Never Borrow an Army

Never Borrow an Army

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Summary by Lewis G. Miller

In this episode, Nicholas and I discuss borrowing armies, something Machiavelli isn’t so fond of.

Why shouldn’t you borrow someone else’s army? Basically, it is because you are relying on someone else’s power at the expense of your own. You may remember that, in chapter 3, Machiavelli warned us of allowing other Prince’s to gain footholds in our provinces. This time, we are to be weary of the marching of other Prince’s soldiers in our lands. As always, it is best to rely on your own power. “A wise prince… never made use of these forces, but committed himself to his own.”

Why should you do so? There are two reasons. The first is that it is simply more prudent to have your own source of coercive power. Relating this to the need to have power in times of crisis, he postulates “that without having proper and peculiar forces of his own, no prince is secure, but depends wholly upon fortune, as having no natural and intrinsic strength to sustain him in adversity.”

The second reason is the conflict of interests between ourselves and the Prince’s we rely upon. Those Prince’s may have ambitions like ours; increasing our own power. When we are reliant on other Prince’s, we entertain the possibility that he may use them to our disadvantage. He says; “if they are beaten he is sure to be a loser; if they succeed, he is left at their discretion.”

Nicholas makes a point in the podcast I am unable to confidently answer (due to my notes); what happens if you have not enough power to secure yourself without support? The quote I should have noted is that “The wise prince, therefore, has always avoided these arms and turned to his own; and has been willing rather to lose with them than to conquer with the others, not deeming that a real victory which is gained with the arms of others.”

On a final note, we discuss the a former leader of South Vietnam, President Ngo Dinh Diem, who was deposed in a coup in 1963, which eventually led to his assassination. If you want to read an interesting account of the Kennedy administration’s role in this, here is the link to the National Security Archive article.

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