Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Policy’

In the modern world, one can see variations of Thomas Hobbes’ State of Nature through the open waters of the Earth’s oceans.  The Somali pirates are a perfect example of this because the oceans make for the perfect situation for Hobbes’ State of Nature by allowing for a realm of no governing authority, allowing for the pirates to easily attack naval ships in order to receive ransom money, creating a state of chaos.  This situation created by the ocean near Somalia, is similar to Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature because the pirates have caused constant quarrel with ships that pass through those waters which then has led to the countries of the world wanting to seek peace.

Hobbes envisioned a condition of nature where each person is their own judge and since each person is their own judge, quarrels occur because there is no neutral third party with any authority to help solve their problems. So if the pirates want to take another man’s ship then they can take another man’s ship, without being punished by any particular governing body because it occurred in the open waters of the oceans. Now, this can cause a fight between the two ships as the one ship can attempt to fight back, but normally fails as nature has it with any fight, one side wins and one side loses.   This is why Hobbes considers the state of nature equivalent to that of a state of war because in the state of nature people are their own judge, people chose to settle problems violently.

Going further, Hobbes’ Law of Nature forbids a person from doing anything that would be destructive to his life; he also notes it’s in the best interest of humans to work together for survival rather than be independent. This leads him to develop his first branch of nature, which suggests that humans seek peace and follow it, relating back to the situation with the Somali Pirates that have created such fear among the nations of the world forcing them to join together to seek peace with the pirates. BBC news reports that on November 10, that there are nearly forty ships, from the European Union, United States, China, India, and Japan, in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. Unfortunately, with no governing body able to regulate international waters and punish the pirates, they can continue with the status quo and only worry about the specific retributions from each ship.

However, BBC news also reported that on October 28 the Prime Minister of Somalia pledged to eradicate piracy within the next two years. This seems like an empty pledge for the Prime Minister to make given the circumstances that I have alluded to above concerning the lack of a strict governing body over the oceans.  Even though the pirates are from Somalia, it seems that the Prime Minister will not actually be able to do much to curb piracy.  It seems as though the pirates will continue to take advantage of the lack of a ruling body over the Earth’s oceans and the fact that they cannot be properly held responsible.

In summary, the situation in the waters off the coast of Somalia resembles Hobbes’ state of nature due to the lack of authority held over the oceans, which leads to quarrels exemplified by the Somali Pirates.  This state of war that is created makes others seek peace, just as Hobbes suggests, but it is only seen in the modern world.  This correlates to a CNN report showing that in 2009 there have been 102 pirate attacks and 39 hijackings in the region of the Gulf of Aden, supporting the claims made by Hobbes in our present state of nature courtesy of the Somali Pirates creating a constant state of chaos.

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(Section 008)

In The Prince, Machiavelli is very clear on what the leader of a conquering nation can do in order to ensure the most profitable and stable relationship after the actual fighting is done. Things are certainly different today than they were in Machiavelli’s times, but that does not mean that he would not have some choice words US officials involved in the management in these engagements. The following is an account of how the War on Terror both diverges from, and conforms to Machiavellian ideas regarding foreign policy.

In chapter 3 of The Prince Machiavelli describes what is the essence of how an invasion should be run, “People should either be caressed or crushed. If you do them minor damage they will get their revenge; but if you cripple them, there is nothing they can do.” (pg. 11) [Emphasis added] While the US Marines are almost certainly capable of rooting out and neutralizing the remaining resistance fighters in Iraq and the remaining Al-Qaueda militants in Afghanistan, they have not been given the resources or permission to fully engage the enemy, as Machiavelli states they should. Indeed, “U.S. commanders have laid down restrictions on firing weapons, entering mosques and the treatment of detainees in a war often fought at night against an elusive, hard-to-identify enemy.”(Washington Post Article) According to Machiavelli, the US’ reliance on an occupying army in a territory that has not been crushed results in “…enemies who can hurt you, for they remain, even if beaten, in their home. In every respect … an occupying army is a liability.” (pg. 12) This unwillingness to declare “total war” on Terror (Al-Qaeda, The Mahdi Army, etc.) would likely be Machiavelli’s main criticism of the War on Terror, but I do not believe that it would be the only one.

Chapter 5 of The Prince lays out some guidelines on how to govern cities or Kingdoms that you have conquered. Much to Machiavelli’s consternation (in my mind, at least) the US has failed to heed any of his suggestions. The first, and presumably most effective method Machiavelli advocates is simply to raze the city to the ground. Obviously this is not an option in the modern day. The second course of action he advocates is for the victorious leader to go live in the newly conquered province. This is also something I doubt we will see happen. The only recourse, then (at least according to Machiavelli, at least) is to let them to continue to live under their own laws, make them pay us and create a political elite who will remain loyal to the US. Even if Machiavelli didn’t necessarily think this was the best option, (which he clearly did not, as evidence by the quote “He who becomes ruler of a city… and does not knock it down, must expect to be knocked down by it.” pg 16) I think he would agree that it was probably the most realistic option for the United States.

Engaging, conquering and overseeing new territory is a very difficult thing to do successfully. Indeed, Machiavelli says that there is “nothing harder to undertake, nothing more likely of failure, nothing more risky to pull off” (pg 17) than doing just that, and that’s under the best circumstances, and using the best (that is to say: his own) strategy. Considering this, as well as the fact that the US was, and is still, not willing to fully engage agents of Terror in the Middle East, in the way that Machiavelli posits that a successful leader must, I can only conclude that he would be very opposed to the US involvement in the Middle East, not necessarily on moral grounds, but on the basis that it is being run poorly (again, by his standards) and no significant profit can be gained by the United States.

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