The Prince is relatively short, a little over 90 pages, and is relatively fast reading, and it can be quoted as a bunch of aphorisms, but it also repays fairly close reading. I’ll be blogging about both this, and The Discourses on Livy in the days to come so check back for periodic updates.
A little while ago I got into an argument on another web site, and somebody pointed out that the Renaissance had also given us Machiavelli. The way it was written suggested that the writer regarded Machiavelli as a “bad” thing, almost the equivalent of Hitler or Stalin. Well, I’ve read The Prince, and I’m part way through The Discourses on Livy, and I don’t think old Niccolo is as bad as he’s cracked up to be.
I’m not going to try to put up discussions of every chapter in either The Prince, or The Discourses. I’ll put up a brief summary, and then a comment, if I have any.
Note: Lawrence Helm asked if I had Stanley Bing’s book in mind. I was not aware until Lawrence asked me that there was such a book. I had in mind the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) buttons.
So lets start with The Prince
There are two types of government—monarchies and repulbics.
Discussion of republics is omitted, and Machiavelli announces that he will concentrate on monarchies. He makes a comment about there being fewer difficulties in holding onto a hereditary monarchy.
This focuses on mixed principalities. When conquering a place it is advisable to send colonies.
Alexander and his successors in controlling the Persian Empire. Principalities come in two types. In one the King rules, and the ministers are his servants. They owe their loyalty to the office, not necessarily to the occupant of the office. In the second the King has a body of nobles, and these are bound to their peoples by ties of land, love, and so on. The empire of Darius was of the first kind. It’s worth observing that the civil service in this country is supposed to be the servants of the administration and carry forth its policies. In practice, however, some bureaucracies become entrenched, and become their own little fiefdoms. In this case the loyalty of the bureaucracy is not to the administration. This seems to be the case, at times, at the CIA and at State.
Dealing with the states that you’ve conquered. “WHENEVER those states which have been acquired as stated have been accustomed to live under their own laws and in freedom, there are three courses for those who wish to hold them: the first is to ruin them, the next is to reside there in person, the third is to permit them to live under their own laws, drawing a tribute, and establishing within it an oligarchy which will keep it friendly to you.” How would this work out in relation to Iraq? If the 4th armored division had been allowed to come in through Turkish air space the impression made on that area might have been closer to one that the country was ruined, and would have kept the various insurgencies from happening. Ruining the country is what happened to Germany and Japan, though they were successfully rebuilt as democracies after WWII. The second course would appear to involve prolonged residency by the ruler. In the postwar world that didn’t happen. What did happen was 63 years of occupation, and of troop maintenance there. Option three hasn’t been tried in Iraq. What is happening is that there is an attempt to build democratic institutions there.
The contrast between those who use prayers to establish a principality, and those who use force. “It is necessary, therefore, if we desire to discuss this matter thoroughly, to inquire whether these innovators can rely on themselves or have to depend on others: that is to say, whether, to consummate their enterprise, have they to use prayers or can they use force? In the first instance they always succeed badly, and never compass anything; but when they can rely on themselves and use force, then they are rarely endangered. Hence it is that all armed prophets have conquered, and the unarmed ones have been destroyed.” Readers of Isaac Deutscher’s three volume biography of Trotsky may remember this quote as the source for the titles of volumes 1 and 2.
This is the infamous chapter that praises Cesare Borgia.
This concerns those who have obtained a kingdom by villainy. While this applies to those who have usurped a kingdom, or who have used treachery, it might be argued that the following comment is applicable to the postwar world, and to Iraq. “Hence it is to be remarked that, in seizing a state, the usurper ought to examine closely into all those injuries which it is necessary for him to inflict, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily; and thus by not unsettling men he will be able to reassure them, and win them to himself by benefits. He who does otherwise, either from timidity or evil advice, is always compelled to keep the knife in his hand; neither can he rely on his subjects, nor can they attach themselves to him, owing to their continued and repeated wrongs. For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less, they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer.” In the aftermath of WWII a rough sort of victor’s justice was visited upon the regimes of Germany and Japan. The primary trials, in Germany, took place within a year after the cessation of hostilities, and the vilest did not live to see Christmas of 1946. So that was relatively quick. In Iraq, on the other hand, and in Guantanamo Bay, the legal processes are dragging on. Rather than simply hanging the lot, which would be the solution of Machiavelli, they’re hanging around enjoying halal meals, and all the comforts of home. The result has been disaffection among the liberal elements at home.
How the strength of states is to be measured.
Ecclesiastical Principalities. I think this is of historic interest, but whether it’s particularly applicable in modern circumstances I’m not sure.
Soldiers are divided into your own troops, mercenaries, auxiliaries (allies?), and mixed. Machiavelli is very much against the use of mercenaries and auxiliaries “Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you.” I’m not sure if auxiliaries are to be taken as allies, or as a reserve force that’s not particularly skilled. Should they be taken as the equivalent of the National Guard? Chapter XIII seems to indicate that they’re troops from another sovereign who are supposed to be integrated with your own.
Here Machiavelli addresses the issue of auxiliaries. As mentioned above the auxiliaries are troops from a foreign source who fight along with you. Machiavelli’s comment on this is “I wish also to recall to memory an instance from the Old Testament applicable to this subject. David offered himself to Saul to fight with Goliath, the Philistine champion, and, to give him courage, Saul armed him with his own weapons; which David rejected as soon as he had them on his back, saying he could make no use of them, and that he wished to meet the enemy with his sling and his knife. In conclusion, the arms of others either fall from your back, or they weigh you down, or they bind you fast.” So how does this work out in the 20th and 21st centuries? In WWII some of the allies, notably the Brits and the Americans and the Canadians provided the bulk of the men on the Western front, while the Free French under DeGaulle had to be nursed along, and then tried to claim the credit. (The Eastern front was primarily a Russian show with logistical support from the Western allies.) In the postwar world while the Brits and the Australians, and some others have provided support in the “Long War,” the European allies have been dozing in a materialistic nirvana that is dependent upon the U.S. for its very existence. In short, the states of Old Europe have been mostly worthless as allies. Something that Machiavelli could have foreseen.
The concerns of a prince on the art of war. This is clear, and is announced at the beginning: “A PRINCE ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline; for this is the sole art that belongs to him who rules, and it is of such force that it not only upholds those who are born princes, but it often enables men to rise from a private station to that rank.” So a lawyer with no military experience, or knowledge is probably not fit to be a prince.The prince should fill his head with history: “But to exercise the intellect the prince should read histories, and study there the actions of illustrious men, to see how they have borne themselves in war, to examine the causes of their victories and defeat, so as to avoid the latter and imitate the former”
Things for which princes are praised or blamed.
Liberality and meanness.
Clemency and cruelty. Loved or feared. Machiavelli favors clemency, but recognizes that cruelty has its place. “COMING now to the other qualities mentioned above, I say that every prince ought to desire to be considered clement and not cruel. Nevertheless he ought to take care not to misuse this clemency. Cesare Borgia was considered cruel; notwithstanding, his cruelty reconciled the Romagna, unified it, and restored it to peace and loyalty. And if this be rightly considered, he will be seen to have been much more merciful than the Florentine people, who, to avoid a reputation for cruelty, permitted Pistoia to be destroyed. Therefore a prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind the reproach of cruelty; because with a few examples he will be more merciful than those who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or robberies; for these are wont to injure the whole people, whilst those executions which originate with a prince offend the individual only.” Shaw draws, in Caesar and Cleopatra, a protrait of Caesar as someone who knew when to be merciful, and when to be cruel. As to being feared or being loved, it is preferable to be both feared and loved, but if that’s not possible, settle for fear. “Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.
Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated, which will always be as long as he abstains from the property of his citizens and subjects and from their women.”
Good faith in princes. Here Machiavelli argues that it is sometimes necessary to break faith. He argues that one should be both strong and terrifying, a lion, and smart, a fox. “Therefore it is necessary for a prince to understand how to avail himself of the beast and the man. This has been figuratively taught to princes by ancient writers, who describe how Achilles and many other princes of old were given to the Centaur Chiron to nurse, who brought them up in his discipline; which means solely that, as they had for a teacher one who was half beast and half man, so it is necessary for a prince to know how to make use of both natures, and that one without the other is not durable. A prince, therefore, being compelled knowingly to adopt the beast, ought to choose the fox and the lion; because the lion cannot defend himself against snares and the fox cannot defend himself against wolves. Therefore, it is necessary to be a fox to discover the snares and a lion to terrify the wolves.”
The prince should avoid being despised and hated. The prince should keep his hands off the people’s property and their women. “NOW, concerning the characteristics of which mention is made above, I have spoken of the more important ones, the others I wish to discuss briefly under this generality, that the prince must consider, as has been in part said before, how to avoid those things which will make him hated or contemptible; and as often as he shall have succeeded he will have fulfilled his part, and he need not fear any danger in other reproaches.
It makes him hated above all things, as I have said, to be rapacious, and to be a violator of the property and women of his subjects, from both of which he must abstain.” Machiavelli died before Henry VIII broke with Rome and dissolved the monasteries. Henry absorbed the property of the monasteries into the royal treasury, and this did prompt a social movement against the dissolution. However, it had no major effect on Henry’s policies, as far as I know, and because it did not directly affect the people themselves, it seems to have faded as an issue. Henry’s collection of wives and mistresses also came not from the commons but from the nobles. In a more contemporaneous period Saddam Hussein and his sons operated a series of torture chambers and rape rooms. It was the presence of the repressive forces controlled by Saddam that enabled him, despite any resentment that may have been built up by the Iraqi people to maintain his grip on power.
On fortresses. This is only of partial relevance today. Machiavelli, I think, is referring to castles, and enclosed forts of the Medieval/Renaissance type.
How a prince should gain renown. He starts off by citing Ferdinand of Aragon as an example of a prince who has performed great deeds. He doesn’t mention the discovery of America in this context, but he does mention driving the Moors out. He describes this as having been done with “pious cruelty.” He also recommends against neutrality: “A prince is also respected when he is either a true friend or a downright enemy, that to say, when, without any reservation, he declares himself in favour of one party against the other; which course will always be more advantageous than standing neutral; because if two of your powerful neighbours come to blows, they are of such a character that, if one of them conquers, you have either to fear him or not.” Consider the neutral countries in WWII (Sweden, Switzerland, Republic of Ireland, among others). One was an enabler of the Wehrmacht, another secured Nazi funds, and the third tilted against Britain in favor of the Axis. None of them, whatever their economic importance, is of any value militarily, or exerts much weight in the world.
The prince should also patronize the arts and sciences. “A prince ought also to show himself a patron of ability, and to honour the proficient in every art. At the same time he should encourage his citizens to practise their callings peaceably, both in commerce and agriculture, and in every other following, so that the one should not be deterred from improving his possessions for fear lest they be taken away from him or another from opening up trade for fear of taxes; but the prince ought to offer rewards to whoever wishes to do these things and designs in any way to honour his city or state.”
The secretaries of princes. It is important for a prince to surround himself with people of brains. “THE choice of servants is of no little importance to a prince, and they are good or not according to the discrimination of the prince. And the first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.” It’s popular to sneer at George W. Bush, and give the all the credit/blame to Dick Cheney, who supposedly tells Bush what to do. But Bush surrounded himself from the outset with a variety of accomplished men and women, including Rice, Rumsfeld, and Colin Powell. Consider on the contrary the men with whom Obama surrounds himself. Jeremiah Wright comes to mind here. Then we have Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers. So Obama surrounds himself with racists, and 60s radicals who indulged in acts of terrorism.
Machiavelli tells us that there are three classes of intellects “one which comprehends by itself; another which appreciates what others comprehend; and a third which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, the third is useless.” If Bush is not in the first category, then he is certainly in the second.
Flatterers should be avoided.
How the princes of Italy lost their states.
An exhortation to liberate Italy from the barbarians. Machiavelli comes out for a united Italy.
The origins of cities. Cities originate either from the residents of the area, or from colonies planted by foreigners.
The types of republics. “I want to place aside the discussion of those cities that had their beginning subject to others, and I will talk of those which have had their beginning far removed from any external servitude, but which (were) initially governed themselves through their own will, either as Republics or as Principalities; which have had (as diverse origins) diverse laws and institutions. For to some, at the beginning or very soon after, their laws were given to them by one (man) and all at one time, as those which were given to the Spartans by Lycurgus: Some have received them by chance, and at several times, according to events, as Rome did. So that a Republic can be called fortunate which by chance has a man so prudent, who gives her laws so ordered that without having need of correcting them, she can live securely under them.” There are three types of good government that can transform into corresponding bad types:
The creation of the tribunes of the plebs.
The conflict between the plebs and the patricians made Rome rich and powerful. This is not the same kind of class struggle that is beloved of Marxist theoreticians. It has more in common with what a priest, quoted by Shaw in his preface to St. Joan, describes as “fruitful interaction in a costly but noble state of tension.” Machiavelli sees this conflict as producing laws that favor liberty: “I say that those who condemn the tumults between the nobles and the plebs, appear to me to blame those things that were the chief causes for keeping Rome free, and that they paid more attention to the noises and shouts that arose in those tumults than to the good effects they brought forth, and that they did not consider that in every Republic there are two different viewpoints, that of the People and that of the Nobles; and that all the laws that are made in favor of liberty result from their disunion, as may easily be seen to have happened in Rome, for from Tarquin to the Gracchi which was more than three hundred years, the tumults of Rome rarely brought forth exiles, and more rarely blood.”
The guardians of liberty.
Is it possible to eliminate the sources of enmity between plebs and nobles.
The judiciary necessary for a republic for the maintenance of liberty. “No more useful and necessary authority can be given to those who are appointed in a City to guard its liberty, as is that of being able to accuse the citizen to the People or to any Magistrate or Council, if he should in any way transgress against the free state. This arrangement makes for two most useful effects for a Republic. The first is, that for fear of being accused, the citizens do not attempt anything against the state, and if they should (make an) attempt they are punished immediately and without regard (to person). The other is, that it provides a way for giving vent to those moods which in whatever way and against whatever citizens may arise in the City.” This principle, as applied to the executive branch can be seen in the vote of no confidence in Britain, and in impeachment in the U. S.
Calumnies are harmful to a republic
In organizing a new republic its institutions must be reformed outside of the ancient ones.
The founders of tyrannies are shameful.
The religion of the Romans. The Roman religion shaped the Roman character so that any violation of religious custom was frowned upon: “Although Rome had Romulus as its original organizer and, like a daughter, owed her birth and education to him, none the less the heavens, judging that the institutions of Romulus were not sufficient for so great an Empire, put it into the breasts of the Roman Senate to elect Numa Pompilius as successor to Romulus, so that those things that he had omitted, would be instituted by Numa. Who, finding a very ferocious people and wanting to reduce them to civil obedience by the acts of peace, turned to religion as something completely necessary in wanting to maintain a civilization, and he established it in such a manner that for many centuries there never was more fear of God than in that Republic, which facilitated any enterprise which the Senate or those of great Roman men should plan to do. And whoever should discuss the infinite actions of the people of Rome (taken) all together, and of many Romans (individually) by themselves, will see that those citizens feared much more the breaking of an oath than the laws, like those men who esteem more the power of God than that of man”
The importance that should be given religion. Machiavelli assess the importance of religion, which he finds to be high, and discusses the Church in Italy. We see here his general anti-clericalism “If the Princes of the Republic had maintained this Christian religion according as it had been established by the founder, the Christian States and Republics would have been more united and much more happy than they are. Nor can any greater conjecture be made of its decline, than to see that those people who are nearer to the Church of Rome, the head of our Religion, have less Religion. And whoever should give consideration to its foundations, and observe how much different present usage is from them, should judge that without doubt her ruin or flagellation (chastisement) is near. And because some are of the opinion that the well-being of Italian affairs depend on the Church of Rome, I want to discuss those reasons against them that occur to me, and I will present two most powerful ones, which according to me are not controvertible. The first is, that by the evil example of that court, this province has lost all devotion and all Religion: so that it brings (with it) infinite troubles and infinite disorders; for where there is Religion every good is presupposed, so too where it is lacking the contrary is presupposed. We Italians therefore have this obligation with the Church and with the Priests of having become bad and without Religion; but we also have a greater one, which is the cause of our ruin. This is that the Church has kept and still keeps this province (country) of ours divided: and Truly any country never was united or happy, except when it gave its obedience entirely to one Republic or one Prince, as has happened to France and Spain.”
The usefulness of religion to the Romans.
The Roman interpretation of auspices.
The Samnites and religion.
People once liberated from a prince maintain their freedom with difficulty.
A corrupt people once liberated can maintain its freedom only with difficulty. ”I judge that it was necessary that Kings should be eliminated in Rome, or (else) that Rome would in a very short time become weak and of no valor; for considering to what (degree of) corruption those Kings had come, if it should have continued so for two or three successions, (and) that that corruption which was in them had begun to spread through its members; (and) as the members had been corrupted it was impossible ever again to reform her (the state). But losing the head while the torso was sound, they were able easily to return to a free and ordered society. And it ought to be presupposed as a very true matter that a corrupted City which exists under a Prince, even though that Prince with all his lives (family) may be extinguished, can never become free; and that rather it should happen that one Prince destroy the other, for (these people) will never be settled without the creation of a new Lord, who by his goodness together with his virtu will then keep them free: but that liberty will last only during his life time, as happened at different times in Syracuse to Dion and Timoleon, whose virtu while they lived, kept that City free: but when they died, it returned to the ancient Tyranny. But there is no more striking example to be seen than that of Rome, which after the Tarquins had been driven out, was able quickly to resume and maintain that liberty; but after the death of Caesar, Caligula, and Nero, and after the extinction of all the line of Caesar, she could not only never maintain her liberty, but was unable to reestablish it. And so great a difference in events in the same City did not result from anything else other than (the fact that) the Roman People in the time of Tarquin was not yet corrupt, and in the latter time (Caesar's) it became very corrupt.” Is this applicable to the liberation of a country from a dictatorship? It seems to be working out in Russia. 70 plus years of Soviet dictatorship created a society in which privilege accrued to the party members, and the rank and file were pretty much left out of the decision making. A culture of vigorous democracy never took root, and an authoritarian regime returned. States, such as the Ukraine, or Georgia, and countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and others that had some kind of functioning alternative to the Soviet system have been able to achieve much freer societies.
Is any of this applicable to Iraq and the democracy building project there?
In a corrupt city how a free society can be maintained or established. “I believe it is not outside the purpose of this discussion, nor too distant from that written above, to consider whether a free State can be maintained in a City that is corrupted, or, if there had not been one, to be able to establish one. On this matter I say that it is very difficult to do either one or the other: and although it is almost impossible to give rules ((because it will be necessary to proceed according to the degrees of corruption)), none the less, as it is well to discuss every thing, I do not want to omit this. And I will presuppose a City very corrupt, where such difficulties come to rise very fast, as there are found there neither laws or institutions that should be enough to check a general corruption. For as good customs have need of laws for maintaining themselves, so the laws, to be observed, have need of good customs. In addition to this, the institutions and laws made in a Republic at its origin when men were good, are not afterward more suitable, when they (men) have become evil. And if laws vary according to circumstances and events in a City, its institutions rarely or never vary: which results in the fact that new laws are not enough, for the institutions that remain firm will corrupt it.” If I read this, and the rest of the chapter correctly, Machiavelli seems to believe that it is necessary to build good institutions to support good laws and good government. How has that played out in the modern world? In Germany the civil institutions were pretty much destroyed, and there was a period of de-Nazification before there was a functioning republic. Something similar happened in Japan. There MacArthur fulfilled a proconsular role, and guided the development of the Japanese democracy. In both Germany and Japan the process took several years from the cessation of hostilities. What kind of prognosis does that imply for Iraq? Probably something of similar duration, and some difficulties in getting the kinks worked out as the society is de-Baathified, and returns to a more normal society.
A kingdom cannot sustain two weak princes in a row.
Two princes of talent can achieve great things.
The blame for princes and republics who lack their own arms. “Present Princes and modern Republics, who lack their own soldiers in regard to defense and offense, ought to be ashamed of themselves and to think from the example of Tullus that such a defect exists not because of the lack of men suitable for the military, but that by their own fault they have not known how to make soldiers of their men.” The present imbalance in NATO forces results not from the military incompetence of the Brits, the Spaniards, the Dutch, and so forth, but from the reluctance of the European nations to support a strong military, and to share the burden of their own defense.
- The Horatii and the Curatii.
- Don’t risk everything.
- Rewards and penalties.
- Whoever wants to reform an ancient state into a free city should retain at least a shadow of ancient forms.
- The new prince should organize everything anew.
- Very rarely do men know how to be entirely good or entirely bad.
- Rome less ungrateful than the Athenians.
- Is a prince or a people more ungrateful.
- How to avoid ingratitude.
- Roman captains not punished for ineptitude.
- Don’t defer benefitting men.
- Temporize when dealing with evils within a state; don’t attack rashly.
- The dictatorial authority.
- Citizens who have received higher honours should not disdain lower ones.
- Troubles caused by the agrarian law.
- Weak republics are irresolute.
- The same incidents often happen to different people.
- The decemvirs.
- Jumping from humility to pride; from mercy to cruelty.
- How easily man may be corrupted.
- Good and faithful soldiers.
- A multitude without a head is useless.
- It is a bad example not to observe the law.
- Men jump from one ambition to another.
- Self-deception operates in general, not in particulars.
- Magistracies and vile men.
- Cities that begin in servitude find it almost impossible to make laws that maintain their freedom.
- A council or magistrate should not be able to stop the affairs of a city.
- Appearing to do through liberality what you are constrained to do.
- Forestalling the powerful ones who appear in a republic.
- People deceived by a false species of good desire their ruin.
- The great man and the mob./
- Uncorrupt cities, equality and inequality.
The plebs are strong en masse, weak separately.
The multitude is wiser and more constant than a prince.
Which alliances or leagues can be trusted.
Magistracies and age.
Whether virtu or fortune was the greater cause of the empire of the Romans.
The people the Romans fought, and how they defended their liberty.
Rome became a great city by ruining her neighbors and easily admitting foreigners to her citizenship. “Those who plan for a City to achieve great Empire ought with all industry to endeavor to make it full of inhabitants, for without this abundance of men, one can never succeed in making a City great. This is done in two ways, by love and by force. Through love, by keeping the ways open and secure for foreigners who should plan to come to live there. Through force, by destroying the neighboring Cities and sending their inhabitants to live in your City” So Machiavelli would appear to favor an open immigration policy. He is writing though of a time in the early history of the Roman republic, and he is not referring to the appearance of the barbarians of the 4th and 5th centuries AD. The foreigners who became Roman citizens were integrated into Roman society. The melting pot metaphor that used to be applied to the immigrant roots of US citizens was probably true for the early republic. Whether later foreigners, those that came in under the empire, assimilated or not I’m not sure.
Republics have had three ways of expanding. These are to create a single league of many united republics; to make them associates; to make them subjects.
Changes in sects and languages along with flood and pestilence destroy historical memory. Here Machiavelli asserts that the erasure of a language, along with the destruction of its artifacts can serve to erase a culture’s memory. Machiavelli attributes an attempt to erase the memory of Classical culture to St. Gregory: “And whoever reads the methods used by Saint Gregory and the other Heads of the Christian Religion, will see with what obstinacy they persecuted all the ancient memorials, burning the works of the Poets and Historians, ruining statues, and despoiling every thing else that gave any sign of antiquity. So that, if to this persecution they had added a new language, it would have been seen that in a very brief time everything (previous) would have been forgotten.” I can’t really give this a fair evaluation, at least with respect to Gregory, because I don’t know enough about him or the period. It is, however, reminiscent of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The attacks on the material culture, such as the mutilation of treasures in the museum at Kabul, and the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas is a perfect example of the deliberate destruction that Machiavelli describes.
How the Romans made war. Roman wars were short and over quickly. The examples that Machiavelli gives ran from 6 days to 20 days. This may have been true of the ancient world generally. Victor Davis Hanson describes the typical Greek battle as taking place in an afternoon, and as lasting a short while. At the end the winning side would put up a standard of victory and go home. Long wars, such as Troy and the Peloponnesian war were the exceptions. Mark Perry in Partners in Command makes a point that Fox Conner, mentor to Eisenhower and Marshall believed that wars should be short. Now I think that Perry has an ideological axe to grind, and that he’s aiming at Bush and the Iraq war with his commentary, but the point is well taken that long wars are debilitating to both sides.
It was when the Romans began to pay soldiers, instead of relying on the unpaid militia, that long wars, including sieges became possible.
In the process of conquering a city its territory became available for colonization.
How much land was alloted each colonist. Machiavelli puts this at 2 acres. He appears to believe that cattle, and other animals were grazed on common land. So it was probably two acres for house and small crops, several hundred acres for common grazing areas.
The why of emigration. There are two kinds of war: “One is waged because of the ambitions of Princes or of a Republic that seek to extend their Empire, such as were the wars that Alexander the Great waged, and those that the Romans waged, and those which one power wages against another. While these wars are dangerous, they never drive all the inhabitants out of a province, but the obedience of the people is enough for the conqueror, and most of the times he leaves them to live with their laws, and always with their homes and possessions: The other kind of war is when an entire people with all their families are taken away from a place, necessitated either by famine or by war, and goes to seek a new seat in a new province, not in order to seek dominion over them as those others above, but to possess it absolutely; and to drive out or kill its old inhabitants. This kind of war is most cruel and most frightful.” It’s been 40 some years since I tried reading Toynbee’s A Study of History but I recall that he repeatedly referred to the “post-Minoan volkerwanderung.” Apparently this was a mass relocation of peoples due to the collapse of Minoan civilization. This would represent the kind of upset that Machiavelli talks about. Also, the entry into the promised land, with its mass killings, after the Exodus is an example.
Causes of war between the powerful. This is a series of examples from Livy and Roman history.
Money is not the sinew of war. “Because anyone can commence a war at his pleasure, but cannot so finish it, a Prince ought before he undertakes an enterprise to measure his forces, and govern himself in accordance with them. But he ought to have so much prudence as not to deceive himself of the two forces: and he will deceive himself every time when he measures it either by his money, or by the location (of his country), or by good will of his people, while on the other hand he lacks his own arms. For although the above things will increase his strength, (but) they will not give it to him, and of themselves are nothing, and will not be of benefit without trustworthy arms. For without them, great amounts of money will not suffice you, the strength of the country will not benefit you, and the faith and good will of men will not endure, as these cannot remain faithful to you if you are not able to defend them. Every mountain, every lake, every inaccessible place becomes a plain where strong defenders are lacking. Money alone, also, will not defend you, but causes you to be plundered more readily.” The presence of vast wealth is not in itself a defense. It constitutes a temptation to plunder. A look at the percentage of GDP expended on the military by some NATO countries is interesting.
It is not prudent to ally with a prince who has more reputation than power. In current terms we’re seeing that NATO is ineffective in dealing with military crises. The component nations are unable to make significant manpower contributions to the long war, and a military confrontation with Russian is not feasible with conventional weaponry.
Let me clarify that last. Given the conditions imposed by weather, landscape, and other factors, offensive operations in the Russian heartland would be difficult, if not impossible. Defensive operations aimed at securing the expulsion of a invading Russian force might be possible. However, as of this date (August 17, 2008), it has been impossible for Georgia to successfully repulse the Russian threat. NATO, which has more reputation than power, has been useless in this case.
Is it better, fearing assault, to attack or to wait. Machiavelli’s answer is that it depends on whether you are strong or weak. If you are strong, go out and attack. If you are weak, then defend. “I conclude again, therefore, that that Prince who has his people armed and organized for war should always await a powerful and dangerous war (enemy) at home and not go out to meet it. But that (Prince) who has his subjects unarmed and the country unaccustomed to war, should always keep it as distant as he can. And thus one and the other ((each in his own manner)) will defend himself better.”
That one comes to a great fortune by fraud more than force.
Men deceive themselves by believing that humility can overcome haughtiness.
Modern vs. ancient organization. Machiavelli discusses the organization of the Romans in attack. There were essentially three groups. The front rank of troops were backed up by two groups of loosely packed soldiers. If the first group were attacked, and forced back, they merged with the second group, and reformed to fight as a unit. If that group was pushed back, it would merge with the third and reform as a compact unit.
Artillery. It has to be remembered that artillery was not terribly effective in Machiavelli’s day. I don’t know if anti-personnel shots were loaded in the 16th century. Shrapnel was developed in the 18th century by Henry Shrapnel, and apparently consisted of bullets embedded within a shell. The shell would explode, and the bullets would spread out over an area. The term is generally applied to any kind of fragmented metal created by a explosion, but is technically correct only for this type of shell. Other anti-personnel devices included grapeshot, small balls joined together to form one larger ball. The large ball would disintegrate and the smaller balls would be spread over the massed enemy. Canister shot had a similar effect. It is well to remember that although what we consider the standard cannon ball could cause casualties, including decapitations, such as Grant describes in the section of his memoirs on the Mexican war, it was not, originally intended for use against troops. Machiavelli appears to consider artillery as being primarily for attacks upon fortified positions.
“I shall begin by speaking concerning the first opinion that the ancient Roman armies would not have made the conquests that they did if artillery had existed: Upon which in replying, I say that war is made either to defend oneself or to take the offensive: whence it must first be examined as to which of these two kinds of war make it (artillery) more useful or more damaging. And although there is something to say on both sides, none the less I believe that beyond comparison it does more damage to whoever defends himself than to whoever attacks.” So artillery is useless when defending a fortified position. “The reason I say this is that he who defends himself is either inside some fortified place or in a camp within a stockade: and if he is inside a town, either this town is small as are the greater part of the fortresses, or it is large: in the first case whoever defends himself is entirely lost, for the impetus of the artillery is such that a wall has not yet been found which is so strong that in a few days it will be battered down by it; and if whoever is inside does not have considerable space for retreat, and (cannot protect himself) with ditches and earthworks, he is lost, nor can he sustain the attack of the enemy who would then enter through the breach in the wall: nor will the artillery he has be of any benefit to him in this, for there is a maxim that where men attack in mass, the artillery will not stop them….” The defender, when the wall is breached, runs out of room. If I breach your northern wall, you can run to the southern wall, but that creates a barrier that impedes your escape.
Speaking of skirmishers he says, “but when they go in a dense mass, and one pushes the other as they come to a break, if they are not impeded by ditches or earthworks, they enter in every place and artillery will not hold them: and if some are killed, they cannot be so many that they would impede the victory. That this is true has been recognized by the many conquests made by the Ultramontanes in Italy, and especially that of Brescia….” The earthworks create more of an impedance for the infantry than the artillery. The mass of men are able to swarm over or through the artillery, but will be hindered by obstacles such as trenches. When there was fighting with the Venetians “Monsignor De Foix took no account, rather, with his squadron, he descended on foot, and passing through the midst of it (the artillery) occupied the City, nor from what was heard had he received any recordable damage. So that whoever defends himself in a small area ((as was said)) and finding the walls of his town breached, and does not have space to retreat with earthworks and ditches, and have to rely on artillery, will quickly be lost.
If you defend a large town and have the convenience of retreating, I none the less maintain beyond comparison that artillery is more useful to whoever is outside than to whoever is inside. First, because if you want artillery to harm those outside, you are necessitated to raise yourself with it above the level of the surrounding land, for being on the plain, every little embankment and earthwork that the enemy raises remains secure, and you cannot harm him, so that by having to raise it and draw it along the aisle between the walls, or in some other way raise it above the ground, you have two drawbacks: the first, that you cannot place artillery of the same size and power as those outside can bring to bear, as you are not able in a small place to handle large things: the other, no matter how well you can place it, you cannot make those earthworks trustworthy and secure in order to save the said artillery as those outside can do being on higher ground, and having that convenience and space which they themselves lacked: So that it is impossible to whoever defends a town to keep his artillery in elevated positions when those who are on the outside have plenty and powerful artillery: and if they have to place it in lower places, it becomes in large part useless, as has been said. So that the defense of a City is reduced to defending it with the same (manual) arms as was done anciently, and with small size artillery: from which little usefulness is derived ((because of the small size artillery)) unless there is a mine of disadvantages that counterweighs the advantage (of the artillery): for in respect to that, the walls of the town are kept low and almost buried in the ditches, so that when the battle comes to hand to hand fighting, either because the walls are breached or the ditches filled up, those inside have many more disadvantages than they had before. And therefore ((as was said above)) these instruments benefit much more whoever besieges the towns that whoever is besieged.
“As to the third case when you are in a camp within a stockade and you do not want to come to an engagement unless it is at your convenience or advantage, I say that in this case you do not ordinarily have a better remedy to defend yourself without fighting than what the ancients had, and some times you may have greater disadvantage on account of your artillery: For if the enemy turns on you and has even a small advantage of ground, as can easily happen, and finds himself higher than you, or that at his arrival you have not yet finished your earthworks and covered yourself well with them, he quickly dislodges you before you have any remedy and you are forced to go out of your fortress and come to battle. This happened to the Spaniards in the engagement at Ravenna, who, being entrenched between the river Ronco and an earthwork which was built insufficiently high, and the French having a slight advantage of terrain, were constrained by the artillery to leave their fortified place and come to battle. But suppose ((as must often happen)) that the location you have chosen for your camp is higher than the other side at the (time of) encounter, and that your earthworks are good and secure, so that owing to the site and your other preparations, the enemy does not dare to assault you, in this case he will resort to those means that the ancients resorted to when one, with his army, was in a position where he could not be attacked, that is, he will overrun the country, take or besiege lands friendly to you and impede your provisions; so that you will be forced by some necessity to dislodge him, and come to battle, where artillery ((as will be mentioned below)) will not be of much use. Considering, therefore, in what manner the Romans made war, and observing that almost all their wars were to attack others and not to defend themselves, it will be seen ((if all the things said above were true)) that they would have had even greater advantage, and would have made their conquests more easily, if they should have lived in those times (of the advent of artillery).”
Infantry should be more esteemed than cavalry. The great advantage of cavalry is that it is fast moving, lightly armed, and capable of acting as scouts, of making attacks with sabers, and if needed of dismounting and fighting as infantry.
Acquisitions in ill organized republics work towards their ruin.
Auxiliary soldiers. These are defined as “auxiliary soldiers are those who are sent you by a Prince, as I have said, under their captains, under their ensigns, and paid by them, as was this army that the Romans sent to Capua.” Machiavelli does not appear to be addressing an alliance in which the troops are under a unified command, but one in which each set of troops has an independent command.
The praetor in Capua.
Falsehood of judgement.
Avoiding halfway measures. Machiavelli advocates that there should be no halfway measures. Given a choice between leniency or harshness you should choose one or the other. “But to return to our discussion, I conclude, both from this and from the judgment given to the Latins, when a City, powerful and accustomed to living free, is to be judged, it must be either destroyed or caressed, otherwise every judgment is vain; and above all the middle-way course ought to be avoided, which is pernicious, as it was to the Samnites when they had enveloped the Romans at the Caudine forks, and when they did not want to follow the advice of that old man who counselled them that they should allow the Romans to go honorably, or to kill them all; but by taking a middle way, disarming them and putting them under the yoke, they allowed them to go full of ignominy and anger. So that a little afterwards, to their harm, they realized how useful the sentence of that old man had been and how harmful was their decision, as will be discussed more fully in its place.” Back in February, when I was discussing Livy, I mentioned the Caudine Forks episode. I wasn’t sure then what Machiavelli would advise, but he agrees with Livy that they should have either annihilated the Romans when they had the chance, or let them go. The course chosen was poor. A similar situation appears to be happening with the military commissions at Guantanamo. Rather than either letting Hamdan go with time served, or giving him death or a lengthy sentence, he was sentenced to a little over 5 years. He will still be vigorous, and an enemy when he is released, whereas had he been sentenced to 30 years, he would have been 68, and quite possibly beyond being of any consequential help to terrorist movements. Similar sentences will only prolong the war.
Fortresses are harmful, not useful. I think Machiavelli is discussing forts and castles here. I’m not sure how applicable this is to modern military bases, or if they should be regarded as modern equivalents.
Attacking a disunited city to take advantage of its disunion doesn’t work. This is because the attack serves to unify the city against the attackers. Note that after 9/11 there was a brief moment of unity. When it became plain that the war would be fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, and not in CONUS, disunity reappeared.
Contempt and insult generate hatred.
On winning. It should be enough when a battle has been won. The enemy should not be treated with contempt.
It is dangerous not to avenge a wrong. When the Fabii were sent to Clusium to offer diplomatic assistance, they turned warrior. Rather than being disciplined, they were honored. This was an insult to the Gauls, and ultimately led to the attack on Rome. The Romans should have punished the Fabii.
Fortune blinds the minds of men.
Truly powerful Republics and princes gain friendship not through money, but through virtu and a reputation for strength.
It is dangerous to believe exiles.
How the Romans occupied towns.
The Romans gave their captains uncontrolled commissions. Machiavelli believes that once the decision to go to war has been made, the commander in the field should make the decisions: “I think that ((reading this history of Livius and wanting to profit)) all the methods of procedure of the Roman People and Senate should be considered. And among other things that merit consideration, is to see with what authority they sent out their Consuls, Dictators, and other Captains of armies; from which it is seen that the authority was very great, as the Senate did not reserve to itself anything other than the authority to declare new wars, to confirm peace (treaties), and left everything else to the arbitration power of the Consul. For once a war was decided on by the People and the Senate ((for instance against the Latins)) they remitted all the rest to the discretion of the Consul, who could either make an engagement or not make it, and lay siege to this or that town as seemed proper to him.” He gives as an example the campaign of Fabius against the Tuscans, and comments: “And whoever considers well this method will see it is most prudently employed, for if the Senate had wanted the Consul to proceed in the war from hand to hand according to that which they committed to him, they would have made him (Fabius) less circumspect and more slow; for it would not have seemed to him that the glory of the battle should be all his, but as being shared by the Senate, by whose counsels he had been governed. In addition to this the Senate would have obligated itself to want to advise on a matter that they could not have understood; for notwithstanding that there many of them who were men most expert in war, none the less not being in that place, and not knowing the infinite particulars that are necessary to be known to want to counsel well, infinite errors ((by counselling)) would have been made.” The kind of micromanagement that Machiavelli advises against is supposed to have taken place during the war in Vietnam. Supposedly LBJ approved targets for strikes, rather than simply issuing a general order. On the other hand, it has to be admitted that during the late Rebellion that Lincoln did not hesitate to fire commanders who were incompetent, or not performing up to par. Lincoln did not, however, meddle in the overall plans of his commanders.
Sects and republics must periodically return to their first principles. Machiavelli appears to have anti-clerical and reformist tendencies: “But as to the Sects, such renewal is also seen to be necessary by the examples of our religion, which, if it had not been brought back to its principles by Saint Francis and Saint Dominic, would have been entirely extinguished: for by their poverty and by their example of the life of Christ, brought it back to the minds of men where it had already been extinguished; and their new orders were so powerful, that they were the reason why the dishonesty of Prelates and the Heads of the Religion did not ruin her; they yet continue to live in poverty and have so much credit with the people through confessions and preachings, that they were able to make them understand that it was evil to speak evil of the bad, and that it was good to live rendering them obedience, and if they had made errors to leave their punishment to God. And thus these bad (rulers) do as much evil as they can, because they do not fear that punishment they do not see or believe. This renewal (of Saint Francis and Saint Dominic) therefore has maintained and still maintains this Religion.” Machiavelli was an opponent of the Medicis, and I think was a supporter of Savonarola. Now being a thoroughly corrupt person myself, and someone who regards Savonarola’s bonfire of the vanities, with its destruction of art and treasures, as an act of barbarism comparable to the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, I don’t have a very high opinion of Savonarola. Nor do I share the evident anti-clericalism. I think that to the extent that any reformation was necessary, and given Leo X it probably was, that it took place at Trent.
How it is sometimes wise to simulate madness.
To maintain newly acquired liberty it is necessary to kill the sons of Brutus. After the Tarquins were expelled, the sons of Brutus wanted to restore the kings and regain their privileges. Their plot was discovered, and they were put to death in front of their father. “The severity of Brutus was no less necessary than useful in maintaining that liberty in Rome which she had acquired; which is an example rare in all the record of history to see a father to sit in judgment, and not only condemn his sons to death, but to be present at their deaths. And this will always be known by those who read ancient history, that after a change of State, either from a Republic to a Tyranny, or from a Tyranny to a Republic, a memorable execution against the enemies of the existing conditions is necessary. And whoever restores liberty to a State and does not kill Brutus, and whoever restores liberty to a State and does not kill the sons of Brutus, maintains himself only a short time.” I think there’s an error in this translation. The line beginning “And whoever restores liberty…” is wrong, and should read differently. The printed translation that I’m reading, gives the beginning as “So that he who sets up as a tyrant and slays not Brutus….” Given the criteria described here our first objective following the liberation of a country should be to extirpate those who hunger for a restoration of the old regime. We did this with a fair degree of success in Germany and Japan. In Iraq we managed to get rid of Saddam’s sons. Where we failed, at least in part, was in getting rid of Sadr and his ilk. He should have been seized and executed as quickly as possible. Dissidents and insurgents should have been dealt with quickly and decisively.
A prince does not live securely in a kingdom while those despoiled of it live.
What makes a king lose an inherited kingdom.
Conspiracies. This is the longest chapter in The Discourses. Machiavelli breaks conspiracies into two kinds based on the object aimed at. This can be either the prince himself, or the country. Conspiracies are prone to danger before, during, or after their execution. The lone actor is also mentioned under conspiracies. “Those who conspire may be alone, or may be more than one. The one cannot be said to be a Conspiracy, but is a firm disposition rising in a man to kill the Prince. This alone, of the three dangers that Conspiracies run, lacks the first, because it does not carry any danger before the execution; since no others have his secret, there is no danger that his design will be carried to the ears of the Prince. Such a decision (plot) can be made by any man, of whatever sort, small or great, noble or ignoble, familiar or not, familiar with the Prince: for it is permitted to everyone at some time to talk to him, and to him who is permitted to talk it is allowed to give vent to his feelings. Pausanias, of whom was spoken at another place, killed Phillip of Macedonia who was going to the Temple surrounded by a thousand armed men, and between his son and son-in-law: but that man was a Noble and known to the Prince. A poor and abject Spaniard stabbed King Ferrando of Spain in the neck: the wound was not mortal, but from this it is seen that that man had the courage and opportunity to do it. A Turkish Dervish priest drew a scimitar on Bajazet, the father of the present Grand Turk: he did not wound him, but he too had the courage and the opportunity to have done it, if he wanted to. Of these spirits thusly constituted, I believe many could be found who would do such a thing ((as there is no danger or punishment in wanting to do so)) but few who do it. But of those who do, there are none or very few who are not killed in the deed.” Note that the lone person can be of any sort, including a discharged Marine. While modern princes do not freely grant audience to the common people, they, and politicians in general, are exposed during public appearances. The survival rate of lone actors is discouragingly low. A Lee Harvey Oswald is thus quite possible in Machiavelli’s view, but he does face a high probability of being killed. JFK echoed Machiavelli when he said the president could be killed, if the assassin was willing to die. (Booth died 12 days after shooting Lincoln. Mary Surratt and her fellow conspirators were hung on July 7, 1865. Guiteau was executed about a year after shooting Garfield. Czolgosz shot McKinley on Sept. 6, 1901, and was electrocuted on October 29, 1901. Zangara shot at Roosevelt and Anton Cermak on February 15, 1933. Cermak died of his wounds on March 6, 1933, and Zangara died of sitting in the wrong kind of chair on March 20, 1933. Lee Harvey Oswald died through extra-legal means on November 24, 1963. Not very good examples for long term survival.)
One thing you definitely don’t want to do is talk about your conspiracy beforehand. Careless talk can undo a conspiracy before it gets off the ground.
Conspiracies are liable to betrayal. If one party is discovered, he will try to cut a deal by betraying the rest of the conspirators. (Hence omerta, to frighten perspective members of a criminal conspiracy and keep them from testifying. Hence also witness protection, to persuade conspirators to betray their fellows by providing protection and security.
Conspiracies can fail because of sudden changes in plans. Machiavelli gives the example of the Pazzi conspiracy against the Medici. (See this book for an account of the conspiracy. The author has a decidedly anti-Medici bias.) Another example of a botched conspiracy is the Stauffenberg plot against Hitler. Had Stauffenberg set his briefcase in a different position at the table, or set off both charges, his plot would have succeeded in killing Hitler. Had they been more resolute in seizing control of the government, it might have succeeded.
Changes from slavery to liberty and vice versa.
He who wants to alter a republic ought to alter its condition.
Changing with the times.
You cannot avoid a confrontation if the adversary wants one.
Resisting the first attack.
Impose the necessity of fighting on your soldiers, but leave the enemy a chance to escape. This will give you an opportunity to increase the valor and fighting desire of your forces, and sap the will of the enemy to fight.
Good captain/weak army, or good army/weak captain.
New inventions and new voices in combat.
Finding true virtu.
Men who have been offended.
Intelligence gathering. “Epaminondas the Theban said nothing was more necessary and more useful for a Captain, than to know the decisions and proceedings of the enemy. And as such knowledge is difficult (to obtain), so much more praise does he merit who acts in a way that he conjectures it. And it is not so difficult to learn the designs of the enemy as it is sometimes difficult to understand his actions, and not as much his actions that he does at a distance, as those he does at the moment and near by.” Here we have one justification for intelligence gathering, for, as one Secretary of State put it, “reading other people’s mail.” Without some knowledge of the enemy’s intentions and capabilities your army may face a more difficult battle with higher casualties.
Obsequies or punishment.
Humanity and the Faliscians.
Hannibal and Scipio
Manlius Torquatus and Valerius Corvino.
Why Camillus was driven from Rome.
The prolongation of military commands.
The poverty of Cincinnatus.
How a state is ruined by women.
How a divided city is united.
Observing the actions of citizens. “The City of Rome was afflicted by a famine, and as the public provisions were not enough to end it, one Spurius Melius, who was very rich according to those times, had the mind of privately making a provision of grain and feed the plebs at his expense. For which thing a great assembly of people gave him their favor, that the Senate thinking of the evil that could arise from that liberality of his, and in order to suppress it before it should gather greater strength, created a Dictator against him, who had him put to death. Here it is to be noted that many times actions that appear merciful, and which cannot be reasonably condemned, may become cruel, and very dangerous to a Republic if not corrected at the proper time.” It is not that the action was bad in itself, it was that the actions ran the risk of setting up an institution, or a force that was counter to the power of the state. Oddly enough the FARC terrorists that were rounded up recently thought the people they were dealing with were from an NGO. The NGO functions as an oppositional force to the current regime. The same logic no doubt applies to the refusal of the Burmese government to allow U. S.relief efforts.
The faults of the people arise from princes.
How the defense of a city ought to be organized on the coming of the enemy.
Strong republics and excellent men.
Disturbing the peace.
Armies must have confidence in themselves and their captains.
What fame or voice opinion makes a people favor a man. Machiavelli addresses the question of knowing a man by his associates “And because no better index can be had of a man than the companion with whom he keeps company, and meritedly one who keeps company with honest companions acquires a good name, for it is impossible that he does not have some similitude with them. Or truly this public fame is acquired by some extraordinary and notable act, even though it may be a private matter, which has turned out honorably. And of all these three things, which in the beginning give a good reputation to one, none gives it best than this last; for the first is based on relatives and fathers, and is so fallacious, that it comes to men so slowly and in a little while is consumed if the individual virtu of that man who is to be judged does not accompany him. The second, which makes you known by way of your practices, is better then the first, but is much inferior to the third; for until some sign arising from you is seen, your reputation is founded on opinion, which is most easy to stamp out. But that third, being begun and founded on your actions, gives you such a name in the beginning that it will be necessary that you many times do contrary deeds if you want to destroy it. Men who are born in a Republic ought, therefore, to adopt this last course and endeavor to begin to elevate themselves by some extraordinary action." The man who has done some extraordinary act achieves a degree of fame and recognition, and establishes his character better than someone who has done nothing. So John Kennedy’s service in the Pacific theater helped him win election to Congress, and helped establish his reputation for toughness. McCain’s service and ordeal in Vietnam likewise helped him win election.
Here is more of Machiavelli on the same subject.
"This is what many of the young men did in Rome, either by promulgating a law that served some common usefulness, or by accusing some prominent citizen as a transgressor of the laws, or by doing some similar new and notable things for which he is talked about. Not only are such things necessary in order to begin to give oneself reputation, but they are also necessary to maintain and increase it. And to want to do this, it is necessary to repeat them, as Titus Manlius did in his entire lifetime; for, having defended his father so extraordinarily and with so much virtu, and because of this act acquired this original reputation, and after a few years he fought that Gaul and, killing him, took from his that chain of gold which gave him the name of Torquatus. This was not enough for him, for afterwards when he was already of mature age, he killed his own son for having fought without permission, even though he had defeated the enemy. Which three acts gave him fame at that time, and will make him more celebrated for all the centuries to come, than all the victories and all the triumphs with which he was honored, as much as any other Roman, gave him. And the reason is, that in that victory Manlius had very many rivals, but in these particular acts he did not have any or only a very few. The elder Scipio did not gain as much glory with all his triumphs as was given him by his having defended his father on the Ticino while a youth, and be having, after the defeat at Cannae, animatedly with bloody sword made many young Romans swear that they would not abandon their country, as they had already decided; which two acts were the beginning of his reputation, and made for him the ladder for the triumphs of Spain and Africa. Which opinion was also increased by him when, in Spain, he sent back a daughter to her father and a wife to her husband. Such conduct is necessary not only for those Citizens who want to acquire fame in order to obtain honors in their Republic, but is also necessary for Princes to enable them to maintain their reputation in their Principality; for nothing makes itself so esteemed as his giving some example of some rare deed or saying concerning the common good, which show the lord to be magnanimous, liberal, or just, and which is such that it becomes as a proverb among his subjects, But to return whence we begun this discussion, I say, that when the people begin to bestow a rank upon one of its Citizens, if founded on those three reasons mentioned above, it is not badly founded: but when, however, the many examples of his good conduct make him more noted, it is better founded; for in such a case they are almost never deceived. I speak only of those ranks that are given to men in the beginning, and before they are known from firm experience, and before they pass from one act to another dissimilar one. Here, both as to false opinion and corruption, the people always make smaller errors that do Princes. Although it could happen that the people might be deceived by the fame, opinions, and acts of a man, esteeming them greater than, in truth, they are; which does not happen to a Prince, for he would be told and advised of it by those who counsel him; for although the people do not lack these counsels, yet the good organizers of Republic have arranged that, when appointments have to be made to the highest offices of the City, where it would be dangerous to place inadequate men, and where it is seen that the popular will is directed toward naming some that might be inadequate, it be allowed to every citizen, and it should be imputed to his glory, to make public in the assemblies to defects of that one (named for public office), so that the people ((lacking knowledge of him)) can better judge. And that such was the custom in Rome is witnessed by the speech of Fabius Maximus which he made to the people in the second Punic war, when in the creation of consuls their favors turned to the creation of T. Otacilius: and Fabius judging him inadequate to govern in the Consulship in those times, spoke against him and turned the favor of the people to one who merited it more than he. The people, therefore, in the election of Magistrates judge according to the best evidence that they can obtain, and err less than Princes: and the Citizen who desires to begin to obtain the favor of the people ought to gain it for himself ((as T. Manlius did)) by some notable”
Dangers of a counselor.
An anti-Gaul passage.
Captains should have knowledge of places. Machiavelli recommends hunting and the chase as a means of acquiring geographical and topographical knowledge.
Deceit in war is glorious. This requires citation of the whole chapter. “Although to use deceit in every action is detestable, none the less in the managing of a war it is a laudable and glorious thing; and that man is equally lauded who overcomes the enemy by deceit, as is he who overcomes them by force. And this is seen by the judgment which those men make who write biographies of great men, and who praise Hannibal and others who have been very notable in such ways of proceeding. Of which so many examples have been cited that I will not repeat any. I mention only this, that I do intend that that deceit is glorious which makes you break your trust and treaties that you made; for although it sometimes acquires a State and a Kingdom for you, as has been discussed above, will never acquire them for you gloriously. But I speak of that deceit which is employed against that enemy who distrusts you, and in which properly consists the managing of a war; as was that of Hannibal when he feigned flight on the lake of Perugia in order to close in the Consul and the Roman army; and when to escape from the hands of Fabius Maximus he fired (the fagots on) the horns of his cattle. A similar deceit was also employed by Pontius, the Captain of the Samnites, in order to close in the Roman army within the Caudine forks, who, having placed his army behind a mountain, sent some of his soldiers under the dress of shepherds with a large herd upon the plain; who, being taken by the Romans and asked where the army of the Samnites was, all agreed according to the orders given by Pontius to say that it was at the siege of Nocera. Which was believed by the Consuls, and caused them to be enclosed within the defiles (of Claudium), where (having entered) they were quickly besieged by the Samnites. And this victory obtained by deceit would have been most glorious to Pontius, if he had followed the counsels of his father, who wanted the Romans either to be liberally set free, or all put to death, and would not take the middle way: Never make a friend or remove an enemy. Which way was always pernicious in the affairs of a State, as has been discussed above in another place.”
Thomas Aquinas makes a contrary assertion in the Summa, (II-II, Q40, art.3) when he discusses ambushes. But it seems to me that the commandment against bearing false witness against your neighbor is not an absolute commandment against lies as such. It is a commandment against perjury. Not against telling your wife that her hips aren’t huge. As such it assumes a state that is functioning properly, and that aims at justice. When the state is not functioning properly, or is unjust, then the obligation to not commit perjury is superseded by the commandment to do justice. Hence John XXIII committed an act of false witness for his neighbors by issuing baptismal certificates for Jewish people. He acted in such a way to prevent an injustice. When you are in an existential war, one in which your existence as a country or as a people is threatened by an unjust enemy, then you are justified in using deceit and trickery in such a way as to minimize the losses to your people.
That one’s country ought to be defended. “The Consul and the Roman army ((as mentioned above)) were besieged by the Samnites, who had proposed the most ignominious conditions to the Romans, which were to put them under the yoke, and to send them back to Rome disarmed; the Consuls were astonished and the entire army was in despair because of this; but L. Lentulus, the Roman legate said, that it did not appear he should avoid any procedure in order to save the country, for as the life of Rome depended on the life of that army, it appeared to him it should be saved in whatever way, and that the country is well defended in whatever way it is defended, either with ignominy or with glory; for by saving that army, Rome would in time wipe out that ignominy; but by not saving it, even though they should die most gloriously, Rome and its liberty would be lost. Which thing merits to be noted and observed by any citizen who finds himself counselling his country; for where the entire safety of the country is to be decided, there ought not to exist any consideration of what is just or unjust, nor what is merciful or cruel, nor what is praiseworthy or ignominious; rather, ahead of every other consideration, that proceeding ought to be followed which will save the life of the country and maintain its liberty. Which counsel is imitated by the words and deeds of the French in defending the majesty of their King and the power of the Kingdom, for they listen to no voice more impatiently than that which says: Such a proceeding is ignominious to the King; for they say that their King cannot suffer disgrace in any of his decisions either in good or adverse fortune, because, whether he wins or loses, they all say it is a matter that only concerns the King.”
Promises made by force should not be observed.
Same province, same natures.
Impetuosity and audacity.
Defend and counter-attack, or attack first.
Families and customs.
Citizens should forget private injuries.
Errors of theenemy should be viewed as deceit.
Republics need new precautions to maintain freedom.
Machiavelli doesn’t deal with war specifically in either of the two books, at least not in terms of strategy, or of war aims, but I think his discussion would probably be clearer and better than that of some of the armchair generals in Congress or in the news.
First, Machiavelli would, I think, urge us to define our war aims, and to think if our definition of those aims is a good one. In the Gulf War, the aim was the liberation of Kuwait. Was that aim the proper one, or should we have pushed for a broader one that focused on the elimination of Saddam? If Saddam had been eliminated then, we would have been spared the Oil for Food scandal, 12 years of no fly zones, and the need for the continuation of the war in 2003.
Second, he would say that you do not define an exit strategy. You define a victory condition. In WWII that condition was defined as the unconditional surrender of the Axis armies. In the Gulf war it was defined as the liberation of Kuwait. In the current war, there is no proper definition of a victory condition. It may well be that given the nature of the current war there can be no pre-determined victory condition.
Third, he would say that survival trumps just about everything. The important thing is that your republic survive and triumph against its enemies. So he would have little patience with some of the Supreme Court’s decisions in terrorism cases. Nor would he necessarily share in the condemnation of NSA’s warrantless wiretaps, and other measures.
Next up. Luther’s Freedom of a Christian, Rabelais, Gargantua; Bacon, Novum Organum, Descartes, Discourse on Method. This will end the Sophomore year. During the break I’ve got Steve White, Exodus; John Ringo, The Last Centurion; Marguerite of Navarre, The Heptameron; and Leonardo Bruni, The History of Florence, on tap.