psychological warfare and Caleb’s assassinations and bombing campaigns clearly evoke a terrorist threat. Buffy tries her best, initially rallying the troops through bold resolve (killing the first ubervamp in the Thunderdome), but then losing her way by adopting a moralizing, didactic, inflexible leadership style based on showing strength and resolve. She refuses to consult with her powerful allies or to acknowledge their legitimate concerns and fears, and ultimately loses their confidence. And her policies lead to disaster: rushing in to the old vineyard with faulty intelligence and an unrealistic conception of the balance of power, she watches several potentials be killed and Xander lose an eye.

In the aftermath, she loses her position of leadership as her friends, who love her but no longer trust her judgement, withdraw their consent – not so much because of the disastrous decision she made to rush headlong into an obvious trap out of over-confidence in her own powers and a headstrong urgency to take the offensive, but because she took that decision without consulting with others and without bothering to patiently build consensus behind her plan.

When Buffy returns to the gang, it is with a plan based explicitly on sharing power and decentralizing authority, and a repudiation of being a ‘chosen one’. Crucially, this did not mean giving up the fight against evil – it meant waging that battle more intelligently, more cooperatively, and ultimately more successfully. Arrogant unilateralism failed; patient multilateralism worked.

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