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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…

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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