Frederick the Great wrote a book, published in 1740, the very year he acceded to the throne, in response to Machiavelli’s The Prince, a cynical and jaded view of realpolitik. In it, Old Fritz provides a more responsible and humanitarian view of governing, particularly when it comes to life and death decisions such as war.
“War is so full of misfortune, its outcome is so uncertain, and its consequences so ruinous for a country that sovereigns should think twice before undertaking it. . . . princes who wage unjust wars are more cruel and cold-blooded than any tyrant ever was. They sacrifice to their impetuous passions the well-being of an infinity of men whom they are duty-bound to protect.”
Republicans, Democrats, Left and Right — everyone — would do well to heed such advice.
It is odd to think that I knew of Machiavelli and his Prince, yet did not learn of Frederick’s reply, Against Machiavelli, until today. The Prince was required reading in one of my high school lit classes. Perhaps Frederick the Great should be, too.