Machiavelli: "Cunning Like a Fox and Ferocious Like a Lion"

Topics: Political philosophy, Iraq, Iran Pages: 3 (991 words) Published: March 18, 2008
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 […], [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...
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