Thursday, February 19, 2004
It never fails to amaze me the miscalculations and misunderstandings that could be avoided with a good classical education. Bring some real history back to the classrooms damnit! Why on earth don't they teach Latin anymore? I really think that mine is the last generation to have any opportunity to study it at all. All my instructors were about 9000 years old. Those principles which shaped western thought for hundreds of years might just have something to recommend them.
Nonetheless, I'm glad to have it said at all. I certainly hope recent events drive more folks to books in search of reference material.
I don't really like the Bush Doctrine, okay?And Contrast:
After 9-11, I thought we should confine our efforts to the Al Qaeda organization. Instead, Bush decided to condemn half the Middle East with his Axis of Evil speech and roll tanks into Iraq.
It bothered me. It still bothers me. But dammit, if you look at the patterns, it seems to be working. The Middle East thinks Bush is batshit crazy, and their governments are afraid of us. Do you get that? The bad guys are afraid of us, because against all logic and common sense, we went into Iraq and we took Saddam down.
We ignored all the reasonable advice from Asia and Europe and people like me, and we went in with guns blazing. We've paid a terrible price in men and money, and we're still there.
What's the lesson? Fuck with America and we will intervene, flagrantly, in the Middle East.
So, if you want us to go home, what should you do? What will happen if we get attacked again? What will happen to the governments of Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia if Al Qaeda sets off a nuke in Times Square?
You think we'll just pack up and go home? Or will we stick our meddling capitalist fingers in every Middle Eastern cesspool on the planet, hoping to turn up a needle in the haystack?
Middle Eastern governments want us to leave them alone. They'll snipe at us when they feel protected, funneling money to terrorist organizations when they think they won't be traced. But what happens when we follow that money home? What happens when their attempts to scare us backfire, and the crazy American president starts taking out dictators in Iraq and Afghanistan?
I'll tell you what happens. The money dries up, and governments that used to wink and nod at terrorism get on their secret satelite phones and tell their extremists to cool it, unless they want to see Marines taking showers in the palace.
Bush wants to be like Reagan, and he has succeeded. Everybody thought Reagan was crazy, when he went on TV and said, "We begin bombing in five minutes." His comments scared the shit out of people. It scared us in America, and more important, it scared our enemies.
In 2001, New York was burning and we were afraid. Today, there are American flags flying in Baghdad and our enemies are afraid.
I don't have access to all the documents, but I must entertain the possibility, the possibility that the Bush Doctrine is working. We have been relatively safe since 9-11. Iraq is a hot zone, but there have been no major attacks on U.S. soil. Why? Because the people who finance terrorism are afraid of us.
We will be hit again, okay? That fear has limits, and Bush is pissing a lot of people off. But tyrants around the world are making compromise noises because we have put the fear of God in them. And if Kerry wins this election, all of that progress will be rolled back.
Europe will love us. The UN will praise us. The Arab world will breathe a huge sigh of relief. And money will start trickling back into Al Qaeda's coffers. The bad guys will tighten their grip on their respective populations, and the price we have paid will have been paid for nothing.
"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."-Machiavelli
"If men were entirely good this precept would not hold, but because they are bad, and will not keep faith with you, you too are not bound to observe it with them. Nor will there ever be wanting to a prince legitimate reasons to excuse this nonobservance."
"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."
Or (as someone commented) put most simply:
"Let them hate, so long as they fear."-Cicero
(Though also a favorite of Caligula, nicely illustrating the peril inherent in such a position.)
For further edification, I highly recommend The Prince, The Discourses, and Warrior Politics. Cicero is good too, if you can stand to slog through it.
Nick Kristof actually wrote an article on this very subject, effectively demonstrating his own lack of a classical education.
"One of the advantages (or is it disadvantages?) of having an e-mail address at the bottom of each column is the torrent of messages helpfully pointing out muddy thinking.I won't even get into how he got Roman provincial history wrong. Just leave it that there's a counter to every example he provides. He goes to a lot of trouble to refute a point that Cicero didn't make. On the other hand, Machiavelli did make the point in question several hundred years ago.
In particular, whenever I write a mushy column about sending medicine abroad as well as soldiers, building bridges instead of just bombing them, I get reproaches from readers who insist that we should worry not about being liked, but about being feared.
"Americans have to get over their craving to be loved," scolded a reader in New Jersey, adding: "Since 1945, we have struggled to be nice guys in the world. It doesn't work; it never did; it never will.
"So no more Mr. Nice Guy. We should now work on building up the fear factor."
And a Filipino admonished Americans: "You're on top, so you're easy to hate. . . . People don't like the dominant nation in the world — there is nothing you can do to placate people.
"So don't keep trying to make people like you. Instead, if you want to avoid another Sept. 11, make people respect you and fear you."
Behind these comments is a central debate echoing in capitals around the world, roughly dividing the doves who want to win hearts and minds and the hawks who wouldn't mind gouging out a few hearts with Bowie knives. A similar debate is going on in Israel, with Ariel Sharon trying to bulldoze the Palestinians into submission and peace groups arguing that the tough approach has made the Palestinian uprising worse.
Even the Romans fretted about the issue, with Cicero offering his famous dictum: Oderint, dum metuant — Let them hate, so long as they fear.
(Actually, Cicero seems to have been no better at crediting his sources than modern historians are; he apparently stole the line from Accius's play "Atreus.")
Cicero's view seems to be gaining ground among many Americans. Plenty of people think that in planning, say, an attack on Iraq, we shouldn't worry about squawks from those (sissy) Europeans or the (medieval) Arab street. If the street revolts at some point and tosses out the Saudi rulers, why, we can just go in and run the oil wells ourselves. Who cares what anyone thinks?
Indeed, it's hard to deny that there are benefits to being muscular and hot-tempered. Just this month President Bush's "axis of evil" language enjoyed some success, by scaring the Iraqis into new discussions with the United Nations about weapons inspections. And in Peru, President Alberto Fujimori managed to eviscerate terrorist groups by being as brutal as they were.
But look further, and Cicero's approach runs into trouble. Rome itself wasted no time with hearts and minds (it razed Carthage, salted the earth and sold surviving Carthaginians into slavery), yet Rome's harsh treatment of civilians abroad simply inspired more rebellions.
And look in the mirror. Britain's decision to get tough with us colonials triggered the birth of this country. Over and over around the world — in the Philippines, Malaysia, Algeria, Kenya, Vietnam and many other countries — efforts to terrify people into submission backfired and created more ferocious resistance.
Simply put, the war on terrorism cannot be won by force alone. Ignoring popular opinion abroad will only increase the risk of another Iranian-style revolution in countries like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. So we must engage our enemies not only on the battlefield but also in the world of ideas.
Indeed, that seems to be President Bush's position, for he has very commendably searched for new ways to win friends abroad. This is a difficult task when your instincts are as unilateralist as Mr. Bush's, but the administration is doubling the number of Peace Corps workers abroad. It has also installed a former advertising executive named Charlotte Beers at the State Department with a title that ought to be under secretary for spin.
The State Department's talk about "rebranding" is easy to mock, but Colin Powell's instincts here are absolutely right. For years the United States has been virtually a non-participant in the battle for hearts and minds overseas; our ambassadors have hobnobbed with local elites but failed to hit the talk shows.
Cicero was wrong. Sure, there's a value to being feared, but it's safer to be feared and admired rather than just feared and loathed."
"Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better To Be Loved or FearedPeople who dismiss Machiavelli tend to be people who haven't read Machiavelli.
PASSING to the other qualities above referred to, I say that every Prince should desire to be accounted merciful and not cruel. Nevertheless, he should be on his guard against the abuse of this quality of mercy. Cesare Borgia was reputed cruel, yet his cruelty restored Romagna, united it, and brought it to order and obedience; so that if we look at things in their true light, it will be seen that he was in reality far more merciful than the people of Florence, who, to avoid the imputation of cruelty, suffered Pistoja to be torn to pieces by factions.
A Prince should therefore disregard the reproach of being thought cruel where it enables him to keep his subjects united and obedient. For he who quells disorder by a very few signal examples will in the end be more merciful than he who from too great leniency permits things to take their course and so to result in rapine and bloodshed; for these hurt the whole State, whereas the severities of the Prince injure individuals only.
And for a new Prince, of all others, it is impossible to escape a name for cruelty, since new States are full of dangers. Wherefore Virgil, by the mouth of Dido, excuses the harshness of her reign on the plea that it was new, saying:—
‘A fate unkind, and newness in my reign
Compel me thus to guard a wide domain.’
Nevertheless, the new Prince should not be too ready of belief, nor too easily set in motion; nor should he himself be the first to raise alarms; but should so temper prudence with kindliness that too great confidence in others shall not throw him off his guard, nor groundless distrust render him insupportable.
And here comes in the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both; but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved. For of men it may generally be affirmed, that they are thankless, fickle, false studious to avoid danger, greedy of gain, devoted to you while you are able to confer benefits upon them, and ready, as I said before, while danger is distant, to shed their blood, and sacrifice their property, their lives, and their children for you; but in the hour of need they turn against you. The Prince, therefore, who without otherwise securing himself builds wholly on their professions is undone. For the friendships which we buy with a price, and do not gain by greatness and nobility of character, though they be fairly earned are not made good, but fail us when we have occasion to use them.
Moreover, men are less careful how they offend him who makes himself loved than him who makes himself feared. For love is held by the tie of obligation, which, because men are a sorry breed, is broken on every whisper of private interest; but fear is bound by the apprehension of punishment which never relaxes its grasp.
Nevertheless a Prince should inspire fear in such a fashion that if he do not win love he may escape hate. For a man may very well be feared and yet not hated, and this will be the case so long as he does not meddle with the property or with the women of his citizens and subjects. And if constrained to put any to death, he should do so only when there is manifest cause or reasonable justification. But, above all, he must abstain from the property of others. For men will sooner forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony. Moreover, pretexts for confiscation are never to seek, and he who has once begun to live by rapine always finds reasons for taking what is not his; whereas reasons for shedding blood are fewer, and sooner exhausted.
But when a Prince is with his army, and has many soldiers under his command, he must needs disregard the reproach of cruelty, for without such a reputation in its Captain, no army can be held together or kept under any kind of control. Among other things remarkable in Hannibal this has been noted, that having a very great army, made up of men of many different nations and brought to fight in a foreign country, no dissension ever arose among the soldiers themselves, nor any mutiny against their leader, either in his good or in his evil fortunes. This we can only ascribe to the transcendent cruelty, which, joined with numberless great qualities, rendered him at once venerable and terrible in the eyes of his soldiers; for without this reputation for cruelty these other virtues would not have produced the like results.
Unreflecting writers, indeed, while they praise his achievements, have condemned the chief cause of them; but that his other merits would not by themselves have been so efficacious we may see from the case of Scipio, one of the greatest Captains, not of his own time only but of all times of which we have record, whose armies rose against him in Spain from no other cause than his too great leniency in allowing them a freedom inconsistent with military strictness. With which weakness Fabius Maximus taxed him in the Senate House, calling him the corrupter of the Roman soldiery. Again, when the Locrians were shamefully outraged by one of his lieutenants, he neither avenged them, nor punished the insolence of his officer; and this from the natural easiness of his disposition. So that it was said in the Senate by one who sought to excuse him, that there were many who knew better how to refrain from doing wrong themselves than how to correct the wrong-doing of others. This temper, however, must in time have marred the name and fame even of Scipio, had he continued in it, and retained his command. But living as he did under the control of the Senate, this hurtful quality was not merely disguised, but came to be regarded as a glory.
Returning to the question of being loved or feared, I sum up by saying, that since his being loved depends upon his subjects, while his being feared depends upon himself, a wise Prince should build on what is his own, and not on what rests with others. Only, as I have said, he must do his utmost to escape hatred."
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Go read this. A subject that I think is a very important component of our national discourse. If you don't see yourself there, look again.
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A huge weight off my shoulders. Our state inspectors finished up today and they didn't have a single issue with anything related to me. They only had 2 issues with the whole facility and both of them were minor. Whew. What a relief. Especially after hearing about how they've been going Nazi on other programs. One source of stress: gone.
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