American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Ledeen (Perilous Statecraft: An Insider's Account of the Iran-Contra Affair, 1988, etc.) offers an updated version of the rules for leadership laid down by Machiavelli. It's the nature of humans to do evil, and war is our natural state. Anyone who would wield power in such a setting, writes Ledeen, echoing Machiavelli, "must be prepared to fight at all times." This is as true in business, sports, and politics as it is on the battlefield. The leader must fight not only enemies but his (and in the rare instance her) own tendency toward indolence and contentment, for these will bring ruin to any endeavor. A leader must be of "manly vigor"; he must be virtuous, possessing the military values of prudent judgment, alertness to changing conditions, bravery, courage, total commitment to mission; only when the leader is virtuous in this way will the people follow him. While there have been strong female leaders, such as Margaret Thatcher, on the whole women cannot achieve virtue for they lack the "physical wherewithal and the passionate desire to achieve" military glory. (Women are also a temptation to men while they are busy trying to lead.) One might then justly call a weak state with a feeble leader "effeminate." And there is no better example of this, according to the author, than the US under Clinton, whose personal corruption and lack of military virtue endanger us all. The military has become, under Clinton, a place for bizarre social experiments, such as men and women serving together aboard ship. What Ledeen thinks we all need, then, is a sort of virtue Viagra, and this exemplifies his simplistic and decidedly dated answers to the complex problems of politics. This is an analysis of neither Machiavelli nor leadership, but, rather, a partisan broadside for which Machiavelli serves as a useful prop.
Read full book review >