Friday, December 01, 2017

Trump, Machiavelli, and Francis

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

[Of related interest: “As I Pursue My Ph.D. in Powerology.” (Countenance).]

Niccolo Rebooted
By The Countenance Blogmeister
December 6, 2016

I already had it in my URL hopper, but since Rush is talking about it right now, I might as well establish my reaction right now.

The problem with trying to apply Machiavelli’s mentality to the modern day politics of adviser selection is that Machiavelli’s mentality is an anachronism. Likewise, he thought mercenaries were a bad idea because they didn’t have the same kind of skin and heart in the game as did native soldiers and fighters. Both suffer from the problem that Machiavelli did not live in, and could not have forecasted, the modern era of ideologically-driven politics and governance. And this also crosses wires with a Trump characteristic that is a feature generally but a bug in this particular circumstance.

Machiavelli’s case here is that a politician (“prince”) who is perceived as an outsider and who attains appreciable public power through amicable and peaceful means would do better to fill his cabinet with establishmentarian figures who oppose(d) him, rather than the brightest most sincere clever cohort of the public rebels who supported his insurgency. The reason is that the establishmentarians, while they are political enemies to the new prince, are nonetheless politically experienced and savvy, and loyal to the state and the people, and because they want to maintain their status, they’ll go along to get along with new prince’s zeitgeist, and mash that together with their governing experience to serve the new prince well. In contrast, the talented fraction of the rebels that supported the new prince in his rise to power are nothing more than malcontents who won’t be able to govern effectively, and will turn on the prince when they feel the slightest bit jilted, and will never be happy with the appointments the prince gives them.

What makes all this anachronistic, both the matter of cabinet section and mercenaries, is just what I wrote above: He lived his entire life (1469-1527) in a time when the ethnonationalistic imperative was the only game in town when it came to personal loyalty. Yes, there was religion, and that all started with a German near-contemporary of Machiavelli’s, but even that was often sublimated nationalism. It wouldn’t be until more than two centuries after his death, when the Enlightenment hit, that Occidentals developed the ideas of ideologies and the notion that their fundamental point of loyalty should be to ideologies.

Applying that, and we see that Machiavelli’s prescriptions are totally backwards in our world. Most seriously political people are loyal to an ideology, not a given people in a given place. With mercenaries, sure, they were less than desirable in Machiavelli’s day when being a merc and being a pure soldier of fortune was the same thing. But in our times, mercs can be just as good as native soldiers if they mesh on ideology, an example is that white people who were mercs in the Rhodesian military to defend racial separatist and segregationist ideology. Or the leftist Americans who went to Spain as part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, to join the rebellion against Francisco Franco.

When it comes to an outsider prince filling his cabinet, it’s a very bad idea to keep your enemies closer than your friends, precisely because, in our times, your enemies are your enemies and your friends are your friends for ideological reasons. In contrast, in Machiavelli’s time, the essence of political enemyship was almost always personal or business. Back to today, giving your enemies that much power only invites them to create one ideological contradiction and paradox after another after another during your time as head of state or head of government.

Niccolo Machiavelli 1.0 would definitely want Trump to make Mitt Romney his Secretary of State; Niccolo Machiavelli 2.0 would definitely not. M1 would presume that while Romney was a severe political opponent of Trump’s before now, that they’re both fundamentally blood and soil nationalists to one degree or another. M2 would know that Trump’s proclivities on foreign policy and Romney’s clear established ideology on foreign policy just can’t be reconciled or mediated.

Besides, Trump’s use for Romney isn’t that of Florentine politician, but of American reality show producer. Trump is using and playing Romney like a cheap fiddle to show purely for outward consumption that Trump is getting over his well known propensity to grind over personal or political slights; whether or not he is actually doing so is something I can’t ascertain. But I do know it is an important trait for someone who is about to be handed the nuclear football, so we should all hope that the thing is both substantial and surficial [?].

Trump, as someone who is very atypical in the modern Western political world with his non-ideological outlook, may well be taking the original Machiavelli at face value and not considering the wherefores of its obsolescence. He needs to, soon, because this could be a real disaster.


Anonymous said...
...and the press

Anonymous said...

"it’s a very bad idea to keep your enemies closer than your friends, precisely because, in our times, your enemies are your enemies"

JFK learned that too late with Lying Baines Johnson.

David In TN said...

Our friend Countenance has been somewhat active lately, as sharp as ever in his comments. Let's hope he can get back to what he was.