Thursday, August 03, 2006


Machiavelli Up to Date

What advice might Machiavelli give the American and Israeli administrations if he were alive? My guess is it would be something like this:

A strong military force is necessary for the preservation of the state. It is more important that your neighbors fear you than love you. However, you must use your strong military force judiciously. You must not start a war that you can not win. If you do so, your neighbors will see that your military force is no threat to them and they will not do your bidding. It is better that your neighbors continue to believe that your strong military force is invincible than to show them that it is not.

If you are attacked and can not prevail by military force, it is very useful to be the object of sympathy of the neighbors who have not attacked you. If you attempt to avenge the damage done to you and inflict on your enemy greater harm than he has inflicted on you, other neighbors will sympathize with your enemy, not with you. This is true even if you were initially attacked and suffered much damage.

It follows that damage that you inflict on an enemy who attacked you must not be very much greater than the damage inflicted on you. You may have superior military force, but after you have punished your enemy in proportion to the damage you have suffered, you then begin to lose the sympathy that initially was given to you.

Certainly it is more important to be feared than loved. However, if your military might turns out not to be strong enough to induce fear in your neighbors, you must then try to make your neighbors love you. The worst thing that can happen to you is that your neighbors will regard you with both hatred and contempt.
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