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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bush and Cheney are NOT Machiavellian, and we're all worse for it.

First, I'm citing his most famous book, The Prince, not his Discourses on Livy, which some argue is the greater of his political writings. Nevertheless, it is probably the first book of political science in the modern sense of the term, as opposed to the idealism of his predecessors and his contemporary detractors, such as Erasmus. Also, it is the work with which more are familiar, so it is, some may say unfairly, what people mean when they say "Machiavellian". I will take issue with eight points of the book, though others may argue more, and some of those may have a valid point when they do so.

First, let's discuss Chapter 4 and Chapter 5. When Bush took it upon this nation to overthrow the government of Iraq, he found a situation not unlike the France Machiavelli described, and, in fact, not unlike modern France: various provinces, with their own traditional leaders, each of whom have their own agendas which may or (more frequently) may not necessarily mesh with each other. While, on the surface, it appeared to be similar to the Kingdom of Darius, that which lurked just under the surface made such an undertaking that much more difficult. Next, by gutting the existing government and leaving very little in place, he created a power vacuum which has led to anarchy. Sure, Bush took out the main unifying force in that nation, but he left the lesser "princes" in place, and they have created little other than internecine war and problems for us and for the people of Iraq. Reading further in Chapter 14, the sheer scope of his mistakes in terms of Machiavelli's reasoning become even more obvious. I find it painfully obvious that, in those three, related points, Bush and Cheney have been utter failures.

Second, let's discuss Chapter 7. Bush and Cheney did, in fact, achieve their station by good fortune and have had nothing but problems since. Unlike Cesar Borgia, they have not laid a solid foundation for their power, and have, instead, pretty well united the people of the United States against them through their ineptitude and cronyism. In fact, it is only the sheer difficulty in impeaching sitting presidents and vice presidents that have kept them in their offices, and even that will end some 467 days from today. Read especially that bit on Romagna in that chapter. It's interesting in light of the current administration.

Third, let's discuss Chapter 9. True, Bush has rewarded his greatest supporters among our modern nobility, Congress. However, the nobility are, in turn, hired, retained, and fired by the people they govern, and in forgetting this, Bush has allowed many of his supporters' political careers to come to ruin and has encouraged the election of a "nobility" hostile to his views. We've seen the results over the last several months, and from the perspective of many in the public, that's a good thing, but from Bush's perspective, it's been an unmitigated disaster.

Fourth, let's discuss Chapter 12. Bush has invited ruin, infamy, and an international PR disaster on this nation through his use of mercenaries, most notoriously, those from the right-wing Blackwater Security company. Machiavelli had plenty to say about the use of mercenaries, and none of it was good. Bush and Cheney, therefore, fail also on this point.

Finally, let's briefly discuss Chapter 17 and Chapter 19. Bush and Cheney have developed a reputation for cruelty, yet they are not feared in the sense that Machiavelli uses the term. I know of no one, no matter how much they detest this president, live in the kind of mortal fear of Bush that Iraqis experienced with Saddam Hussein. I happen to be quite grateful for that fact, but the simple fact that they have wielded this tactic so ineptly has caused them great problems with no real benefit. As a result, they are neither feared nor loved, as shown by approval ratings in the low 30s. In fact, Bush and Cheney are hated by a great number of Americans and other nations abroad, and this is precisely what a leader should try to avoid. Indeed, not only have they not avoided being hated, they have appeared to intentionally invite it on multiple occasions. This is yet another failure in purely Machiavellian terms.

It would be much better for this nation if Bush were more Machiavellian, but then again, it would be much better for this nation if Bush were more competent using any governing philosophy the people would tolerate. As sort of a novel idea, I would like to see a president govern by the Constitution they swear, and lie through their teeth as they do so, to defend and protect, but that's not going to happen. It is with this hope that I support Ron Paul for President in 2008.


Candace said...

Oh good - you posted it. Oh bad - I don't have time right now to read the chapters and think about it. In the words of Ahnald, Ah'll be bach!

Candace said...

Bush Cheney certainly needed clues from SOMEONE before they invaded Iraq!

When you say "Bush Cheney," can I assume you mean to include Rove, Wolfowitz, and the rest of the PNAC crowd? The PNAC wanted control of Middle Eastern oil. Their monumental mistake, of course, was an utter lack of understanding of the Middle East itself. Their second major mistake was believing that they were agents of "god," and were called to prepare the way for the "second coming," which they were convinced would happen in their lifetime, and would occur in the Middle East.

Let's say, though, that the PNAC had the brains and took the time to study the Middle East first. Let's assume also that they had not been blinded by religious delusions. Further, let's say that they then took their clues from Machiavelli. What would they have done?

First, they would certainly have dumped Israel. Then, they might have had Saudi assassins take out bin Laden and his al Qaeda. They might have encouraged Iraq and Iran to resume their war. They would have "befriended" not only Saudi, but other nations such as Palestine, Qatar, Kuwait, and so forth, so that by the time Saddam fell (which he surely would have against Iran,) they could unite against Iran. Then the US could have set up a puppet government, as "partners" in the Middle East.

No American blood would have been spilled. But the price would have been Israeli blood, and IMO, our honor.

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

I agree with most of what you said, but I would say that the first mistake ran even deeper than a lack of understanding of the Middle East. Rather, their first mistake was a complete and utter lack of appreciation or knowledge of basic strategy, coupled with glaring tactical blindness. I find the scenario you posited as distasteful as you do, but cannot argue with the brutal logic and efficiency of it.

Candace said...

That's true - they ignored Powell's exit strategy warning, and the General's (can't think of his name right now) advice to go in with a massive number of troops.

Well, they shouldn't have gone in at ALL - that was really stupid. Totally unnecessary.

I can't wait for this crowd to leave office.

Thanks for posting the links to The Prince. It's highly interesting to compare it to today's situation.

Snave said...

Thank you for posting this. I have never read Machiavelli but it looks like I need to find the time for it. I have to think that the term "Mayberry Machiavelli" might apply to Bush/Cheney because of the implied ineptitude in their pursuit of a process that apparently requires far more intelligence than they have. But it seems that from what you have written and linked here the term "Machiavellian" shouldn't apply to these jokers, because they are not smart enough to have paid adequate attention to the more salient points of "The Prince" and the "Discourses"... had they bothered to read the books in the first place. It seems to me more like they have just been kinda making things up as they go along.

Now it looks like I have some reading to do!

Lizzy said...

Sorry, you've been tagged. However, it's a cool one. See my blog for details.

Candace said...

Don't tell me you've given up bloggin, too?

Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

I haven't given up; I'm just in a bit of a funk lately, and I haven't been able to think of anything suitably "me" to post. All else fails, I'll take a good leftover and post it. :)

Candace said...

Sorry to hear you're in a funk.

If you're up to it, I wanted to get your opinion on a post I did earlier on global warming, weather-related stuff:

imsmall said...


"Go fuck yourself" Dick Cheney says
So very erudite--
But such a comment never plays
Upon the news at night
When it is yelled a thousandfold
By angry citizens and bold.

"Go fuck yourself" upon the floor
Of the USA Senate,
Quoth Dick, master of crude rapport,
Held fast as any tenet
By all his crew (like on the Web
The famous finger; ´tis not Jeb).

´Tis you, America, accept
This kind of crudity
In speaking; have grown most adept
All dressed in nudity
Like as that famous emperor
Whom none would tell, his ass was bare.

"Go fuck yourself," with these elected
You ought to be ashamed--
So liberties go unprotected:
Is free speech to be claimed
But for your glib obscenities?
Spare me the histrionics, please.

Dick Cheney and his motley crew
Are very much like me and you
(But more like you, I dare to hazard;
This brave new world where men are tasered
For speaking out, you have created--
Obscenities but tolerated).