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Machiavelli: "Cunning Like A Fox And Ferocious Like A Lion"

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Autor:   •  November 11, 2010  •  1,012 Words (5 Pages)  •  2,020 Views

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In his work, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli writes extensively on the manner a leader ought to act in order to gain and retain power in the most effective way. He claims that "the essence of successful government is force and craft" (Gettell 1951, 140). Machiavelli illustrates his thought saying that a power broker can become successful if he is both cunning like a fox and ferocious like a lion (Wootton 1996, 45). However, in the course of this paper, I will demonstrate that craftiness and ferocity lead to the opposite results anticipated by the author: first, ferocity leads to a distrust of the leader; then, this cruelty eventually ends with retaliatory ferocity; finally, ferocity and craftiness lead to a greater systemic instability.

Trust is an essential foundation for a ruler's legitimacy and, hence, to its longevity; However, Machiavelli affirms that "it is much safer to be feared than loved" (Ibid., 39). Machiavelli sees in fear a protection for the ruler. He assumes that "since men are wicked [Ð'...], [the leader] need[s] not keep faith with them" (Ibid., 40). He justifies his brutality on the false assumption that all men are evil and as such, some of them will always search to destroy the leader. Thus, maintaining fear on the people through ferocity will prevent the ruler's fall. There are many examples of ruthless dictators for whom maintaining power was a constant concern because of lack of people's trust. An example of such ruler was Saddam Hussein, who ruthlessly ruled over the Iraqi people for twenty five years. After Hussein's capture by the United States armed forces, the dictator was asked why he had lied about weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Hussein answered that if the Iraqis and the Iraq's neighbors had had acknowledged that he had gotten rid of his WMD, he would have lost control within and without the country. Saddam Hussein tried to trick the world and maintain a perceived power. His craftiness led him to his loss. The Iraqis did not trust their leader and the dictator did not trust his people and even his appointees. Saddam Hussein is but one example which shows the importance of trust for a leader. Thus, trust in the leader is a fundamental factor for a successful leadership.

Contrary to what Machiavelli argues, ferocity, in almost all of the cases, leads to retaliatory violence. Praising the brutal and "successful" ruler Severus, Machiavelli said of Severus' oppressed people: "the people were always to a considerable degree stupefied and astonished by him" (Ibid., 44). For Machiavelli, Severus' oppression made him a successful ruler. However, an oppressive ruler cannot be a successful leader. Machiavelli does not evaluate realistically the costs of an oppressed people. First, the economy and thus the well-being of an oppressed nation are very destructive. Second, the ferocity and the injustice experienced by the broken people unavoidably lead to violent sentiments of vengeance which will explode with the first sign of leader's regime weakness. An example of such violent revolts was the fall of the Ceausescu's regime in Romania in 1989. As the Romanian Communist regime started to vacillate because of Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost, the Romanian peopleÐ'--which had been oppressed for decades, living in absolute povertyÐ'--arrested, tried, and immediately executed the dictator and his wife. The Romanian press widely disseminated the graphic pictures of the couple's bodies. This coverage seemed as if the Romanians wanted to turn a dark page of their history with, as a tangible proof, the dead bodies of their former dictators. The Shah of Iran was another example of a ferocious leader who used extensively his secret policeÐ'--the SAVAKÐ'--to torture and deter the opposition. Decades of violence and injustice with the American


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