Foreigners and Rulers,
February 8, 2002 5:59 AM   Subscribe

Foreigners and Rulers, this is an issue that albeit being an old one keeps cropping up, here is her official position. I am interested in opinions of whether you think it is okay for a foreigner (born and raised to "adulthood") to become a political leader of another country. And is anyone aware of a similar situation in others parts of the world where this has either been considered or has occurred.
posted by bittennails (37 comments total)
Golda Meir, born in the Ukraine, raised in Wisconsin, USA, age 8 through 23.
posted by luser at 6:09 AM on February 8, 2002

Yasser Arafat.
posted by Hypnerotomachia at 6:10 AM on February 8, 2002

There was much debate over whether Peruvian ex-president Alberto Fujimori was born in Peru or Japan. Either way he used his Japanese parentage to bag himself an escape route to Japan when the shit hit the fan.
posted by ksLimbs at 6:16 AM on February 8, 2002

Assorted Kings in the Balkans (Romania, Bulgaria, Greece) appointed by the Big Powers of the time from mid 1800 to WWII. They were from European royal lines and couldn't even speak the language of their subjects when first arriving in their realms.
posted by talos at 6:17 AM on February 8, 2002

Queen Victoria, among (many) other colonial rulers, of course. In Africa only Ethiopia was never colonised.
posted by Hypnerotomachia at 6:20 AM on February 8, 2002

King Haakon of Norway was imported from Denmark back in the days
posted by dagny at 6:25 AM on February 8, 2002

that should not be, i think those people lack of patriotism. they usually end making a mess in the country. it is people's fault to let those fake leaders take over the country.

although in some times, there is no need to be born in another country to be totally careless about the situation of your compatriots. take a look to argentina; their presidents simply sell all of the infraestructure and natural resources to transnationals, and now, the people in argentina is really fucked up right now…
posted by trismegisto at 6:29 AM on February 8, 2002

trismegisto: Yeah tying it into wealth seems to have something to do with it, Sonia Gandhi ostentably controls the Gandhi (nehru, indira, rajiv not the mahatma's) fortune, which is essentially the purse of the Indian congress party. But people also play the sacrifice card with her, all the assasinations in the family.
posted by bittennails at 6:37 AM on February 8, 2002

Hitler (Austria), Stalin (Georgia), Napoleon (Corsica).
posted by rodii at 7:05 AM on February 8, 2002

Asshurbanipal, Xerxes, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Ghengis Kahn, Atilla the Hun, William the Conqueror. Conan the Barbarian (born in Cimmeria, king of Aquilonia.)
posted by jfuller at 7:07 AM on February 8, 2002

What I find interesting is that India, a country where race, village & caste have always played a huge part in one's acceptance in society, seems to have accepted (except for the wack job party running the country) the European Sonia as a viable potential leader.
posted by ajayb at 7:10 AM on February 8, 2002

It's that acceptance that is what intrigues me too...apart from the obvious situation where people conquer land and appoint themselves's kind of strange to me that one can in the modern world have achieved this level of acceptance in a foreign land to actually be close enough to gain serious political power.
posted by bittennails at 7:21 AM on February 8, 2002

i thought i heard someone say here that musharraf was born in india. and i think there are lots of kids raised in the states (or at least who are "western educated") who go on to lead small countries in various places. (or wait in exile here plotting their revolutions!) in general tho i think it's better to be raised in the country you have pretensions to lead. like i think there's a pretty good record of second generation immigrants with distinguished public service, um i guess like menem and nader :) oh and like CEOs and stuff.
posted by kliuless at 7:23 AM on February 8, 2002

Eamon Devalera, born in the US, became Taoiseach (prime minister) and president of the Irish republic. He played the most significant role in the history of the Irish state, and his shadow extends over Irish politics today, 27 years after his death.

Chaim Herzog, former president of Israel was born, and spent his childhood being educated here.

I think that Israel is an exception in terms of a non Israeli ruling it, because it is such a new country, and the same applied in Ireland when DeValera was in power - he was the second Taoiseach and was active here prior to the indepence of Ireland in 1922 and it's evolution into a republic in 1948.
posted by tomcosgrave at 7:33 AM on February 8, 2002

kliuless, I haven't done the research on it, but, knowing how much Pakistan & India love each other, I sincerely doubt that musharraf is Indian born
posted by ajayb at 7:34 AM on February 8, 2002

Well, actually Musharraf was born in India, but pakistan did not exist when he was born. The partion took place in his childhood and he was moved to Pakistan when it was created, subsequently, he did study in India too. No link handy, if I find one I shall post it in this thread.
posted by bittennails at 7:42 AM on February 8, 2002

here's one :)

General Pervez Musharraf, the second of three brothers, was born to an educated Syed family on August 11, 1943 in Delhi.
posted by kliuless at 7:53 AM on February 8, 2002

bittennails, thanks for clearing that up
posted by ajayb at 7:59 AM on February 8, 2002

Regarding Sonia Gandhi, there is nationality in terms of birth and then there is behavior. Sonia (at least in behavior) is more Indian than many modern Indian women who define themselves in opposition to older traditions. She has exploited Indian conceptions of "bahu" or daughter in law with great effectiveness (the traditional belief being that once a woman gets married, she leaves behind everything of her old family and becomes part and parcel of the new one). When Sonia goes to a village, she whips up her sari to cover her head, and does an extravagant namaste, and presents herself as the widow of one assassinated leader, and the daughter-in-law of another (the dynasty factor).
I am glad to know that people accept her. Its good for a diverse, secular country like India to be comfortable with a more fluid concept of nationality. My problem with her is different: I happen to think that she is an idiot and should never be in any position of power (not that India has not had idiots in power before)
posted by rsinha at 8:58 AM on February 8, 2002

there is nationality in terms of birth and then there is behavior
very good point, and something that I have been struggling with personally. I'm not American born, yet I consider myself American, and I'm not Indian born, have only ancestral and religious connections to it, but people consider me Indian because of my behavior (following traditions, speaking the language, being comfortable with and trying to understand the religion...)

She has exploited Indian conceptions of "bahu" or daughter in law with great effectiveness
Isn't exploited a bit harsh? Indians seem to value action as a positive thing in and of itself, partially disconnected from the reason behind the action. I'm not saying that she is being two faced and exploitive or that her actions aren't sincere. It probably doesn't matter to many of the people that she meets why she performs the actions, just that she has accepted(embraced, if you like) the culture enough to perform the actions.

about the idiot thing, and this is completely another topic for another day (and one that I don't want to derail the current topic), but why do countries seem comfortable electing idiots? and as a corollary, why do people bring parties to power that have agendas that are much more conservative and bigoted than their personal agendas? It seems that both India with the BJP and the US with Bush and the Republicans have done the same thing.
posted by ajayb at 9:52 AM on February 8, 2002

Isn't exploited a bit harsh?
Maybe it was a bit harsh. But Sonia does try to be more Indian than the Indians themselves. And maybe this is a general feature of foreign born aspiring political leaders, to somehow exaggerate that they fit in, that they are more native than the natives.
Also, notice that Sonia, does not try to appeal to the progressive Indians, her constituency is semi-literate folks in small towns or villages (correct me if I am wrong, I have not been following her that closely). I don't know enough about the other foreign born leaders mentioned in this thread. But, perhaps that is a feature of other foreign born leaders, to appeal to the more conservative sections of society. Its hard to argue about their foreigness, if they can somehow get accepted by the most conservative lot.
posted by rsinha at 11:09 AM on February 8, 2002

Sorry Kliuless, reading the thread forwards I didn't see what you were following up to. Reading it backwards I did.
posted by vbfg at 11:16 AM on February 8, 2002

its funny, but if you replace "Sonia" with the name of our Pres and "Indians" with "Americans" you would have an accurate description of how many Americans feel about W.
posted by ajayb at 11:29 AM on February 8, 2002

(after another rambling attempt at making this about American politics, and the realization that the current topic is much more interesting, I decide to continue)
on the topic of nationality, I wonder if the BJP or "villagers" would have any problems with an NRI who came back to run for political office or with an ABCD who decided to take Indian citizenship and run for office. I can't be certain, but I have a feeling that they wouldn't have much problem with that.
posted by ajayb at 11:34 AM on February 8, 2002

That's a really interesting point rsinha, I never looked at it from that perspective, and now that I think about it, you are right, Sonia does not try to appeal to progressive indians, as a matter of fact she appeals very little, instead using the approach, "but the people want me to stand".

I think as many progressive indians have adapted to western standards, she may feel that if she is perceived in even a slight western manner (the cocktail party circuit in new delhi) she may alienate what support she does get from her poor constituents.

Appealing to the conservatives would definitly be the path to follow if one is a foreigner, I also, like you mentioned do not know enough about the other foreign leaders, and guess that was what I was trying to get information on from this thread, if there were any parallels to Sonia's situation.

and on refresh I note ajay's last post, and No, I do not think they would have the same problem with either an ABCD or an NRI - for clearness - *American Born Confused Desi(native) / Non Resident Indian.
posted by bittennails at 11:39 AM on February 8, 2002

Oh, by the way, ajayb, have you seen ABCD-the movie. I haven't, but have heard it's good, your review?

alright already back to the topic at hand *smacks himself*
posted by bittennails at 11:44 AM on February 8, 2002

haven't seen ABCD, can't figure out where its playing. Anyone know if/where its playing in the Chicago area? or do I have to wait for the DVD?
posted by ajayb at 11:50 AM on February 8, 2002

In Jamaica, there has always been an undercurrent of suspicion by the opposition since former Prime Minister Edward Seaga (who aspires to return to the office) was not actually born there - but in Boston.

Maybe I'm stuck on the US constitution, but it seems not having a leader born in your country makes you at least wonder if not outright question where their allegiance lies. It's probably unfair, as some of the most patriotic people are those who weren't born in America and have some context to frame their patriotism in.
posted by owillis at 11:51 AM on February 8, 2002

owillis: Well the Indian constitution says nothing except - a citizen of india - , I am inferring from your post that the US constitution categorically denies non-birth citizens from being elected - correct me if I am wrong.

Allegiance is definitely under question, in her case though I am not so sure (she did marry rajiv gandhi young and had completely adopted the indian housewife role till he was assasinated, and maybe the plan is to stay active till her kids, a son & daughter, can carry on the "dynasty"), but I for one, still question it.

Thanks for the link on Seaga, any articles on the actual suspicions, that you can direct me would be appreciated.
posted by bittennails at 12:15 PM on February 8, 2002

Were I an Indian citizen, I would be much less concerned about where on the planet Sonia Gandhi actually exited her mother's womb, and much more concerned with why a vibrant, successful nation is once again returning to a dynasty. Four leaders in 50 years from the same family? (Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and now perhaps Sonia?) It seems to me that Vajpayee has been an effective prime minister, and the likelihood of Congress(I) regaining power is small, but is this a measure of desperation on their part?

In other words I believe the foreign-born issue is a smokescreen -- although if BJP is raising it, they may think that her family name will be enough to sway vast numbers of people, and they need anything they can to counter that.
posted by dhartung at 12:19 PM on February 8, 2002

bittennails: Yes, the constitution says you have to be born in the USA to be president.

I will look to see if I can find the info online, but I doubt it's out there (Jamaica's a couple years behind the online curve). But the People's National Party (of which my mom is a member) is the very left (socialist-style) party currently in power whereas the Jamaica Labor Party is the more right leaning of the two, that Seaga is the head of and was in power in the 80s. The whole thing about Seaga is about 50/50 between urban legend and just outright distrust. Under his administration, things were certainly more friendly towards business and foreign (American) interests. The economy has consistently been in the pooper for 10-15 years now so it sort of feeds the hostility among the PNP towards him.

So ends today's class of Jamaican Politics 101. :)
posted by owillis at 12:28 PM on February 8, 2002

Actually the foreign-born issue is not a smokescreen, it is a cause of great concern for many indian citizens, me included. There are a lot of , [illogical perhaps], reasons why Sonia in power upsets me, but as they stand on my own personal biases I was trying to get a perspective on this subject without dealing with my feelings vis a vis looking for external examples.

Her family name is enough to sway the polls, and has been done before in context to her winning the seat (to parliament) from Amethi. She is also the congress (I) party prez. but in my opinion only because she controls the money. They (BJP) need a lot to counter that.

On the subject of dynastic rule, I am not too concerned, I don't feel they will ever rise back to the levels they used to be at, luckily or unluckily for us all the good ones from that dynasty are dead, the 2 kids are very pretentious spoilt brats with no head for politics, and before you ask, yes I have met them.
posted by bittennails at 12:44 PM on February 8, 2002

I admittedly don't follow indian politics all that closely, but I don't think that the country has more to fear from congress than they do from the BJP. Any party that has a fundamentalist faction attached to it, be they Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Shinto or other should be viewed with suspicion.
posted by ajayb at 1:48 PM on February 8, 2002

The thread seems to have been hijacked, so let me counter ajay's point...

Truth of the matter is, BJP and its fundamental faction, VHP and the likes seem to be heading up for a breakup. The VHP is bent upon constructing a temple in disputed land, and BJP has other priorties. During the campaigning for state elections in UP, one of the largest Indian states, BJP has been actively courting Muslims.

I don't like the BJP, but I do think Vajpayee is far better a leader than other Indian politicans (including SOnia Gndhi), and I do think he himself is secular. And like it or not, BJP has been pretty effective in dealing with the current crisis. Can you even imagine Sonia Gandhi dealing with the current situation!

I think this change in BJP (at least in the central leadership of BJP) shows the power of democracy at work. How even a right wing, nationalist party is forced to tone down its rhetoric and adapt when it is in power in a secular state. (still don't know that I would vote for BJP though)
posted by rsinha at 2:08 PM on February 8, 2002

didn't mean to hijack the thread, or participate in its hijacking (I don't think i could call it a hijack, maybe just a side trip) but if you want to go back to the identity and nationality question, I would be willing.
posted by ajayb at 2:20 PM on February 8, 2002

The requirements for US president are from the Constitution's Article II, Section 1:
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
William and Mary were Dutch imports to the throne of England.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:06 PM on February 8, 2002

ajay, my comment about "hijacking the thread": I was mostly justifying my own going off on tangent about BJP :)
Anyway, talking of nationality and politics. Here's another aspect of it: what do you think about the fact that the titular head of state for Canada and Australia is the Queen of England. I can understand the British being into the Royal family, but I simply don't understand how Canada and Australia as independent countries, and democracies (even if a lot of people have British roots), can consider the British Queen their titular head.
posted by rsinha at 3:59 PM on February 8, 2002

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