Is America Better Off Being Feared Or Loved?
“From this arises an argument: whether it is better to be loved than feared. I reply that one should like to be both one and the other; but since it is difficult to join them together, it is much safer to be feared than to be loved when one of the two must be lacking.”: ‘ Niccolo Machiavelli in his book “The Prince.”
However counterintuitive it may seem, Machiavelli’s timeless advice is just as applicable today as it was almost 5 centuries ago when he wrote it. One only has to look at the situation the United States faces today to see the futility of trying to make nations ‘love’ us.
Consider Kuwait. In 1990 they were invaded by Iraq, their country was looted and pillaged, and would have been destined to be a colony of Iraq for the foreseeable future’except for the United States. We led a coalition that liberated Kuwait during the Gulf War. So does Kuwait ‘love us’? No, in fact they don’t. Publicly they’ve said that they don’t support an American invasion of Iraq.
What about our long time ‘friends’ in Saudi Arabia? They were next on Saddam Hussein’s agenda after Kuwait and our attack on Iraq saved Saudi Arabia as surely as it did Kuwait. Furthermore, we’ve had troops in Saudi Arabia for over a decade now to protect them from Saddam’s armies. So do they ‘love us’? Not in any way, shape or form. They’ve been loudly, publicly, uncooperative with the US and they’ve said they don’t support a US attack on Iraq either.
What about nations in the Middle East that get massive amounts of aid from us like Egypt and Jordan? They don’t support us. What about our Western allies in Europe who we saved in WW2, rebuilt with the Marshall plan, and then protected from the Soviets for almost 5 decades? Other than Britain, they have as of yet declined to support moving the war beyond Afghanistan.
And what of Afghanistan? We funneled billions in aid to Afghanistan in the 80s and without our help, the Soviet Union would have swallowed them whole. Furthermore, before September 11th they were the top recipients of US humanitarian assistance despite our very public differences with them on human rights and terrorism. I think everyone knows how they repaid us for that.
So how can it be that all these nations that should have cause to ‘love us’ have no desire to help us beyond the absolute minimum they think they can get away with? Machiavelli had an answer for that as well’
‘One can make this generalization about men: they are ungrateful, fickle, liars, and deceivers, they shun danger and are greedy for profit; while you treat them well, they are yours. They would shed their blood for you, risk their property, their lives, their children, so long, as I said above, as danger is remote; but when you are in danger they turn against you’
It’s one thing to have a super power at your back if you run into trouble and it’s quite another for that super power to ask your nation to put it’s men and treasure at risk in foreign lands. Few of our ‘allies’ even want to give us diplomatic support for expanding the war out of fear that it may make them targets of terrorist attacks. So ‘love’ promises us very little beyond Afghanistan.
But what of ‘fear’? First of all, we can make a case that Bin Laden orchestrated 9/11 because he thought we were a paper tiger, in effect because he didn’t ‘fear’us enough. Of course, it’s easy to see how he came to that conclusion. We pulled out of Lebanon in 1983 and Somalia in 1993 after taking casualties and our responses to terrorism in the last two decades were flaccid, weak, and ultimately ineffective other than Reagan’s vicious bombing of Libya in 1986.
But our reaction to 9/11 and America’s invasion of Afghanistan has proved that we are still a power to be feared. What has that done for us? Yemen, Sudan, and Pakistan have made great strides against terrorism. Cuba has signed numerous anti-terrorism treaties since 9/11. Libya has denounced terrorism and biological weapons. Even our old adversaries in Somalia have been very cooperative. But these nations have no ‘love’ for the United States so why are they helping? It’s because they ‘fear’ meeting the same fate as the Taliban.
Even most of our supposed ‘allies’ from this point on will be more likely to cooperate with us out of ‘fear’ than ‘love.’ The leaders of Europe surely know that ‘troubling’ questions will be raised in America if they don’t support us after Afghanistan. For example, what’s the point of NATO if we can’t even get lip service from Europe in a crisis? How much money could we save if we brought our troops home from Europe and closed our bases there? If Europe proves that they aren’t truly behind America, should we start viewing them as potential rivals instead of allies? Those are questions that Europe should ‘fear’ America asking and if most of Europe decides to cooperate, it will be because of those ‘fears’ rather than because of any ‘love’ they have for the United States.
We may also hope that Syria, Lebanon, the occupied territories and North Korea will give in to fear rather than fight us. Of course, they’re not afraid ‘yet.’ But after Iraq and Iran fall, it will very likely be a completely different story.
‘Fear’ even holds greater promise for us in the future after the main military portion of the war on terrorism is over. After all, what leader in the Middle East wants an enraged super power considering the best way to cause a regime change in their nation? So ideally they’ll prefer eradicating the terrorists in their own countries to facing the United States in the future.
So we’ve looked at what ‘love’ and what ‘fear’ can do for us. That leads us to a final piece of wisdom from Machiavelli’
‘One should never allow chaos to develop in order to avoid going to war, because one does not avoid a war but instead puts it off to his disadvantage.’
For the last 20 years we have allowed nations across the world to build terrorist networks largely unchecked except for some ineffective sanctions and a bit of finger wagging. In a world where rogue nations are developing weapons of mass destruction and are cultivating relationships with global terrorist organizations that can be used as human delivery systems, we can no longer afford to stick our heads in the sand. The only sane choice is to stop them, militarily if necessary. Pursuing this course of action is going to mean vociferous, shrill, and unending condemnation of America at worst and a general dislike of America in many quarters of the world at best for as long as the fighting continues. As distasteful as that might be to many of us, it’s much more important right now to instill ‘fear’ in nations that seek to do us harm than to seek ‘love’ and adulation that would eventually come at the price of countless American lives.