It really doesn't get any better than this. Marc Lynch, a professor at George Washington University and director of the Institute of Middle East Studies, has taken to explaining international relations via the world of rap:
The way that rappers compete with each other — this is soft power. [...] This is the way you try and make a reputation, try and get what you want, and you have to do it through this very intricate series of alliances.
Particularly telling according to Lynch is the ongoing feud between rapper Jay-Z and up-and-comer The Game:
Jay-Z has been attacking other rappers for using Auto-Tune software, which corrects pitch while singers record. Auto-Tune is widely used in the industry, but Jay-Z is making a call for authenticity.
"He's saying 'these are the rules of the international system. If you want to be a civilized member of our international society, you have to not pursue nuclear weapons,''' Lynch says.
The Game is using the opportunity to tag Jay-Z as old and irrelevant.
The Game, then, is like North Korea or Iran: "He might not win, but he can hurt you if he drags you down into this extended occupation, this extended counterinsurgency campaign." And Jay-Z, a hegemon like the United States, can ill afford to get embroiled in little battles all the time. My goodness. So, then, what's a hegemon like Jay-Z to do? In his full-fledged editorial Lynch proffers a solution:
If he hits back hard in public, the Game will gain in publicity even if he loses... the classic problem of a great power confronted by a smaller annoying challenger. And given his demonstrated skills and talent, and his track record against G-Unit, the Game may well score some points. At the least, it would bring Jay-Z down to his level — bogging him down in an asymmetric war negating the hegemon's primary advantages. If Jay-Z tries to use his structural power to kill Game's career (block him from releasing albums or booking tour dates or appearing at the Grammy Awards), it could be seen as a wimpy and pathetic operation — especially since it would be exposed on Twitter and the hip hop blogs.
The Realist advice? His best hope is probably to sit back and let the Game self-destruct, something of which he's quite capable (he's already backing away from the hit on Beyonce) — while working behind the scenes to maintain his own alliance structure and to prevent any defections over to the Game's camp. And it seems that thus far, that's exactly what he's doing. We'll see if that's a winning strategy.... or if he's just biding his time getting ready for a counter-attack.
A lesson for all of us who thought rap wasn't educational. Happy weekend, everyone![HT: Freakanomics]