• Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

Trump vs. Biden: Only 1 understands Machiavellianism


Jul 11, 2024

Niccolo Machiavelli was a late 15th/early 16th century diplomat, philosopher and historian best known for his political treatise “The Prince.” The book applied the lessons of history as well as the author’s own experiences as a foreign secretary to provide guidance concerning the political action necessary to acquire power, to create a state and to maintain it.

In that work, Machiavelli wrote, “It is better to be feared than to be loved, if one cannot be both.” He argued, lacking the correct balance, fear produces a much more effective result for leaders than does love. While Machiavelli’s statement was made in the context of the perception created in the eyes of a leader’s own people, it should be evident which side should always be shown to an enemy.

Let us examine how differently two leaders, confronting the same problem, withdrawing from Afghanistan after 18 years of warfare, handled the need to create an image of fear within the eyes of the enemy.

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In early 2020, President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban to end our longest war in history. The agreement called for a phased withdrawal by which the U.S. presence would be reduced and, if the Taliban honored the terms of the deal, eventually completely removed. Trump was criticized for the agreement but had come to the reality that the U.S. could no longer be the world’s police force.

Trump’s plan provided for an organized, gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan, coordinated with the Afghan government and enabling the U.S. to take all its military equipment and weapons with it.

Trump made clear any Taliban attacks against U.S. forces during the withdrawal would be a deal-breaker. An interesting story is shared by Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, about how Trump underscored this point with the Taliban leader during a face-to-face meeting he held that would leave the latter’s jaw on the floor.

Trump made a statement that the Afghan translator hesitated to translate until the president instructed him to do so – exactly as Trump stated it. The statement warned the Afghan leader if one hair on the head of a U.S. service member were touched, Trump would kill him. Trump then reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a satellite photograph of the Taliban leader’s home. Having made his point abundantly clear, Trump immediately left the room.

That is a clear example of a leader using the element of fear to intimidate an enemy. Unfortunately, for U.S. prestige, Trump was unable to ensure compliance with his withdrawal plan as he failed to get reelected president in 2020. Instead, a supposedly experienced Joe Biden took over the Oval Office, immediately turning Trump’s organized, gradual withdrawal into the equivalent of a totally disorganized abandon-ship operation.

U.S. forces departed in the dead of the night, abandoning installations without even letting our Afghan allies know we were leaving. So expeditious was the withdrawal that billions of dollars worth of military arms and equipment was left behind. No effort was even made to destroy or to disable them. (Interestingly, some of these arms are turning up now in the possession of the Hamas terrorists fighting Israel.)

Additionally, in his race to abandon Afghanistan, Biden left behind U.S. citizens and many of the Afghan translators who had courageously served us so well. What the Taliban saw now was a U.S. leader so eager to abandon the war zone, they perceived no fear in attacking U.S. forces. They did so, killing 13 service members who were providing security at Kabul Airport (in addition to 170 Afghan citizens trying to evacuate).

In dealing with terrorists, the fear factor has proven to be a game changer. In September 1985, Middle East terrorists kidnapped four Soviet diplomats in Beirut, Lebanon. The body of one was discovered soon afterward. The terrorists demanded Moscow pressure Syria to stop pro-Syrian militiamen from shelling rival Muslim positions in Tripoli or the three remaining diplomats would meet the same fate.

The Soviets wasted no time responding in kind to the execution of its diplomat. Knowing who the leader of the terrorist group was, the Soviets kidnapped a relative of his who was castrated, with the severed organs sent to the Muslim leader, and then shot in the head. The remaining three Soviet diplomats were soon released.

What the Soviets did in 1985 was brutal. But to instill fear in an enemy, one need not be brutal to do so – as Trump demonstrated in 2020. Sadly, there was no sense of urgency that warranted the sudden withdrawal Biden put into action. He could have well continued to follow Trump’s withdrawal plan. We can only wonder, based on Biden’s first week in office during which he signed off on three dozen executive orders to reverse Trump policies, whether it was more important for him to ignore Trump’s withdrawal plan by showing he could withdraw quicker. Whatever Biden’s motivation, 13 service members paid the ultimate price with their lives for a senseless, rushed withdrawal.

Trump’s actions in dealing with the Taliban would have earned the respect of Machiavelli. The only way Biden can earn respect at this point by demonstrating personal courage is to defy Jill, who insists he stay in the presidential race, by telling her he will not.

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