Small Wars Journal

Machiavelli and our Wars in the Middle East

Tue, 07/20/2021 - 12:57pm

Machiavelli and our Wars in the Middle East

By Chad M. Pillai

The upcoming twentieth anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the recent passing of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld require thoughtful attention as the nation completes its final troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending the longest war in U.S. history.  The war in Afghanistan and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Syria have shaped my generation's cultural image, similar to the Vietnam War's generation. In both instances, the U.S. entered the wars believing its martial superiority ensured victory and ended each war wondering what went wrong.  

The political, strategic, and emotional rationale for the war in Afghanistan was logically tied to the heinous attacks on September 11th. The world watched as Al Qaeda hijacked commercial airliners and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and one that crashed in Pennsylvania when the passengers revolted. Shortly after the attack, President George W. Bush spoke with first responders at ground zero in New York. He announced, "the world will hear all of us soon!" Within weeks, the CIA and U.S. Special Operations spearheaded our response in Afghanistan that led to the U.S. overthrowing the Taliban government and the displacement of the Al Qaeda terrorist network. The rapid victories represented by the famous "Horse Soldiers" of the 5th Special Forces Group highlighted the nation's martial superiority. They gave strategic leaders like former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld the confidence needed to expand the global war on terrorism to Iraq. 

Assured of rapid victory and that senior policy makers believing U.S. forces would be greeted as liberators, the United States, and its allies launched a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his regime. Like the victory in Afghanistan, the initial success took less than a month. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. and its allies employed fewer forces than they did to expel Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait in 1991. Sadly, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, rapid tactical victory did not yield long-term strategic peace or stability. Twenty years after 2001, the U.S. is departing Afghanistan with a resurgent Taliban and a fragile Iraq that continues to battle Al Qaeda's offshoot – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – and is caught in a low-level regional conflict between Iran and its Arab neighbors.  

Policymakers and academics such as Carter Malkasian have and will continue to ask what went wrong. There are plenty of reasons for the perceived failure including not sending enough forces into Afghanistan early to prevent the Taliban's and Al Qaeda's senior leaders from escaping and finding sanctuary in Pakistan, diverting troops from Afghanistan to Iraq, and colossal errors like disbanding the Iraqi Army. Each error compounded on the other; however, the primary mistake was hubris.  

    To avoid hubris, senior political and military leaders should have read closely Niccolò Machiavelli book The Prince on what a ruler should expect when conquering foreign land. In chapters four and five, Machiavelli lays out the fundamental principles a ruler needed to understand before embarking on conquest by highlighting the differences between the Kingdom of France and the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. To briefly paraphrase Machiavelli's advice in chapter four, he wrote that states that are hard to conquer are easy to rule while states that are easy to conquer are hard to rule.  

In chapter five, Machiavelli providers further advice on what to expect when conquering another with the following words:

When a state accustomed to live in freedom under its own laws is acquired, there are three ways of keeping it:  the first is to destroy it, the second is to go to live there in person; the third is to let it continue to live under its own laws, taking tribute from it, and setting up a government composed of a few men who will keep it friendly to you.  Such a government, being the creature of the prince, will be aware that it cannot survive without his friendship and support, and it will do everything to maintain his authority.  A city which is used to freedom is more easily controlled by means of its own citizens than by any other, provided one chooses not to destroy it. 

The American experiences with Germany and Japan after World War II and South Korea after the Korean War shaped our perception of what could be achieved by the nation's military presence and commitment to long-term peace and stability. The U.S. and its allies fought four bloody and expensive years against Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan, leading to their unconditional surrender. The Japanese were prepared for national suicide and destruction but submitted when they heard the Emperor speak for the first time announcing the war's end.  After the war, the U.S. maintained a large military footprint in Germany and Japan and helped them democratize and become long-term allies. Despite being challenging to conquer, the Germans and Japanese proved easy to rule. 

During the Korean War, the U.S. and its allies fought the first major "hot war" of the "Cold War" when it helped South Korea maintain its sovereignty. Since the 1953 armistice, the U.S. has maintained a sizeable military footprint and helped South Korea democratize between 1953-1997 and become a long-term ally. The U.S. did not conquer South Korea, but its assurance of long-term defense against its North Korean enemy helped make its transition a stable democracy easier, which allowed the Republic of Korea to contribute to U.S. military operations during the Vietnam War and in Iraq

In Germany, Japan, and South Korea, the U.S. applied Machiavelli advice by destroying the state, living there (long-term military presence), and setting up governments friendly to the United States that made post-war stability possible. The political and military decisions made regarding Afghanistan and Iraq were the opposite of those made concerning Germany, Japan, and South Korea. In Afghanistan and Iraq, senior political and military leaders had no intention of staying and quickly installed Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan and Ahmed Chalabi in Iraq to govern. While Hamid Karzai had some legitimate claims to his role as a leader in Afghan society as the son and grandson of the chief of the Popalzai Pashtuns who served in the former King of Afghanistan’s government, Ahmed Chalabi was a corrupt banker with no ties to the ruling elite in Iraq. The desire to run for the exits before Afghanistan and Iraq were fully stabilized set the conditions for the insurgencies that bogged down the U.S. military for the past twenty years.  

For twenty years, the U.S. fought a counter-insurgency in both Afghanistan and Iraq that still fell short of completely destroying the insurgents, their means of resupply (narcotrafficking and the funds provided to the Taliban as an example), and eliminating those agents that provided sanctuary (Pakistan, Syria, and Iran). Employing the means to destroy the insurgents or those who provided haven was politically untenable and therefore should have heeded Machiavelli's advice in chapter five when he said:

For in truth there is no sure method of holding such cities by destruction.  Anyone who becomes master of a city accustomed to freedom and does not destroy it may expect to be destroyed by it; for such a city may always justify rebellion in the name of liberty and its ancient institutions.  These are not forgotten either through passage of time or through benefits received.  Despite any actions or provisions one may take, if the inhabitants are not divided and dispersed, they will not forget the name and those institutions, and will quickly have recourse to them at every chance.

The rapid victories against the Taliban and Saddam's regimes were warning signs that ruling Afghanistan and Iraq would not be easy. The fact that the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and remnants of Saddam's regime found sanctuary in Pakistan, Iran, and Syria, respectively, ensured the memories of their past institutions would live on and serve as a call to arms. This fact meant that labeling the Taliban insurgents was inaccurate since the Taliban and its supporters have continued to view it as the legitimate Afghan government, even in exile. 

The counter-insurgency victories against the Taliban and insurgent forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and today in Syria may prove fleeting as time marches on. The United States never lost a tactical battle in Vietnam but proved strategically irrelevant in defeating the communist because we failed to understand the war's political nature. The North Vietnamese were prepared to pay any cost to win unification after suffering foreign interference by China, France, and the United States. Likewise, the Taliban proved they were willing to pay a high price in their efforts to reclaim their right to rule Afghanistan. The wars in Iraq and Syria remain unresolved and may eventually fracture those two nation-states as the various groups and tribes seek a new political reality.  

As the junior leaders during Vietnam War and Cold War assumed senior leadership political and military positions misapplied the lessons learned from their experience, the September 11th generation must do better and learn from both. Future leaders must ask themselves the hard questions and challenge their assumptions about whether a proposed conflict and post-conflict scenario would abide by Machiavelli's dictum on what it takes to conquer another state. Finally, a careful reading of history, like former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said, would ensure "nothing new under the sun." This fact would ensure future leaders ask the right questions when considering Machiavelli's advice and understand why our experience in Afghanistan and Iraq went wrong. 

About the Author(s)

Lt. Col. Chad M. Pillai is a U.S. Army strategist who has completed multiple joint and institutional Army planning assignments. He earned his master's degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and will begin his War College fellowship at Queen's University in the fall. The views expressed in the article are his and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. government and the Department of Defense.


Benefits of st…

Tue, 05/09/2023 - 2:39am

Some Benefits of studying abroad include an expanded worldview, foreign language skills, career opportunities, broader intercultural and global understanding, greater understanding of other cultures, being more open to diversity, having a more inclusive take on the world, the opportunity to see new terrains, natural wonders, museums and landmarks of your host nation.


Tue, 05/02/2023 - 4:23am

Elastic IaaS Solution at Enduro Sport. IaaS (architecture like a Service), as the name indicate,
to give their they calculate infrastructure, bodily or ( entirely usually)effective machines and
other funds such as virtual-machine circle likeness library, piece and file-based storehouse,
firewalls, load performer, IP inscription, effective commonplaces framework etc. History essays The
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) thread representation conveys the method to calculate and
store infrastructure services to accomplish and manage. Since of this, almost all organisations
have migrated their inheritance on-premise method and request to the nation threat, keep
away from the come to and struggle that went into work such support, register, and etc.. In
this area, there are many developing cloud services such AS, Microsoft, Google, IBM,
Alibaba, and Fujitsu. Amazon Web Services Provide a wide set of global cloud-based things
including calculate, storehouse, databases, investigative, connections, mobile, producer tools,
administration tools, IoT, safety and  undertaking requests. These services to assist
organisations go faster, lower IT costs, and scale. AWS i believe in through the highest
venture and the tropical start-ups to strong abroad difference of load of work conclude web
and mobile request, game growth, data clarifying and magazines , storehouse, registers, and
many others.


Sat, 04/29/2023 - 2:42am

Those who lack the necessary time or abilities can turn to us for trustworthy dissertation assistance without breaking the bank. You don't need to look anywhere else because our website has the top team of British dissertation editors and writers. politics dissertation topics Most students are unable to go through the entire list of dissertation topics that have been given to them. It will be quite difficult to work on the dissertation while concentrating on other things in such a setting. This is why a lot of students start looking for dissertation assistance online.


Thu, 04/27/2023 - 2:13am

Thanks for sharing the information. Looking for reliable and affordable Business Assignment Help? Look no further than our expert team of professionals at Rapid Assignment Help. At our service, we understand the importance of business assignments in shaping your academic career. That's why we offer top-quality, customized solutions that are tailored to meet your unique needs and requirements. Our team of experienced business assignment help writers and editors are well-versed in all aspects of business and can help you with everything from essays to case studies to research papers and more.


Thu, 03/30/2023 - 6:59am

Working with a coursework writing service, I must say that "Machiavelli and our Wars in the Middle East" explores the relevance of Niccolò Machiavelli's political philosophy to contemporary conflicts in the Middle East. Machiavelli's ideas on power, morality, and the use of force are applied to the strategies and tactics used in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the implications of these actions are analyzed. This thought-provoking topic raises important questions about the ethical considerations of war and the role of political leaders in shaping foreign policy decisions. 


Thu, 11/17/2022 - 10:33pm

One of the biggest issues with students is that they seek for urgent and custom essay writing services to
complete their assignments. They enquire and look for can someone do my essay for me online. No
longer, as we are available to answer all of your urgent do my essay requests. Get the most out of your
money when you pay us to essay writing service because we have the top British essay writers who can
provide an unique essay for a reasonable fee. Consequently, we provide a cost-effective alternative
without charging exorbitant prices for custom essays.

Academic Writers

Mon, 11/07/2022 - 6:38am

We focus on complicated writing, which is one of our sturdy points. To be high-satisfactory educational writing, we provide extra best letter writers service carrier.


Fri, 10/28/2022 - 7:15am

Let us offer you the greatest nursing essay writing answer if you're searching for the top nursing essay
writing service in the UK. Best Nursing Essay Help UK  In order to keep you out of problems, we will enjoy composing your nursing essay and assisting you in taking care of it. Send your teacher a stunning report that covers every component that belongs in the paper. Become known as the top student in your class by using our first-rate nursing essay writing services.


Thu, 10/27/2022 - 2:04am

Jiju is a very special person in the family. He loves your sister very much and has always been respected by your parents and cared for. Let's celebrate this new year with your jiju and send some good new year wishes for jiju.


Fri, 10/14/2022 - 2:06am

Finance assignments are complicated and hence requires expertise and a lot of brain storming. Also involvement of data analysis can add compication to finance assignments. One can either take all the burden of collecting the data, drafting and preparing the finance assignments by onself, Or can avail finance assignment help online at pocket friendly prices. We assure you the best assignment writing sevices. We have experts from renowned universities. These professionals will do all the work for you, you just have to submit the requirements. Also assignmentdesk is providing some tools for free that you can use to your advantage. They also offer unlimited revisions in case you are not satisfied. So think no more and get world's best assignment writing serives in few clicks. 

Thesis Help

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 5:57am

Writing a thesis does not only begin with the creation of a text document. Looking for thesis writing services, Finding a topic for your thesis, searching for literature, reading and examining the available literature as well as defining a research question pertaining to the topic is part of writing a thesis.


Sat, 09/10/2022 - 6:56am

Have you ever had a case study assignment on a certain subject? Do you lack the time to conduct thorough research for your case study? Don't worry; Uniresearchers Assignment Help offers students who want professional assistance with their assignment topic the best and most cheap case study help services.


Tue, 08/30/2022 - 3:29am

What a fantabulous post this has been. Never seen this kind of useful post. <a href="">My Assignment Help</a> I am grateful to you and expect more number of posts like these. Thank you very much.


Wed, 07/06/2022 - 6:35pm

homework help finance, tutoring & tutoring services. Pass your exam now with our great courses and high quality study material. Our subjects include civil engineering, construction & mechanical, electrician's apprenticeship and more. We have the best results and guarantees

What were your expectations on the twentieth anniversary? Because there should be something special at the anniversary. One of my friend facilitating student when they buy dissertation help is also planning a special event for moment


Wed, 11/03/2021 - 7:10am

At present upheld advancement stages incorporate PCs running Linux (any cutting edge work area Linux circulation), Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later, and Windows 7 or later. As of March 2015, the SDK isn't accessible on Android itself, yet programming advancement is conceivable by utilizing specific Android applications.Android Application Development Company


Wed, 11/03/2021 - 2:38am

Have you been assignments to write case study on a particular topic? Do you not have enough time to do intensive research for your case study? Don't Worry, Global Assignment Help provides the best and affordable case study help services to students who need experts help to complete their assignment topic.

Yes the history prove that experience in Afghanistan and Iraq went wrong. However the article was very intresting   and informative as I am one of  top essay writers so I love to read this kind  of article so please upload more article like this.


Mon, 10/18/2021 - 2:55am

This was such a informative article as I also believe that the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan went wrong . I would like you to upload more article like that as after taking my class of comptia courses online I would daily visit for site to read these  informative article because it make me feel fresh .


Wed, 09/22/2021 - 4:37am

We are committed to providing our clients with exceptional solutions while offering web design and development services, graphic design services, organic SEO services, social media services, digital marketing services, server management services and Graphic Design Company in USA.

mark spencer

Mon, 09/20/2021 - 6:59am

Thanks for such wonderful blog that looks pretty different, I would suggest you please make a proper plan for your blog and start professional blogging as a career, One day you would be smart enough to earn some money, wishing you a best of luck my friend, Mycred development Thanks a lot for your nice support and love.

Caroline Taylor

Sat, 09/18/2021 - 6:00am

History shows the true nature of the nations, all their strengths, and weaknesses. We recently launched our b-3 cheap bomber jackets sale in the middle east and we came across different challenges. We could encounter them because we were prepared. 


Wed, 08/04/2021 - 8:55am

When I need good content on a wars topic or the same kind of topic I visit this site for good content, working as a custom essay writer with reputed companies I write content too, and history and current war topics are always my favorite topics.

Kolin Black

Sat, 07/31/2021 - 7:48am

Why do people like to play war? is this really important? It is better to play online games, here I am for example a fan of games that are on this best online casinos canada I think my hobby is definitely better than these people's games. By the way, if there are fans of such games, I also recommend you to visit this site.

Regarding Vietnam, a major problem was (and is today) that the Army didn't want to think about Vietnam even before it ended. The return of emphasis on the Fulda Gap (Europe) was expressed in all the training and doctrine, Vietnam was almost a taboo subject. The Vietnam-experienced officers experienced RIFs, which were keenly felt. This left few who could pass along any lessons-learned, especially in our service academies and colleges.

The result has been that the teaching of Vietnam has greatly missed reality. Instead, the history of our efforts in Vietnam is either pooh-pooed or demeaned usually by those who weren't there and have no interest in listening or reading about what happened. I have personally heard professors teaching our soldiers demean our efforts in Vietnam and others saying they avoid teaching anything about the Vietnam War. Civilian colleges are often much worse.

It may be that Afghanistan will face a similar fate.