Machiavelli Essay, Research Paper Biography of Niccolo Machiavelli Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Florence on 3 May 1469 during a time of great political activity in Italy. His first role in political affairs came at the young age of twenty-nine when the ruling regime of Savonrola fell from power in his native city.
Machiavelli Essay, Research Paper
Biography of Niccolo Machiavelli
Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Florence on 3 May 1469 during a time of great political activity in Italy. His first role in political affairs came at the young age of twenty-nine when the ruling regime of Savonrola fell from power in his native city. Though he had no previous administrative background, Machiavelli was appointed to serve as second chancellor of the Florentine Republic under the new government. His nomination to this powerful diplomatic post was in large part due to the powerful influence of the Italian humanists who stressed the need for an education in the “humane disciplines” of Latin, rhetoric, classical studies, ancient history and moral philosophy ? subjects in which Machiavelli excelled as a student.
The position of second chancellor included important responsibilities for the foreign and diplomatic relations of the republic and gave Machiavelli the opportunity to travel and observe first-hand the successes and failures of leaders throughout Europe. It was from these experiences as a diplomat and ambassador that Machiavelli formed deep convictions about the methodology of effective leadership. Indeed, from his later writings it is evident that the foundation for much of his political philosophy rested upon the lessons he drew from the diplomatic and military events of his time.
Machiavelli’s first assignment was on a mission to the court of Louis XII of France to appease the French leader after a disaster in their alliance against Pisa. He quickly learned that Florence’s sense of its own importance was clearly at odds with the realities of its military position and relative wealth. To anyone educated in the school of modern kingship, his native government appeared vacillating and weak. Machiavelli took this embarrassment to heart and later wrote powerfully about the political necessity of military strength, the dangers of procrastination, the folly of appearing irresolute, and the need for boldness, ferocity, and tangible power.
A few years later, in October of 1502, Machiavelli was sent to meet with Cesare Borgia, the duke of Romagna and an audacious and threatening military power who later demanded a formal alliance with the Florentines. It was during this time of great political turmoil and upheaval in Italy that Machiavelli drew meaningful lessons from his observation and assessment of contemporary statecraft. He was greatly impressed by Borgia, a fearless and courageous leader who possessed undivided and autonomous power, operated under conditions of extreme secrecy, and acted with swift execution. The success of his leadership resulted from qualities of boldness, physical strength, and predatory instinct. Though he admired much of Borgia’s leadership style, Machiavelli was unimpressed by his seeming overconfidence. When Borgia assumed that his maneuvering and posturing to ensure a loyal successor to the papacy would automatically result in a favorable situation, Machiavelli criticized the duke’s reliance on good luck. Indeed, Machiavelli often referred to Borgia in his writings as an example of irrational reliance on chance and good fortune ? a recurring theme in his later philosophical work. Machiavelli had learned that truly effective leadership required taming fortune and empowering oneself to be the master of one’s own destiny.
The next influential leader with whom Machiavelli interacted was Julius II, the newly elected Pope. Though initially convinced that the warrior pope was destined for disaster, Machiavelli was later converted to Julius’s plan of reconquering the lost papal states. The pope’s sheer audacity and authority ? and most importantly the absolute nature of his power ? gave great hope for unexpected victory. Machiavelli admired this ferocity, but noted in later writings that “if times had come when he needed to proceed with caution, they would have brought about his downfall; for never would he have turned away from those methods to which his nature inclined him.” For Machiavelli, a leader must adapt to changing circumstances and craft his strategy not merely according to his temperament, but in accordance with the most effectual course of action. Indeed, the primary weakness that each of these leaders shared was a disastrous inflexibility in the face of changing conditions. It was upon this basic premise of versatility and potency that Machiavelli founded his political philosophy.
Unfortunately for Machiavelli, Julius’s ferocity prevailed, at least in the short run, and after his alliance with Ferdinand of Spain, the Medici’s re-entered Florence and the republic was dissolved in September of 1512. Machiavelli was formally dismissed from his post at the chancery, sentenced to imprisonment, and issued an enormous fine after being suspected of conspiring against the new Medicean government. The next year, however, Julius II died, and his successor Leo X granted a general amnesty as part of the rejoicing, freeing Machiavelli to a premature retirement at his country home.
Though he lived in constant hope of re-entering the political scene, the remainder of Machiavelli’s life was dedicated to writing and reflection. His lot from this time forward was to contemplate the political scene not as a participant, but as an analyst. Machiavelli became a prolific and diverse author, writing biography (Life of Castruccio Castracani), civic and social history (The History of Florence), and even what many consider to be the best Italian play of the century (Mandragola). Machiavelli is best remembered, however, for his works of political philosophy. In Discourses on Livy, Machiavelli reflects systematically on his political and diplomatic experience, the lessons of history (both contemporary and ancient), and ultimately articulating what he supposed to be the rules of statecraft.
In what is widely recognized as “the most famous book on politics ever written,” Machiavelli transformed the way in which many think about political life. The Prince establishes politics, in sharp contrast to the prevailing Christian view, as a realm of its own. Though it would be nice to find in a political leader all of those qualities to which Christians aspire, Machiavelli argues that “human conditions do not permit it” (62). What we ought to do, in a moral or abstract sense, is not nearly as effectual as what men actually do. Indeed, in a society dominated by evil deeds, virtue means letting go of what should be done for what is done in order to triumph. Indeed, Machiavelli’s virtue is essentially control over one’s fortune and destiny, regardless of the means.
Machiavelli outlines his strategic study of history, asserting that informed choices will lead to desired ends. His is a calculus of causes and effects — a study of political necessity in order to make successful decisions in a variety of circumstances. Machiavelli focuses on attaining power, security, and honor. Though the path to this position of control, constancy, and credibility is filled with obstacles and dangers, leaders “must overcome them with virtue” (25).
For Machiavelli, human nature dictates political reality and necessity. What Machiavelli views as “necessary” in any given situation turns out to be the means to political stability and power. Since men are naturally evil, effective governance often requires harsh measures. By equating virtue and power, and justifying cruelty as a necessary means to political stability and power, Machiavelli establishes a new system of morality. Actions and intentions are no longer inherently good or bad, but are judged according to their usefulness in attaining certain ends. Machiavelli seeks to redefine what we ought to consider acceptable.
Machiavelli’s skillful redefinition of principles represents a shift from the classical notion of virtue taught by religion to a system of self-interest justified by secularism. In this conception, ideals are judged according to their utility. Indeed, in his acceptance of all effectual means to political power, Machiavelli grants a certain kind of approval for what were previously held to be evil acts. It is for this reason that Machiavelli is perhaps the most famous as well as the most infamous of political philosophers.
Machiavelli and Plato: virtue vs. justice
Like other Western philosophers, Machiavelli was influenced by the early Greek philosophers, especially Plato. However, in many cases Machiavelli seems to be arguing against Platonic philosophy. Plato believed in just rulers, who ruled via moral virtue. Machiavelli believed in “Virtu’”, whatever was best for the State was Virtu’. In Plato’s time, man served the state. According to Monarch notes on The Republic: The basic idea referred to is the view that ethics and politics are the same, or at least co-terminous (overlapping in essential features). There was no distinction between private life and public life, as there is today. There was no such concept as the “invasion of privacy,” perhaps because no Athenian felt that he had a private life that was to be kept distinct from his public life.
However, in Machiavelli’s time, as it is today, the States whole reason for being was to serve the citizens, not vice versa. Machiavelli believed the only purpose for a ruler was to make war, and protect its citizens from attacks by other states. The ruler, therefore, is justified in doing whatever is necessary to maintain the country, even if it is unjust. Plato argues a ruler can never be unjust.
Plato argues against the type of ruler, who rules solely by might in The Republic. The argument stands as a defense against Machiavellian society: In practicing a skill, we do not aim to go beyond, but only to hit the right point. Virtue is a kind of skill, and this requires a knowledge of what is the right measure. The unjust man, therefore, is not exercising much of a skill, is he? Nor is the tyrant doing much of a job at ruling. One cannot claim to play a higher F-sharp than anyone else – since we all know that F-sharp is F-sharp, and there cannot be higher or lower F-sharp’s. It is the just man who knows the proper note; it is the unjust man who exceeds it and goes out of tune in his life. It is injustice, then, that is the fool’s game. It destroys individuals, as it destroys states.(Plato, The Republic. 349E, P. 35-36)
In spite of the fact, Machiavelli is greatly influenced by the Greek and Latin classics, and by the bible, he takes a critical stance in dealing with the idea of morality. A Prince’s main duty is the preservation of his country and the protection of his subjects. “A Prince, therefore should have no care or thought but for war, and the regulations and training it requires, and should apply himself exclusively to this as his peculiar province; for war is the sole art looked for in one who rules” (Machiavelli, P. 70). This is not far from what we look for in Republican societies. Machiavelli believes a good leader’s main responsibility is to preserve his country first. According to Salmon: Machiavelli says that rulers should be truthful, keep promises, and the like when doing so will not harm the state, and that they should generally appear to have the traditional virtues. But since the goal of the ruler is to conquer and preserve the state, he should not shrink from wrongdoing when the preservation of the state requires this. Thus, the classical concept of civic virtue, which is a moral code applicable to rulers and subjects alike, is critically transformed in Machiavelli’s concept of virtu’, which pertains to rulers of states and can be at odds with moral virtue. (Salmon, Merrilee H, “Landmarks in Critical Thinking Series: Machiavelli’s The Prince” )
Machiavelli’s idea of virtu’ is not of moral character then, but of what is best or the utilitarian needs of the country. For Machiavelli virtu’ out weighs virtue in times of need while Plato believes a just ruler must behave the same all the time. Salmon says: Machiavelli critically analyzes the crucial characteristics of successful rulers, distinguishing, for example, between standards of discipline appropriate for military campaigns and for rulers when they are not commanding armies. Similarly, when Machiavelli discusses the concepts of cruelty and mercy, he presents examples to show that actions which might seem at first glance to be cruel are merciful in the circumstances, and vice versa.
Machiavelli is naive, and in many ways promotes violence, if it justifies the ends to a means, “virtu”. However, in so doing, he also exposes Monarchy as a fraud, and offers a way of separating morality or religion from politics. Politics is a cruel game, and sometimes politicians must lie in order to ensure the utilitarian good. Machiavelli warns that total honesty is not always what a good Prince needs to hear, but is a type of flattery that should be shunned. He writes: For there is no way to guard against flattery but by letting it be seen that you take no offence in hearing the truth: but when every one is free to tell you the truth, respect falls short. Wherefore a prudent Prince should follow a middle course, by choosing certain discreet men from among his subjects, and allowing them alone free leave to speak their minds on any matter on which he asks their opinion, and on none other. But he ought to ask their opinion on everything, and after hearing what they have to say, should reflect and judge for himself. (Machiavelli, The Prince. The Rennaissance Man, Edited by Daniel Fader, Gorlier: New York P. 113)
Machiavelli greatly admires the works of Plato and other sophists.
Machiavelli employs the conditional patterns of argumentation developed by the Stoic logicians. He frequently uses the dilemma form since this is useful for presenting alternative courses of action along with their consequences. He skillfully avoids being caught in false dilemmas, however. For example, when considering whether it is better to be loved or feared, he first points out that it is desirable–though not easy–to be both loved and feared. Plato believed that the ruler without moral virtue was unjust. A true ruler was just regardless of the circumstances. By doing evil to those evil men, are we not adding to their evil, making them more evil? It follows that justice involves the actual creation of evil.
Yet no art can deliberately aim at a negative result. The death of a patient is not a triumph of medicine but a failure. The creation of evil is not an accomplishment of justice, but a failure of justice. (335 D, P. 15-16)
Therefore, according to Plato, a just ruler should not seek war, because war is unjust. War is evil, and “The creation of evil is not an accomplishment of justice, but a failure of justice.” For Plato, a just ruler, an ideal ruler would be just. He does address war, and feels the Republic should have a standing Army of trained soldiers in order to defend the Republic. Machiavelli believes the state exists to make war, and a good ruler exists for only one purpose to make war, this is his only concern.
Machiavelli are writing in two different eras. In Plato’s era, man based philosophy on utopian ideals and principles. They were concerned with how things should be, not how they were. If we all behave this way, we will have a perfect society.
Machiavelli, however, was a realist. He was concerned with how things were in reality, not how things could be if the world was perfect. He was greatly influenced by his failures in public life. He had served as head of the second chancery of the Florentine republic, but was dismissed after it fell in 1512. The Medici family was again ruling Florence, and a Medici also sat on the papal throne in Rome. The Prince was an attempt to prevent form those failures being repeated in the future. Machiavelli tried unsuccessfully to use this treatise to gain an advisory appointment either to the papacy or the court of the Duke. He was not concerned with moral virtue, if it meant the destruction and defeat of his state
POLICY OF TERROR AND WESTERN VIRTUE IN EUROPEAN INSECURITY
By Anssi K. Kullberg, August, 2000
‘Terror’ means extreme use of horror and fear, ultimately backed by violence or threat of violence, in order to force one’s action or opinion upon others – merely by coercion, without legitimacy by the consent of the subjects of this power. ‘Terrorism’, thereby, is defined as an ideology or pattern of political behaviour, the ultimate goal of which is to generate fear, horror, violence or disorder, in order to pressure others to give in to the will of the terrorist.
If we agree on these basic objective definitions of what terror and terrorism really are, it will be possible for us to discuss how terror and terrorism influence in today’s world. There is also of course a demagogic interpretation of the concepts ‘terror’ and ‘terrorism’, highly prevalent in certain countries where the word ‘terrorism’ is simply used as a synonym of any dissidentism or disobedience towards the centre’s rule, or aspiration to achieve larger autonomy, or national liberation, or decolonisation. If we, however, adopt such an interpretation of the concepts, we will inevitably fail in discussing the problem of terror in an international context. The failure is inevitable because a certain type of regime generally and traditionally prefers to use the word ‘terrorism’ in a rather Orwellian sense: implicating that all those who disagree with, let alone disobey or even directly oppose, their power, should be named terrorists.
Used as a justification for various violent means to impose coercion and tyranny upon the dissidents or opposition or a distinct group of people, this implication is already a basis of terror, and as noticed, it can be found generally characteristic for a certain type of regime – tyrannical or otherwise highly illegitimate regime that can henceforth be called a ‘terror regime’. The general pattern of the political behaviour of such a regime can be described as ‘terrorism’. In an objective view, it should make no difference, whether the regime is ruling an internationally recognised nation-state, an empire, or a separatist republic.
There are many various ways, in which both a regime of a state and an interest group within a state may proceed in order to defend their existence – their liberty as the theorists of the late Medieval and Renaissance Italy preferred to say – or in order to destroy an opponent polity’s liberty, and ultimately the existence of a rival polity. A classic, describing the variety of these means, is of course Niccol? Machiavelli.
We might distinguish the polities practising the full variety of Machiavellian methods for fulfilling their ends, whatever they were, in terms of whether the polity in question is an aggressor or a defender, a conqueror or a victim of conquest. But as this particular lecture aims at referring to the notorious but often also highly misunderstood “cynical” character of Machiavelli’s analysis, I want to concentrate in the means, not in the legitimacy of the polities, or in the question of whether their goal is genesis, restoration, defence, or destruction of a polity’s existence and liberty.
The means, namely, ultimately reveal many relevant features of a polity’s character: whether its power is built upon legitimacy and liberty, or upon coercion and terror. Those admirers of Machiavelli, who read his works in a selective way, or out of their historical context, tend to overemphasise the cynical character in the thinking of Machiavelli, who wanted to appear a worthy advisor for established princes, conquerors, as well as Republican city polities. It must be mentioned, however, like Quentin Skinner does, that Machiavelli’s sympathies were clearly on the Republican side, growing from the intellectual grounds of the Renaissance humanist Florentine Republic, which tried to preserve its liberty against the Emperor, the Pope, the little empire of the Duchy of Milan, as well as the internal aspirations of the Medici to usurp power in Florence. Actually they finally did it, time after time, throwing Machiavelli out of his position, even though he wrote “Il Principe” in order to attract the interest of the new regime to hire him as an advisor.
One-sided admirers of Machiavelli’s ideas tend to emphasise those ideas that seem to suggest that the ends always justify the means, and that a statesman’s virt? is important only to appear as possessing all the classical and cardinal virtues of the Antiquity and the Christianity, whereas true loyalty to these virtues would only harm the interests of a ruler or a state. However fervently Machiavelli attacks against the ancient and Christian virtues and appears cynical, he still is a thoroughly romantic political thinker. So, as a critical admirer of Machiavelli’s ideas, I want to draw your attention to some important and often ignored features of Machiavelli’s thinking, best implied in his “Discorsi”.
First, Machiavelli does not hide his basic favour for the Republican liberty that was the main concern of his predecessors, the Florentine humanists. Secondly, he did not suggest that virtues should be forgotten – quite the contrary, he always recommended ‘good’, whenever it was not absolutely necessary to use means like violence and atrocity. Third, Machiavelli very well realised the importance of legitimacy by consent to be the key to virtuous policy and to the preservation of a polity. He even described an ideal of a republic that would last forever. He greatly admired the equilibrium of the ancient Roman Republic in contrast to the Roman imperial period. Machiavelli drew our attention to the very issue, against which many of his contemporaries attacked: namely faction, the fact that competing groups of interest, that kept the Roman Republic in a state of dynamism, actually guaranteed the Republic’s stability, simultaneously indicating that the high civic virt? of not only the regime but amongst all the Republic’s citizens, was maintained – virt? in the active and even heroic sense of Pericles, Cicero, and the heralds of the Italian Renaissance.
For Machiavelli, like for the Renaissance defenders of political liberty and independence in general, the decay of Rome began with the emergence of coercive and imperial rule, and simultaneous loss of individual virt?, the spirit of liberty, which alone encouraged the virtuous individuals for great deeds, and brought prosperity to the whole community. They thought the rise of the imperial regime was the beginning of the end for the Roman Empire, which, by losing its virt?, also lost its legitimacy, and finally also stability. Rome is not the only empire that came to its dusk in this way. Thereby, those, who are citing Machiavelli in defence of imperialism, or in defence of forceful preservation of empires that have come to their dusk and moral decadence, are actually misusing Machiavelli.
However, to return to the issue of terror, a notice can probably be made that however cynically Machiavelli might have excused terror as a means of advocating a regime’s ultimate mission, even he greatly despised harsh and excessive, entirely non-virtuous, use of terror and violence without succeeding in bringing about any of the claimed goals – goals that, for a cynical politician, might have justified the lack of virtue in the means. Excessive use of terror but incapability to bring about any virtuous ends seems to be typical for empires in decay – empires at their dusk. Therefore falling empires – or empires that were already unsuccessful and illegitimate in the very first place – often appear as the type of polity that is most expectable to be possessed by what we described as a ‘terror regime’.
Failing to provide any liberty, stability or prosperity at home, the empires of dusk turn into mere terrorist regimes that direct their aggression and terror against both internal and external scapegoats – often and paradoxically, moreover, blaming them for ‘terror’. Late Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were good examples of such decayed empires that have degenerated into mere terror regimes, and we can easily see the same features in certain failing empires of our own time. Even Machiavelli would hardly have found much virt? in their actions, and even much less the Italian Renaissance theorists, whose main point was the defence of Republican liberty and the virtuous ‘uomo universale’. Instead, they would perhaps have found the defence of Estonian, Slovenian, Croatian, Georgian, Chechen or Kosovar liberty against the obviously non-virtuous terror regimes most justified and virtuous.
Of course there are, and there will always be, individuals and groups that will use terror as their weapon. Such actors are especially generated in places where there is a constant state of war, and prevalent illegitimacy of the status quo. Supporters of some newly fashionable ‘civilizational’ theories on geopolitics may assume that terror and terrorism are somehow connected to cultural or even genetic inheritance of ‘eastern’ cultures, and should be excluded from Europe and the West by simply sacrificing the nations lying, for their misfortune, beyond the imagined boundaries of our Western civilization. Such theories, when it comes to the issue of terror, are of course naive, as the examples of Northern Ireland, Basque Country and Corsica suggest. Implicit hints are given to us every day that certain ethnic groups or religions would be inherently ‘terroristic’ in nature. Such implications, often offered by the propaganda of the very regimes that can themselves be defined as terror regimes, are dangerous and only feed xenophobia that damages our ability to observe the world clearly.
In the matter of fact, terrorism is bound to the political environment. Apart from satellites of active and influential terror regimes – like the various communist groups, which the Soviet Union used to finance, and which in most cases have not been cut entirely short from their original sources of finance and weaponry – the true reasons of terrorism usually lie in the decadence and illegitimacy of the prevalent status quo. This means that remedy to the disease should be directed at a revision and development of the situation towards a more legitimate one, even if it means altering the status quo. Machiavelli’s world was far from static, and so is ours, where the lack of change, rather than change, is the source of violent instability and terror. The alternative for a constant search for higher legitimacy and virtue of the situation – coercion and conquest – usually just breeds more terror and instability, unless a whole oppressed population is simply wiped out. Of course even this option, usually named genocide, has not been unfamiliar for the present terror regimes.
While individual terrorists and minor groups can be easily dealt with by normal police and justice system, state terror practised by what we defined as terror regimes, as well as the inevitable counter-terror that tyranny generates amongst the victims of state terror, form the real threat for peaceful states. Thus it is justified to refer to this kind of major violence, consisting of terror regimes and their vassal groups as well as counterparts, with the term ‘international terrorism’.
In order to protect Europe and the West against the most long-lasting form of international terror, namely totalitarian communism, as well as in order to prevent the re-emergence of something like the national-socialist terror regime of Germany, the Western states formed a security alliance named the NATO. It should not be forgotten that the NATO’s explicit mission was and should be to protect the Western liberty against the tyranny and state terror practised by the Soviet Union, which was an almost pure example of what a major ‘terror regime’ is in a long run. In the spirit of Machiavelli’s romantic tone amidst all his cynicism, I dare to call this mission both virtuous and righteous.
In the righteous times of Ronald Reagan, it was still very clear for all, against which ‘Evil Empire’ the NATO was meant to defend the Western liberty – the ‘Free World’. When, by the downfall of the Soviet terror regime, the West declared the Cold War to be over, the NATO faced an ideological problem: Although communist terror regimes continued to live on in China, North Korea and Cuba, but also in many Russian satellites, like in Serbia and in Belarus, the West felt it necessary to revise the original mission of the NATO. But since it lacked a clearly defined new target to defend the West against, the NATO began to lose its virtue: Would such a huge alliance as the NATO be needed only for interventions against relatively small terror regimes, such as the dictatorships of Iraq and Serbia?
Even in the course of these obviously justified interventions against polities that the West had clearly found terror regimes, the NATO seemed to be quite foreign to its own initial fundamental values. Kuwait was liberated, but terror regimes were not at all removed in Iraq and Serbia. Croatia had to liberate itself, Bosnia was divided in a clear territorial favour of the Serbs, and the Kosovar liberty has still not been recognised. Meanwhile, really large and internationally lethal terror regimes, Russia and China being the most eminent ones, have been left in total peace in advocating terror and tyranny against Chechens, Georgians, Azeris, Moldavians, Uighurs and Tibetans, and to practise terror-based pressure against their democratic neighbours, like the Baltic countries and Taiwan.
While the NATO is unwilling to explicate that the alliance is fundamentally established to protect the liberty and existence of such free, democratic and legitimate states as Estonia, for instance, against the threat of international terror by terror regimes that are too powerful to be resisted by small individual peaceful countries, the alliance is losing its virtue, and encouraging its potential enemies to adopt terror regime and thus to become ‘Evil Empires’ in the Reaganian sense of the expression.
It was once fashionable in the West to speak about the threat of communism. Nowadays it is very fashionable to speak about a mythical threat of Islam, based more on images and imagination than on facts, as the fact remains in Europe that no Islamic nation in her neighbourhood has attacked a Christian nation (the only exception at the moment is Sudan, which is cruelly oppressing the Christian secessionists of Southern Sudan), while all the wars in Europe in the last ten years have been started by Russia or Serbia, in many cases against Muslim nations, although in other cases against Christian nations as well. Amidst all this present fuss about a populist party gaining democratic victory in the Austrian election, Europe seems to ignore that the lack of virtue in the common defence of Western liberty has greatly contributed to the virtual re-emergence of the possibly worst and most destructive form of state terror, namely a combination of ultra-nationalist and socialist structures, in a nuclear superpower in Europe’s immediate neighbourhood. Even if entirely pessimistic attitudes towards present Russia would be most inconsiderate, it is impossible, especially from the viewpoint of the Baltic states, to neglect the security threat that Russia constitutes: It is a highly unstable superpower with huge military arsenal, a superpower that does not hide its aspirations to renew a hegemonic status and that tends to see the use of force as the means of driving its interest.
In the Annual Assembly of the Paneuropean Union in Strasbourg, December 1999, our honoured President, Arch-Duke Dr. Otto von Habsburg, an eminent European who has seen rise and fall of two totalitarian empires, spoke about the alarming similarities between the end of the interwar period and our times. History never repeats itself identically, but it would be inconsiderate to claim that no tendencies of historical d?j? vu should be feared. The short positive and optimistic interregnum in Russia, best characterised not by Gorbachev but by Gaidar, came to its end already by the end of 1993, combined with Yeltsin’s turning from a national liberationist into a revanchist imperialist. Even if the early Russian Federation did not entirely resemble the Weimar Republic, the rise of the new regime, characterised by the former Security Committee’s hegemony, highly resembles the gradual loss of democracy in Weimar Germany. Besides the traditionally strong anti-Semitism of Russia, and besides the newly fashionable anti-Islamism, Russia has rehabilitated almost all the features of the Nazi geopolitical and imperial thinking. What is, however, even more alarming, is that the European countries seem to repeat the tones of Europe in the times of Hitler’s rise, when the Western toleration of Nazi German policies, and purposeful blindness at anti-Semitism and the prevalent propaganda, directly contributed to the expansionism and the holocaust. I must repeat the warning that the Western security policy seems to have lost its virtue.
In the long run, the Europeans may wish to develop such European security structures that would protect them from Russian terror as well as from a feeling of inferiority at the American hegemony. Such an idea was proposed, among others, by the father of the Paneuropean Union, Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, in the 1920s. At the present, however, the conduct of European policies towards the conflicts in the Balkans and in the Caucasus has proved such lack of capability in any common, sovereignly European, security policy, that the NATO still seems to be the only credible protector of European liberty. While the main European powers stay sinisterly passive at Russian atrocities, and some find Putin’s regime even worthy of praise, the anxiety of the small countries in the empire’s shadow is growing. Who, if not the NATO, will guarantee that Estonia or Romania or Lithuania will not become the next Chechnya, or a next subject to a coup d’?tat and forcing of a vassal regime, such as majority of the present CIS states?
Today’s European ‘virt?’ must appear quite sinister for the countries located in ‘Zwischeneuropa’, as the new chairman state of the European Union, France, openly favours Russia over the democratic states of ‘Zwischeneuropa’, and as Portugal’s Jaime Gama comments on the Russian aggression in Chechnya by stating: “Europe understand Russia – we also have terrorists and we fight them”. At the same time, the European Union removes all sanctions against Russia, although situation in Chechnya has only got worse – explicitly stating that “now Russia has a strong leader”. If this is Europe’s virtue in defending Western liberty, the NATO indeed should recover its original mission of protecting freedom from terror regimes.
There are people in Europe, who claim the NATO to imply mere U.S. hegemony over European affairs, while in fact the U.S. is growing tired to finance Europe’s defence. It must be remarked, moreover, that the French, Portuguese, American and also other Western attitudes are tolerating and even encouraging Russia into the form of a centralised chauvinist regime, led by a strong leader. This cannot be good for Russia’s neighbours, or for the Russians whatsoever. It indicates lack of sense of a virtuous goal for the NATO. Against what international terror would the NATO defend European liberty, if not the one witnessed in Bosnia, Kosova and Chechnya? Against a mythical conspiracies of Muslims and Jews, disobedient media moguls, and mysterious Arab mercenaries who are spotted by anonymous security-related sources around the world? Are these figures of the Itar-Tass tales really the threat endangering the liberty of Europeans?
[We could ask the Estonians whether they are eager to recognise a claim that wanting to get rid of the Kremlin’s yoke is terrorism, and constitutes a major threat against the Eurasian stability.]
If Europe cannot generate virt? needed to unite this continent and to liberate it from the horrors of terror and genocide, witnessed in Bosnia, Kosova, Chechnya and elsewhere where all basic classical or Christian or European values have been violated, we may eventually have to witness the loss of our liberty in favour of terror regimes and various kind of nationalist regimes that will emerge in East Europe in response to the growing threat of Russian aggression. This is what eventually happened to the liberty of the Italian city republics in Machiavelli’s times, resulting that the Renaissance turned into absolutism. This is also what eventually happened to the ‘Zwischeneuropean’ states between Germany and Russia in Coudenhove-Kalergi’s times.
Perhaps the anti-Westerners of the so-called ‘new right’ of Europe have made a point in arguing that the NATO, or the West in general, has lost its virtue. So far the Machiavellians could have argued in a similar tone, and so could Demosthenes have argued against the lost virtue of the Hellenic cities facing the militarism of Macedonia. But yet Machiavelli and his contemporaries also argued that people should never yield and give up their liberties before terror of military strength and barbarism. This would mean lack of virtue, as liberty grows from courage, according to Pericles.
These are the near future concerns of the NATO or any defence organisation aiming at virt?, and the preservation of European liberty, perhaps eventually expanding it into Eurasian liberty, thus finally bringing about a revival of virtue also in Russia, Serbia, the Caucasus, Turkestan, Middle East, Iran, and many other places currently possessed by international terror and fear.
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