The Prince Chapter 10
“CONCERNING THE WAY IN WHICH THE STRENGTH OF ALL PRINCIPALITIES OUGHT TO BE MEASURED.”
This chapter concerns itself with the character of principalities in terms of defense. Can a prince support himself with his own resources, or does he need the assistance of others. A prince with enough resources, men, or money with which to buy them, can stand against any attacker. Machiavelli noted that a prince should concentrate on fortifying the city or town and not try to protect the countryside. It spreads the resources too thin.
Like Sun Tzu, Machiavelli recognized that the most difficult thing in war was to besiege a well-fortified and supplied town or city. So his advice was that all Princes should make certain that their cities and towns were supplied and fortified to such a high degree that anyone considering an attack would look elsewhere for an easier target. War is expensive; siege armies have to be fed and paid longer making sieges bad investments.
The advice on ignoring the defense of the countryside was sound; besiegers usually destroy whatever property there is in the countryside in hopes of drawing out the besieged. But if the town was well supplied, they could afford to stay put and wait out a besieging army. Machiavelli also notes that in siege situations, a prince who is well-loved by his people is a good defense strategy.
Attackers look for towns with no fortifications, no provisions, and where the leadership is heavily disliked by the people.
He gives as an example the cities of Germany, which were absolutely free. They did not consider the countryside around them as owned by them, so took no real stock of them. They tended to obey the emperor when it suited them, and they had no fear of him, or any other nearby power. The reasons were simple. These cities maintained a high level of infrastructure, including work for the citizenry during a siege, that would aid in protection of life and strength of the city itself.
They kept their defenses in good repair, their artillery was kept in good repair with a years worth of ammunition. Their citizenry encouraged martial exercise and were well reputed, and they had ordinances that supported that. They also maintained public stores of food and water, enough to maintain themselves for a full year. Anyone thinking of trying to take them by assault would consider it too difficult and too time consuming.
A prince who has such a strong city, and has not alienated his own citizenry will not be attacked, or if anyone did attack, they would find themselves driven off. For the argument against allowing property in the countryside to be destroyed and that a long siege and self-interest would make them forget their prince, be a worthy prince; keep a confident demeanor and stress fear of the enemy.
A besieging enemy is most likely going to destroy any outside property at the beginning of the siege when the people are rallied strongest around their prince. Once the the damage is done the people will not likely be favor of their attackers. The people will be dependent on the prince and the prince dependent on them and so long as the prince looks after the people fairly they will remain loyal to him.
Modern context? Not a whole lot has really changed from Machiavelli’s period; perhaps the biggest change is the size and scope of war. Instead of the strength of a city or principality, one considers the strength of a nation, i.e. national security. A well governed nation also makes consideration for domestic security, care and well being of the people as a matter of strengthening a nation.
This is why many areas of governance, usually labeled “social programs”, are so important, and yet are prone to misunderstanding or miscommunication on account of political ideology. Education, healthcare, protection of critical infrastructure, mitigation of hazards and natural disasters, all of these things factor into healthy and productive citizens, safe cities, and stable economies.
Diseased and injured people are easily conquered; they are physically weakened. Uneducated people are easily manipulated and controlled (by internal as well as external threats using propaganda and false narratives). Failure to protect critical infrastructure or mitigate hazards and natural disasters means high costs, losses of life, resentment, unsafe cities and unstable economies which can kill cities and nations over time.
The United States is a super power, theoretically, the ONLY super power, on grounds that it has the best, smartest and most numerous arsenal of nuclear weapons. It also has an extremely well supplied and trained Military. But what use are guns and nuclear weapons if the people holding them are weak, sick, and ignorant? What use are guns and nuclear weapons if the people holding them can be manipulated against each other?
A well-armed civilian population that trains regularly and knows how to handle a weapon is a good start, but that population also needs to be highly educated and provided with total healthcare and economic safety nets. The cities they live in need to be healthy, well-maintained, critical infrastructure protected, mitigation and recovery plans for hazards and natural disasters in place and well funded.
In short, domestic security is a relevant part of national security. Instrumental to both are government policy-makers that govern in the best interests of all people, and not just a preferred socio-economic class. Political parties controlled by religious ideologies are not sufficient to the task, and policy-makers that act out of self-interest need to be removed and replaced by those who are not threats to domestic and national security.
Thanks for reading.