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Sean Penn: A Kissinger For Our Time

24 February 2012

10:55 AM

24 February 2012

10:55 AM

One of Henry Kissinger’s great gifts is the ability to write op-eds that are clear as petrol. I recall one such piece, published by the Washington Post (his favoured venue for ex cathedra announcements), that left opponents and supporters of tougher measures against Saddam Hussein believing the old man was on their side. Kissinger had, still has I assume, the ability to inject complexity into a coin-toss. He baffles with nuance.

Though I suspect their politics differ, Sean Penn evidently fancies himself a Kissinger for our times. The great man has space in the Guardian today, revealing his thoughts on the future of the Falkland Islands. For this we should, I suppose, thank the Guardian even if publishing this twaddle is plainly a hit-hookering ploy. As with Kissinger, however, there are times when one reads Penn and wonders: what the hell does that mean? To whit:

This is not a cause of leftist flamboyance nor significantly a centuries-old literary dispute. But rather a modern one, that is perhaps unveiled most legitimately through the raconteurism of Patagonian fishermen. One perhaps more analogous to South Africa than a reparation discussion in South Carolina. As a result, we must look to the mutual recognition of this illusive paradigm by both countries…

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We may agree, surely, that the world needs more ranconteurism from Patagonian fishermen but the rest of this, I confess, baffles me. So does this:

The issue at hand was the fact that despite the encouragement of the UN, and despite our world’s recent and evolving lessons of cultural sensitivity and economic equitability, the UK has refused to return to diplomatic efforts regarding the status of UK and Argentinian claims to the Malvinas Islands, commonly referred to as the Falkland Islands.

Ah yes: cultural sensitivity. You must remember, gentle reader, that the Falkalnd Islanders are the aggressors, not the victims in this dispute.

It may well be that, as a practical matter, the discovery of oil off the islands will both encourage and require better relations between London and Buenos Aires. But, again as a practical matter, the present Argentine ploys are utterly counter-productive. They make it harder to talk about any Falkalnd-related issue and must, in fact, delay any such discussions.

As for Mr Penn and his mysteriously illusive paradigm, well, I am afraid there is no hope. He writes as though his prose has been fed through Google translate. Twice. Alas, discerning his meaning remains possible when it would plainly be better for him if it were not. He is not in Kissinger’s class. But he is still youngish and so there is time yet for his prose to develope a thicker crust of unintelligibility that would be a fitting match for his statesmanlike granduer and all the rest of that sort of thing.

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Show comments
  • Craig Strachan

    Spicoli’s still his best work.

  • Baron

    why such a fuss about an insignificant little man going even more senile with advancing age?

  • don

    It’s perfectly clear, really, dude, he was having and LSD flashback while toking Mary Jane when he was writing that.

  • R. Freedom

    Check out this photo of Penn, as he(?) tunes up for American Idle.

    http://blogs.villagevoice.com/dailymusto/2011/04/sean_penn_as_an.php

  • E Hart

    Penn and Kissinger are a couple of over-rated duffers but the former at least has a point. Who can forget Dr K for polishing off US involvement in Indo-China with the bombing of Cambodia and Laos and the exceptionally farsighted “surrender” at the peace talks which left large numbers of Vietminh units in the South poised to strike at the earliest opportunity? He really was astoundingly piss-poor given his reputation.

    Penn is merely saying what the UK refuses to admit but knows to be true: The Argentine claim to the islands has some basis in law and fact and the islanders’ interest cannot and never will be paramount to UK foreign policy. Don’t believe me? If the occupants of Diego Garcia (in the Chagos Islands) couldn’t be sure of their tenure then neither can the Kelpies.

  • Noa.

    I’m at a loss as to why Mr Penn would wish to antagonise the non Guardian reading element of the UK.
    Regardless of his specific views on the Falklands, I for one will be avoiding anything cinematic in which he features.

    And good luck to him in increasing his popularity in the South American market.

  • Austin Barry

    Here’s a Penn quote from 1967 berating George Bush:

    “We cower as you point your fingers telling us to support our troops. You and the smarmy pundits in your pocket– those who bathe in the moisture of your soiled and blood-soaked underwear– can take that noise and shove it.”

    Bonkers.

  • Nicholas

    “Sending Prince William to the Malvinas, or Falkland Islands, gives out a message of intimidation”

    But probably not as intimidating a message as conducting a full-scale, surprise military invasion of the Islands. However much the current regime in Argentina try to disown that act of infamy in 1982, it was conducted by the armed forces of Argentina, under the flag of Argentina and on behalf of Argentina as a sovereign nation.

    In light of that Cristina de Kirchner’s rhetoric on the issue is offensive, inappropriate and unwanted. And she should apologise for it.

  • jim west

    I think perhaps that Ian Walker may be too kind. I suspect that Mr Penn is not so much ill informed as uninformable.

  • Jeremy

    A man who mistakes the obscure for the intelligent is more to be pitied than despised.

  • Jeremy

    Sean Penn:

    “This is not a cause of leftist flamboyance nor significantly a centuries-old literary dispute. But rather a modern one, that is perhaps unveiled most legitimately through the raconteurism of Patagonian fishermen. One perhaps more analogous to South Africa than a reparation discussion in South Carolina. As a result, we must look to the mutual recognition of this illusive paradigm by both countries…”

    Clearly, then, the drugs don’t work.

  • FF

    I was more interested in the Guardian’s subheading:

    Sending Prince William to the Malvinas, or Falkland Islands, gives out a message of intimidation

    I was trying to imagine nice, cuddly, PW as a Vlad the Impaler figure, popping random Argentinian heads on sticks at Goose Green.

  • Ian Walker

    Mr Penn is ill-informed. As I understand it, the UK refuses to negotiate with Argentina unless the Falkland Islanders are able to represent themselves in the talks, and the Argentines refuse to meet this condition (because they know full well that the FIers want to stay British)

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