Machiavelli? Try Clausewitz!

Full disclosure: I consider the NYT to be a gang of flabby, post-modernist girlymen who stroke each other(‘s egos) all day long, and try to get an emotional response out of their dwindling readership.

So today I saw a comment on one their articles that fully describes my opinion of what is wrong with America.

Who do we want to emulate? A bunch of tribalist beach bums who sing “O Sole Mio” while thinking about how to poison their uncle in order to take over his restaurant, or the Iron Will of Prussian Steel???

Here is the comment from the unworthy-to-read article:

Do we really need to be told that “Machiavelli still matters”? The Medicis had maybe a small handful of household advisers. Today, we have vast bureaucracies–the State Department, the NSA, the CIA, the Pentagon, etc.–all full of thousands of little Machiavellian policy advisers, whose careers depend on being as coldly realistic and pragmatic about National interest as possible. Our entire economy is run by little Machiavellian profit maximizers who get fired if they think about anything but the bottom line.


So if anything, we need more reflection on how so much of all this pure Machiavellian advice has gone so terribly wrong, even judged by its own Machiavellian standards. And then we need to ask if we the people should put so much trust in these Machiavellian guardians. Their claim to power is based on supposedly understanding policy complexities better than “the people” and having the Machiavellian virtue of being committed to the exclusive pursuit of National power and economic interest. Why does that so seldom work out as promised? Why has Iranian hegemony been strengthened by the invasion of Iraq, not weakened? Why do their policies so often harm National interest instead of furthering it, or turn out so often to serve narrow sectoral interest, like Wall Street, enriching a few but leaving the country in economic crisis or mounting debt? Maybe the problem is that Machiavelli matters too much.

Original Article Why Machiavelli Matters

P.S. – I do have Italian friends and I enjoy their company a lot. I am not an Italo-phobe.


28 thoughts on “Machiavelli? Try Clausewitz!”

  1. I don’t know that Prussian Realpolitik offers much more in the way of good answers than does Machiavellianism. Both seem to be different aspects of the same basic phenomenon if you really think about it. The difference is methods, not goals.

    • Sounds vague, what happens when the alleged “maximum security” winds up imperiling us us instead of making us safer? Poorer instead of richer?

      I think our thinking has become too Latin, too hypocritical. We are now all little Jesuit casuists, whether we want to be or not. This is a waste of energy on a monumental scale.

      We should go back to our cultural Northern European heritage so we can once again trust the guy that fights/works next to us instead of fearing backstabbers, “utility-maximizers” and others who weaken the state through the egomaniac practice of building-statues-of-oneself and other false gods. This is the kind of logic that creates little Jonathan Pollards, not to mention all the bought and paid politicians who are legally allowed insider trading on Capital Hill.

      We are now too hypocritical in our un-American paternalism. The Founding Fathers would consider us a failure.

      America needs a Beeldenstorm.

    • My definition of maximum security is when all my enemies are dead and my potential enemies are so afraid of ending up like my enemies that they spend all their time cowering in fear.

      Then again, I was not talking about my definitions, I was talking about how the goals of both Realpolitik and Machiavellienism are complementary. Not that I necessarily agree with either.

    • The problem is that you are fighting a meme that replicates itself far faster than you can reload your ammo clip. There are far more terrorists now than before 9.11.01. I think we both know that this is the case.

      Personally, I have you pegged as a Catholic Warrior, almost Francoist. Don’t get me wrong, I fully respect this worldview but keep in mind that the FF’s of the US didn’t have much love for bead-kissing Papists, you know it and I know it.
      So just remember that maybe, just maybe the enemy wants D.C. transformed into a Byzantine monolith hive of hypocrisy.
      After all, Byzantium fell to the enemy, unlike the Serbs (and we bombed the Serbs to appease Islam, mind you.)

      Our mental maps need to be revamped in order to see the bigger picture. We have lost our sangfroid, and now behave like the rhetoricians in Thucydides’ time who blew their forces on the Italian expedition.

      Forest from the trees kinda thing.

    • There are no Catholic Warriors anymore. Especially with the elevation of wishy-washy Francis to the Papacy.
      I would fight islamism to start with by nuking Medina and telling the rest of the Jihadist freaks that Mecca is next and I will work my way down the list from there and turn the ME into a parking lot if I have to. Heck, I would probably go ahead and turn it into a parking lot anyway.

    • There is something to be said for an iconoclastic act of doing away with that black stone that they kiss. I couldn’t not imagine this helping their morale in the long term.
      But back to the main point – the hypocrites that control America have absolutely no interest in “winning” anything, just profiteering.
      It would have been a more efficient idea to excite the natural tension between Sunnis and Shias, instead of basically uniting them in their view of us. America basically helped radicalize a naturally secural people, the Persians. Blowback.

    • I see we are back to the Persians. I will give you that America supported the Shah, who led a corrupt regime. But that America is responsible for radicalizing the Ayatollah, much less all Iranians I refuse to accept.
      It is simplistic in the extreme to claim that America is solely responsible for extremism in any Islamic state. Extremism has always been a part of Islam. It seems that it is not so because the Ottoman’s did such a good job of controlling Muslims for so long. Blaming anybody is dodging responsibility, and refuting the entire idea of individual responsibility for actions. It conceptually no different than a schoolkid claiming the “devil made him do it” when he gets caught kissing girls behind the bleachers.
      Whether those in control of America are hypocrites is irrelevant, though they undoubtedly are. The main problem in America is exactly as you say, the leadership is not interested in winning anything. As to why Americans continually choose oligarchic leadership. That is a question that probably deserves several book length manuscripts to answer but the simple answer is that the AMerican electorate is by and large made of cheerful idiots. I hoe that is changing though I don;t have great hope that it is so.

    • Okay so we have found common ground regarding the problem, the resolution, imo, for starters…see Thorstein Veblen. Its not bad that we are “an oligarchy”: oligarchies are really the only thing that exist, see Pareto’s 80/20 rule. Its just that we are the wrong kind of oligarchy.

      Regarding the Persians, we overthrew their govt in a coup de’tat. Imagine the immortal hatred we would have of the chinese if they overthrew our government with Chinese cronies who do nothing but drain the wealth of America and deliver it to China, while suppressing and killing off patriots? We’d turn to the first person who promised to break of the yellow yoke.

      In desperate times people do stupid stuff, this is how we got our current president in the US.

    • We should probably go ahead and realize that we will probably never agree vis-a-vis Iran and stipulate that up front to avoid repetitive arguments.
      Regardless of basic causes the fact is that the regime (if not the people) of Iran hates and are willing to provide support to some pretty unsavory types to express that hatred.

    • They think the same about us – after all we support a regime that ethnically cleansed their co-religionists, but I digress. Promise to avoid “the persian question” from now on, :).

    • I don’t hate the Iranian people. If anything, I think it was a crying shame we did not support the protesters on 2009. That was then though and I had no control over that stupid decision. The few Iranians I have known personally, both non-Muslims, were nice people.

      If there is anything traveling around the world killing people on Uncle Sam’s dime for over twenty years taught me it is that the average person is just that, a person. They all have hopes and dreams.

      What causes problems is that when people congregate in groups they stop being individuals and become part of the mob and a mob only knows the basest of emotions.

    • 99% of people are motivated by “buying a house, owning a car, have a wife and kids, etc” but 1% lives on ideas alone, and its those people who are the kinds of people that can watch their own arm being blown off, pick it up, and keep fighting.

      But you are right that Iranians generally are secular. All of them despise arabs and if an Iranian girl wanted to marry an arab guy her family would disown her in a heartbeat. Many of them travel to Europe and become very Europeanized, unlike arabs. They consider themselves the “real” Aryans, and this is true from a historical perspective.

      Israelis on the other hand are taught that arabs are potential friends, and that their historical enemy is the Roman Catholiv Church who persecuted them for 2000 years while the muslims gave them sanctuary.

      Jews hate Christians far more than they hate muslims, and they know you guys want to dip their heads into the everflowing waters of salvation, and this is the worst thing for a Jew to do in Judaism.

    • Ya, I guess you won’t meet that many in the American military, or in Oklahoma for that matter, lol.

      So I have met thousands of Jews and I know that in Jewish culture Christianity is the most despised religion. It doesn’t take a lot to figure this out, but some people are afraid to recognize what is right in front of them. Here is a hint: google “the oldest hatred.”

    • When I Google it or Bing it (I generally use Bing), all the results come up as anti-Semitism. Now unless the dictionary changed anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews, not the other way around. Don’t go getting all “but the Arabs are a Semitic people too” either. The conventional definition of anti-Semitism is Jew hatred and semantic games don’t change that.

    • They are doing a piss-poor job of attacking the muslims. They only fight defenseless people in the West Bank, and even that they manage to screw up. Historically it was the Buddhist horde that delivered the greatest knockout blow to Islam.

      Also you truly must know that Christians are treated terribly in Israel, right? Also you must know that many of the Palestinians that are being ethnically cleansed ARE Christians.

      I would be willing to bet that as a Christian you’d receive a much warmer welcome in Iran than in Israel, plus Iran has thousands of Persian Jews NONE of which flee to Israel even though they can anytime they want.

      They are comfortable in Iran because Iran is a rich country, and most people there are secular. Honestly, what you don’t know about the Middle East is alot, not that I know a lot, but I know that what the media tells me ain’t the whole truth.

    • Iran’s Jewish community is officially recognized as a religious minority group by the government, and, like the Zoroastrians, they are allocated one seat in the Iranian Parliament. Ciamak Moresadegh is the current Jewish member of the parliament, replacing Maurice Motamed in the 2008 election. In 2000, former Jewish MP Manuchehr Eliasi estimated that at that time there were still 60,000–85,000 Jews in Iran; most other sources put the figure at 25,000.[48] The United States State Department estimated the number of Jews in Iran at 20,000–25,000 as of 2009.[49]

      Today Tehran has 11 functioning synagogues, many of them with Hebrew schools. It has two kosher restaurants, an old-age home and a cemetery. There is a Jewish library with 20,000 titles.[45] Iranian Jews have their own newspaper (called “Ofogh-e-Bina”) with Jewish scholars performing Judaic research at Tehran’s “Central Library of Jewish Association”.[50] The “Dr. Sapir Jewish Hospital” is Iran’s largest charity hospital of any religious minority community in the country;[50] however, most of its patients and staff are Muslim.[51]

      Chief Rabbi Yousef Hamadani Cohen is the present spiritual leader for the Jewish community of Iran.[52] In August 2000, Chief Rabbi Cohen met with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami for the first time.[53] In 2003, Chief Rabbi Cohen and Maurice Motamed met with President Khatami at Yusef Abad Synagogue which was the first time a President of Iran had visited a synagogue since the Islamic Revolution.[54] Haroun Yashayaei is the chairman of the Jewish Committee of Tehran and leader of Iran’s Jewish Community.[54][55] On January 26, 2007, Yashayaei’s letter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad concerning his Holocaust denial comments brought about worldwide media attention.[56][57][58]

      The Jews of Iran have been best known for certain occupations like
      making gold jewellery and antique dealing, textiles and carpets.


      Jews are conscripted into the Iranian army like all Iranian citizens.
      Many Iranian Jews fought during the Iran-Iraq war (1980–1988) as
      drafted soldiers, and about 150 were killed.[59]

      Most Iranian Jews say that they view Iran as their home and are allowed to practice Judaism freely.[60]

      As you can see Shias DO NOT persecute people for religion: the Sunnis persecute them for their religion….

    • Where did I say anything that would make you think I want to influence you to “hate the jews?”
      I’m trying to help you understand what everyone already knows: they don’t like you, and they don’t want to be a pawn in an apocolypse game between you and the muslims with them repenting after the rapture and receiving divine dispensation after receiving Christ.

      Jews have their own apocalyptic script and it ends differently than yours.

    • If I were engaging in white propaganda, I’d be painting a pretty picture of one side, and demonizing the other. I think you know I do not do this, but actually try to get as much information about a situation as possible.

      Plus, if I were propagandizing you, I think you have to admit, I’d be wasting my time, as you are not a policy maker.

    • Correct, I am not a policy maker. I do however write a blog that is seen by roughly 5-10k new visitors a month & about 1k returning visitors. I also have the academic qualifications to write somewhat authoritatively although I am no ME expert. So if I suddenly started taking a disliking to Jews and starting blogging about that you could expect that at least some small percentage would read that and an even smaller percentage might be persuaded that I have a point. The way to change policy in a free society is to change the way the people think. Getting a blogger who has some minor influence to change his mind is a way to do that.

      Painting pretty picture of one and demonizing the other is exactly what you are doing if only explicitly. You are actually pretty slick with your the Iranians are good and Jews (&Sunnis too) are bad lines. Very subtle. I enjoy debate and wish I had more on my blog but the way you twist every comment thread into lauding Iran and demonizing Jews just strengthens my suspicions. You are either a propagandist or a very passionate Iranian nationalist, which amount to basically the same thing.

      Lastly, if you were engaging in propaganda I would certainly expect you to vehemently deny that that is what you are doing when called on it.

      I got it that you feel strongly that Jews are bad and Persians are awesome. I disagree and absolutely nothing you say will change my mind. I have nothing but contempt for Islam and both major sects Sunni & Shia. I have nothing but respect for the Jews who retook their ancestral homeland from the Arabs.

      If I were calling the shots Israel would have had a green light and military support to strike Iranian nuclear sites already and Natanz would be a smoking crater just for starters. I think the West can trust the Iranian regime about as far as I can throw an M1A1 HC tank. Let democratic reforms happen and the theocrats get out of politics in Iran and maybe we can talk. I further believe Obama and the West made a huge mistake in inking any deal with Iran that does not call for complete openness and verification. Then again, Obama did not ask me what I thought before he did it. That cowardly weasel of a SEC State is who he listens to.

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