Clarification of Machiavelli
Echidne of the Snakes wrote a post about Karl Rove and Machiavelli invoking the most common mis-interpretation of Machiavelli: being a cunning, clever, manipulative political operative using every filthy and unethical tactic possible is not only reprehensible but clownishly short-sighted, of course it’s counter-productive and always fails in the long term.
Machiavelli would not disagree in the least, but would ask: if your opponent kidnaps your niece and tells you daily rape starts in a week if he doesn’t get what he wants, what is more important to you, saving your niece now or what you want in 10 years?
In the sixteenth century that was not a hypothetical question at all: poison, betrayal, treachery, torture, kidnapping, and blackmail were everyday, common tactics in Christian Italian peninsula politics. One could get real or get eliminated in a week, it’s your choice. Change of career to plain merchant is always a very good idea too.
This is Realism: the total awareness and acknowledgment of what political reality actually exists, not the foolish fanciful one in our heads those helpless Christians keep railing at us to adhere to. If one has opponents who adheres to a more effective (face it, in the sixteenth century kidnapping was effective) tactical reality than you they’ll eliminate you very quickly. See the world as it is and use what works, don’t dance some twirl of denial.
Cunning and evil acts have nothing to do with the interpretation of Machiavelli—almost any repressive human can do that. The challenge Niccolo has always faced a human mind with is how much of reality can be tactically employed to reach objectives. Period. Machiavelli was and is also reviled for taking away the Emperor’s clothes, humans don’t like to face how ugly they can be.
It is better for be feared that loved. This has nothing to do with advocating hurtful acts to constantly incite fear, what it means is that fear is more consistently advantageous to attain political goals than love. It’s better, not the only way.
Before one shies away in childish revulsion, look at the record George Bush racked up on fear, this from an intellectual nobody who never should have been trusted to drive a car. Look at the record of the Democrats since Bush took office: have they incorrectly perceived their enemies in a delusion of fantasy, getting wiped out year and year by the worst President of all time because they cannot embrace the reality of their environment?
Echidne would answer: look at the Republican disaster Rove for left for the Republicans. Machiavelli would state: does that mean the war and the tax cuts stop when Democrats win?
Machiavelli demands that we face who humans are. Are we lying to ourselves when we deny it?