December 04, 2003

machiavelli on iraq

a few weeks ago on all-encompassingly, we pondered what the german philosopher immanuel kant would have thought of howard dean. it wasn't pretty. our conclusion:

kant would call howard dean imprudent, and probably give him a good old-fashioned prussian beating.

now we turn to another old european mind (from back in the day when europeans were good for something), niccolo machiavelli. his work, the prince, is a treatise addressed to the medici family that teaches principles of political power. though published in 1513, the work can be applied to foreign policy today. it should be noted that this analysis is not mine. you might have gotten that from the presence of capitalization, or perhaps the fact that there was some thinking involved. it comes from carolyn, who wrote a paper on this subject:

The principles in The Prince provide insight into the issues that arose with the war on Iraq and the current issues involved with occupation and transition to a new government.

Importance of Acting Quickly: In regard with political disorders, Machiavelli noted the following: “When trouble is sensed well in advance it can easily be remedied; if you wait for it to show itself any medicine will be too late because the disease will have become incurable”(10). He later states, “Political disorders can be quickly healed if they are seen well in advance (and only a prudent ruler has such foresight); when, for lack of a diagnosis, they are allowed to grow in such a way that everyone can recognize them, remedies are too late” (10). In regard to the decision for war with Iraq, Machiavelli’s argument would support President Bush’s decision to attack, with or without strong evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction being a threat for national security; a leader needs to act at times on intuition before a problem is truly manifested if he is to succeed. In fact, David Galbraith believes that much of the turmoil in Iraq would have been negated if the United States had acted against Saddam Hussein back in the 1980s (Human Rights Lecture Kennedy International Center: Collusion Human Rights and Realpoltik).

Maintaining a Conquest: Machiavelli noted that a country that is united is more difficult to conquer, but more easily ruled afterward; while a country that is divided is easily invaded, but more difficult to rule afterward (15). This observations can serve as a warning. They have indeed proved true with Iraq, a nation with various factions that was quickly conquered, but is difficult to rule afterwards.

Administering the New Government: As Machiavelli’s theories have proven true thus far, the United States would be wise to take note of his observations about administering a new form of government.

Problems the New Administration Will Face: He notes that as new institutions and laws are made the people will only respond to them partially, “Partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the existing laws on their side, and partly because men are generally incredulous, never really trusting new things unless they have tested them by experience”(19). Therefore, it will likely take time for a democratic type government to gain full support in Iraq. A new government does not ensure lasting results, as “the populace is by nature fickle; it is easy to persuade them of something, but difficult to confirm them in that persuasion”(19). Machiavelli also noted that because the new administration has no strong roots, new governments are easily destroyed with the first big trial (21).

Role of Religion in Government: Machiavelli discussed ecclesiastical principalities and observed that they “alone are secure and happy”(37). The religious institution, when connected to government, gives authority to the ruler. The United States has expressed reservations about a Shiite ruled government in Iraq, but the New York Times reported the following on 20 November 2003: "Our basic position is that as we get to know more of Iraqi society, we're more comfortable with a democratic process, and if that emerges with a predominant Shiite role, so be it," said an administration official.

see also tony blankley

or you could have it clinton's way:

(Washington, D.C., Oct. 25, 1999) -- In the most hard-line stance taken to date, President Bill Clinton today announced plans to pave the entire nation of Iraq with a 12-inch layer of quick-setting, reinforced cement.

"This move will end, once and for all, Iraq's threat to its neighbors and underwrite a lasting peace in the Middle East," Clinton said. "Upon completion of Operation Desert Parking Lot, Iraq will, at last, become a nation with nothing to hide and no place to hide anything. That applies to weapons of mass destruction, as well as Saddam Hussein. If Saddam would happen to be in one of his underground bunkers when the cement is laid, the official position of the United States of America would be 'Oops.' "


The border-to-border paving operation had already begun when the President made the announcement at a press conference held early this morning. Heading northeastward from the Saudi Arabian border, a line of heavy earthmoving equipment is leveling the terrain, moving just ahead of a fleet of pre-mixed cement trucks. Operation Desert Parking Lot is expected to take several years, depending on the level of resistance met.

"The Iraqi people are being given every opportunity to relocate from the country in a peaceful and orderly manner," Clinton said. "Bombing runs aimed at razing buildings in Baghdad and other more heavily populated areas of the country will not commence until our Caterpillars approach their outskirts."

Clinton characterized the plan as a "more humane alternative" to past military attacks, which have resulted in heavy civilian casualties. Operation Desert Parking Lot, however, drew mostly negative reactions around the world.

Formal protests came from countries expecting the biggest influx of Iraqi refugees as the paving advances, including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, the Palestinian territories and Iran. Saudi objections have been softened by an offer of first dibs on the lucrative recreational concession possibilities raised by the new expanse of Iraqi pavement.

Among other nations critical of the operation were France, Russia and the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. The only significant support came from the British, who are airlifting additional cement trucks and gravel to the effort.

Resettlement of the paved Iraq will not be permitted, according to Pentagon officials. "Irock," as media wags have already renamed the country, will be under constant satellite and seismographic surveillance. Any incursions detected either on the sheet of concrete or below its surface will be met with immediate military response by strategically placed U.N. forces. Exceptions are expected to be made for limited development of skateboarding parks and skating rinks on designated areas of the Iraqi slab.

To symbolically cement a new era of peaceful relations with the balance of Middle East nations, a giant "Smiley Face" will be painted in the approximate geographic center of the new Irock. The Fox television network has already expressed an interest in obtaining rights to the image for promoting That '70s Show. [source]

Posted by travis at December 4, 2003 08:38 AM | TrackBack