Machiavelli warns us against listening to Iran’s exiled terrorists

Summary:  Our foreign policy consists largely of repeating mistakes from the past. This post examines two example — one from a decade ago, one from today — along with a comment by Machiavelli chastising our folly. This is the 2nd of 3 posts today about our FAILure to learn, each with a lesson from the past that we have ignored to great cost. If American’s leaders won’t learn, its citizens can.

Amnesia: the dark descent
For an individual or people to profit from experience it must be remembered (avoid anterograde amnesia). Greatness for a nation requires learning from history (avoid retrograde amnesia). We seem to have both kinds of amnesia. We live in the now, playing on the information highway.  We have the ability to do better. Remember our past; every day is a teachable moment.

Our leaders’ refusal to learn

This post gives another example of our leaders’ fascination with failed tactics: helping anti-American insurgents to overthrow regimes of our rivals. We’ve repeatedly done so since President Carter authorized Operation Cyclone, helping set the Middle East aflame by overthrowing secular regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and (in progress) Syria — all replaced by jihadists. Future historians will think us mad.

A key part of this strategy has been listening to the siren songs of exiles. Such as Ahmed Chalabi, who sold Bush a fabric of lies about how easily he could govern Iraq as our puppet once we gave it to him. We held Iraq for 8 years before its government forced Bush to sign a Status of Forces agreement that booted us out.

Since we do not learn from experience (or even remember it) Congress prepares to respectfully listen to Maryam Rajavi, a co-leader of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) — a group on the State Department’s list of terrorist groups from 1997 to 2012 — removed after a multi-million dollar program of payments to influential DC figures (the free market in selling America) despite its history of anti-Americanism and (of course) terrorism. She’ll urge Congress to overthrow Iran’s elected government — again. Its people still hate us for doing so in 1953, and installing a tyrant. Will doing so a second time win any friends in Iran or elsewhere?

Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito
Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito

Advice from Machiavelli

We’re too smart to learn from history, or we would have heard the many warnings about listening to exiles. Such as this passage from Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy (~1517), Book II, chapter 31.

The danger of believing exiles.

And it does not appear to me to be foreign to this subject to discuss among other matters how dangerous a thing it is to believe those who have been driven out of their country…

It ought to be considered, therefore, how vain are the faith and promises of those who find themselves deprived of their country. For, as to their faith, it has to be borne in mind that anytime they can return to their country by other means than yours, they will leave you and look to the other, notwithstanding whatever promises they had made you.

As to their vain hopes and promises, such is the extreme desire in them to return home, that they naturally believe many things that are false and add many others by art, so that between those they believe and those they say they believe, they fill you with hope, so that relying on them you will incur expenses in vain, or you undertake an enterprise in which you ruin yourself.

The previously mentioned example of Alexander is enough for me, but in addition, that of Themistocles, the Athenian, who, having been declared a rebel, fled to Darius in Asia, where he promised him so much if he should want to assault Greece, that Darius turned to that enterprise. Themistocles, not being able to observe these promises, he poisoned himself, either from shame or from fear of punishment. And if this error was made by Themistocles, a most excellent man, it ought to be considered how much more those men err who, because of less virtu, allow themselves to be drawn by their desires and passions.

A Prince, therefore, ought to go slowly in undertaking an enterprise upon the representations of an exile, for most of the times he will be left either with shame or very grave injury.

————————————  End of excerpt  ————————————

Learn from mistakes

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5 thoughts on “Machiavelli warns us against listening to Iran’s exiled terrorists

    1. This is a serious comment, I read this
      “And it does not appear to me to be foreign to this subject to discuss among other matters how dangerous a thing it is to believe those who have been driven out of their country…

      It ought to be considered, therefore, how vain are the faith and promises of those who find themselves deprived of their country. For, as to their faith, it has to be borne in mind that anytime they can return to their country by other means than yours, they will leave you and look to the other, notwithstanding whatever promises they had made you.

      As to their vain hopes and promises, such is the extreme desire in them to return home, that they naturally believe many things that are false and add many others by art, so that between those they believe and those they say they believe, they fill you with hope, so that relying on them you will incur expenses in vain, or you undertake an enterprise in which you ruin yourself.”

      and it ressonated, same principles apply,
      the same with the following post about political assesination…

      Does this principle does not apply to Cuban exiles?

  1. Very interesting iteraction Editor,

    I think what that means is hard to explain and has to do with this: “On stories and cracks” By José Pablo Feinmann

    Julian Assange is furious with the postmodern: not everything is interpretation, there are the facts, there is the factual, and not that hard, concrete base, is unable to work. He’s right and not. We need facts. We need that first factual level. Any interpretation should be an undoubted fact. Only when the newspaper El Pais announced the death of Chavez with a photo of a dead man who was one we were facing a lie. The lie appears when the interpretation of fact not supported by any or manufactures to do. The fact you can not doubt, there will be undeniable, and we must continue work on it to make new interpretations. There are facts that can overturn several of them. But each new fact arising fall interpretations to do yours, take it to its interpretative corpus, endorse what was being said or flip it with skill, cunning, so that seems to say the same as before incorporating the new. Any new fact should be brought to play in favor of our interpretation or similar to hold our view, that is-always that of our interests.

    The story is woven by many interests. Each political subject is one. Each political subject differs from one and all. When the Cours Ferdinand de Saussure states that every point of the system arises as to point out the difference more, the Swiss often forgotten. Any difference is conflict. Any difference is antagonism. Any difference has something the other (different from the difference) does not have. Thus, each difference introduces a despresencia in the fullness of the presence of the other. None is totalizing presence. If annul the other differences would be. Thus, successful authoritarian systems have eliminated their differences, their opposing political camps. They are assumed to be absolute presences. They liquidated the power of the other differences that set a hole, a lack, a not a despresencia in his presence. The One is the All. And it has slits. This is the authoritarian power and power is what everyone aspires to be: the One, the One. This situation usually occurs, but must turn to blood. If the One is all, if one is the absolute presence and no despresencia it hurts is because it has won a war that has killed all the others or has under its system of power based on weapons and in the media.

    Each story -at emerge as difference and conflict with other-establishes a crack. The story is an interpretation. But it is also more. It is an orderly pattern of interpretations that come together in an organization of events. The story is based on facts to end by instituting a fiction which justifies their interests. “Reality” is a contest of fiction, each claims to be the “truth”. And it is, but it is only the group that supports it. The story is a struggle of partial truths. Each of them has been drawn up by a “bias”. All of them, while antagonistic camps, while in conflict areas constitute a “totality”. All is the infinite set of partial truths, hence all never end, never totals. All live in constant detotalization. Totals only when one party wins and the All. Here, the task of the remaining parts is destotalizar the Whole. The whole is installed as hegemony. The party that gets total antagonistic camps remaining becomes the dominant part of the political system. Overrides the practice of the others. That practice is freedom from the militants subjects. We can call them if you desire-emancipatory praxis. If part eliminates the emancipatory praxis of all others, it only remains as dynamic all its own praxis of submission. When antagonistic camps are eliminated when conflict is destroyed by the triumph of one of its poles, when, then, no conflict, no antagonism, no story. There is a whole and the parts can be embellished as differences in dialogue between them, or between dialects forth statements that refer to themselves because any dialect understand what other states. Thus, the whole harmonic set your domain and unquestioned. Everything changes when one party creates a distinctive practice in the form of conflict with the All. Here a crack is established. A crack is a conflict. A crack in the monolithic form of Everything. A crack is assumed difference conflict. Their conflict is a praxis of negation. However small the party has the courage to embody a negativity that denies the whole. Hence theories of beautification of the differences (the theory of multipolarity which would hold dialogues as part harmony, with equal power) and the exaltation of the dialects deny the uneven globalization of capitalism. From its origins as a world system so far, capitalism has been presented as the realization or the conquering ambition (as will to power) of all. Colonialism and imperialism are the expressions of this project. Subjecting the parts to the whole. This project interprets the story as a conflict. There is a practice of subjection and emancipation. A practice of freedom. When the praxis of freedom totals introduces a new totalitarian order submitted to the other parties to the All she now embodies. Then the other parts (which have come under the shadow of submission) undertake the task again destotalizar totalization. Emancipatory task. As we see, the story is the struggle of all against the parties, against all the parties and the parties themselves. Cracks as an expression of the differences and antagonistic camps, are still open. Any difference is denial. In a democratic order should arise for dialogue and to complete the deficiency is in everything else, which is also difference. But the field of history is that of antagonism. Any difference arises to express the will to power of a working group. It arises, and, while denying all others. Any difference is affirming itself. To complicate all say that there are still differences within any difference. Or do not we talk about internal tendencies within political parties? These trends are all denials of the other even when playing in the same field, the same statement. Every political party, even though she intends as a whole, has differences, conflicts, antagonisms in its interiority. This means that even the parties that these parties are organized as a whole, beating to the rhythm of conflicts. Conflicts establish the cracks. These slits are not well open conflict, a distinction arises. In turn, each has its own story differentiation. His own interpretation of the story itself that differs from the other differentiation. Within the vertigo of political struggle usually subside or de-integrate many clashes they used to be. Here there is a mini-aggregation. But finally totalization. If A and Z, faced yesterday, destotalizados yesterday, join today against B, they will have been totaled, they have formed a common field that aims to collide against B, be strong, be included in the new totalization or destroy, of the one and thousand ways that are possible imagine. However, we postulate that art to come to power and keep it is the aggregation. The more totalize, have more power. Or why there are monopolies?

    This theory proposes a crack for an entire society is an ideological fallacy. It is built to throw on the one hand because of the existence of the crack. However, there is never a crack. Perhaps it is possible some systems of thought-to postulating a foundational crack and think from it. If we read the Communist Manifesto we see that Marx established the founding rift between bourgeoisie and proletariat. But reducing the totalitarian Marxism to be insulting simplicity above all to Marx and to agree with Stalin. The story is much richer and more exciting than that.

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