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The Modern Prince

The Modern Prince: What Leaders Need to Know Now

Carnes Lord
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Modern Prince
    Book Description:

    The role of leaders is never more crucial than during times of war. The ability to inspire confidence and communicate resolution is essential to the national interest. The requirements of leadership are not limited to military affairs: citizens look to leaders to guide the economy, protect the laws, and safeguard national values. Leadership has never been simple, but it is even more complicated in the age of mass democracy: globalization, the power of the media, and the constraints of bureaucracy are among the many challenges facing leaders at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

    What do leaders need to know in order to be effective? Carnes Lord-an eminent political scientist who has held a number of high-level positions in the United States government-here offers witty and trenchant counsel to both leaders and the citizens who elect them. Exploring such issues as leadership in war and crises, diplomacy, the use of secret intelligence, the role of political advisors, and the media, Lord enumerates the major challenges confronting modern leaders and offers practical advice on how leaders can deal with them effectively.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12920-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xx)
  4. ONE Why Leadership Is Still Possible
    (pp. 1-10)

    It is not obvious that leadership is actually possible in contemporary democracies. Constitutional democracy is supposed to rely on the rule of law rather than the rule of men. Because its fundamental law is laid down in a written document, opportunities for even the greatest statesmen to effect major change are severely restricted. Constitutional democracy rests on powerful institutions, not individuals, both to give it direction and to curb its excesses through a process of mutual checking and balancing. But more than that, the very commitment to liberty that is at the heart of the idea of democracy in modern...

  5. TWO Why Leadership Is Still Necessary
    (pp. 11-20)

    That we should want strong leaders is something many people today simply assume. This assumption comes particularly naturally to Americans. The citizens of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy have long been accustomed to the idea of a presidential office that is institutionally separate from the legislative branch of government; and for a century or more, they have lived under presidents who regularly assume an independent role as tribunes of the people and leaders of the nation in peace as well as war. Elsewhere in the world, the American model seems increasingly to represent the norm—if not of formal institutional...

  6. THREE Leadership and Statecraft
    (pp. 21-32)

    What is the essence of leadership? That the answer to this question could be knowledge in any form seems implausible in the first place because we tend today to equate knowledge with expertise. Politicians are not experts, and we do not expect them to be experts. What they do have that sets them apart from ordinary people is rather a kind of personal dynamism, an ability to inspire trust in their integrity and confidence in their ability to perform. A convenient term for this personal quality or set of qualities ischarisma.

    The notion of charismatic leadership derives from Max...

  7. FOUR On States
    (pp. 33-39)

    That leadership is a single art, a skill readily transferable from one organizational setting to another, seems widely assumed today. Successful business executives routinely move between different enterprises and, increasingly, between different parts of the globe. In the United States, wealthy businessmen grow ever bolder in asserting a claim to high political office in spite of their lack of prior political experience; and the public generally tolerates such candidacies, if not actually embracing them (as with billionaire Ross Perot’s presidential bid in 1992). There is no doubt much to be said for preserving avenues of access for nonpoliticians to political...

  8. FIVE On Regimes
    (pp. 40-49)

    “All states, all dominions that have held and do hold empire over men have been and are either republics or principalities.” Thus Machiavelli.¹ Appropriately retranslated, this distinction seems broadly pertinent today: our world is divided between what most people would call democracies and what they might consider dictatorships or (less harshly) government by “strong men”—between regimes where the people rule and regimes where they are ruled by a single man.

    In fact, of course, the situation is more complicated. In the first place, while all democracies are republics, not all republics are democracies. The republics Machiavelli speaks of were...

  9. SIX Elites and How to Manage Them
    (pp. 50-58)

    We have seen that knowledge of the character of regimes is an essential component of the political knowledge leaders require. But regimes cannot be understood properly without paying due attention to the elites that so largely control and define them. This is an uncomfortable thought for many today. The reality of elite power in contemporary democracies tends to be either denied or denounced, raising as it does a fundamental question about the legitimacy of democratic governance; rarely is it analyzed dispassionately. If one looks closely at contemporary democracies, a case can be made—to borrow again the language of Aristotelian...

  10. SEVEN Modern Founders
    (pp. 59-68)

    All states past or present, Machiavelli tells us at the beginning ofThe Prince,are either republics or principalities; and principalities are either hereditary, new, or some combination of these. In spite of its obvious limitations, this scheme of classification points to a central and distinctive feature of Machiavelli’s political science. Princes who are newly established in their state face fundamental political challenges. Success in maintaining their position therefore requires a more active exercise of political skill than is the case for those who come to power through an accident of birth in a stable hereditary monarchy—or, for that...

  11. EIGHT Executive Power and Constitutional Democracy
    (pp. 69-85)

    Let us grant Machiavelli’s case: strong leadership is essential at the founding of states and regimes, whether they are principalities or constitutional democracies. But why must it follow that strong leadership should be institutionalized in democracies in the form of a powerful chief executive? Prior to the eighteenth century, after all, republics favored divided or weak executive officers—Rome’s two consuls, for example, or the Venetian doge. Both for the making and executing of policy they looked primarily to a single collective body, a senate or council, representing the prominent families of the state. Jealous of their prerogatives, these notables...

  12. NINE Democracy Without Leaders
    (pp. 86-95)

    Is it possible to cope effectively with the complexities of policy making in the advanced democracies today in the absence of strong executive leadership, not to say of a unified and energetic government? Are there viable alternatives in the contemporary world to the American model?

    Switzerland is surely a candidate. It is closer than any nation in the contemporary era to a regime of direct democracy, where fundamental policy decisions are routinely made through popular referendums, and executive power is sharply circumscribed. The country is governed at the national level by a Federal Council of seven members chosen by its...

  13. TEN Autocratic Democracy
    (pp. 96-105)

    In his famous history of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides says of Athens in the age of Pericles that it was a democracy in name only, in actuality rule by a single man. Even a democracy as jealous as Athens was of the prerogatives of its own leaders could permit one of them to gain a position of authority in the state comparable to that of traditional monarchs.¹ Today, leaders in democracies generally enjoy institutional powers much superior to Pericles’ (who was only one of a board of ten generals elected annually), and the resources they can call upon, both formal...

  14. ELEVEN What Goals Leaders Pursue
    (pp. 106-112)

    Statecraft, like strategy, is about the relationship of means and ends. Most political leaders are preoccupied most of the time with questions of means and trouble themselves little over questions of ends. This is hardly surprising. Statesmen tend to be practical people. They focus on matters that urgently demand their attention and respond to their actions. They see little point in worrying about ultimate issues, partly because such issues seem too remote, partly because they are too difficult to do anything about. Lack of clarity about goals, however, can sometimes have unfortunate practical consequences. It is therefore worth thinking about...

  15. TWELVE What Tools Leaders Have Available
    (pp. 113-115)

    Statecraft, to say it again, has to do with ends and means and the relationship between them. Today, it is sometimes asserted that the fundamental challenge of leadership, whether in business or politics, consists in identifying and articulating ends—in crafting a “vision” that can inspire an organization or a nation. Yet the most difficult and demanding aspect of statecraft actually lies in the realm of means, and leadership is needed here even more. Particularly in the context of the highly developed modern state, there is a certain tendency to imagine that the tools available to politicians are well defined...

  16. THIRTEEN Administration
    (pp. 116-124)

    Alexander Pope’s famous couplet puts the case nicely:

    For forms of government let fools contest;

    That which is best administered is best.

    Any true friend of republican government would have to demur; but the case is nevertheless a powerful one.¹ The day-to-day management of the machinery of administration is the single most important thing that governments do most of the time, and whether it is done well or badly directly affects the fortunes of regimes and those who rule them.

    We are not accustomed to thinking of our political leaders as administrators. In the business world, the tendency in recent...

  17. FOURTEEN Law
    (pp. 125-133)

    To speak of law as a tool of statecraft may seem odd, not to say sinister. In constitutional democracies, laws are supposed to be made by legislators and applied by judges. Enforcing the laws, to be sure, is a function of the executive, but one that hardly seems to involve great issues of statecraft. In most advanced democracies, and especially in the United States, the independence of the judicial branch from executive interference is an article of political faith. What role do political leaders legitimately have here?

    First, and most obviously, political leaders can exercise legislative leadership. Even under the...

  18. FIFTEEN Education and Culture
    (pp. 134-140)

    Opinion polls in the United States show that education is regularly seen by the general public as a political issue of the highest priority, and politicians routinely pay at least lip service to its importance. The reason, of course, is that the quality of public education has immediate and visible effects on people’s lives. In our egalitarian and diverse society, it is a key avenue of cultural assimilation and social mobility. It is all the more remarkable, then, that contemporary political science seems to pay so little attention to it. Much ink is spilled on the subject by education professionals...

  19. SIXTEEN Economics
    (pp. 141-150)

    As we saw earlier, citizens in the advanced democracies tend to accept in theory the desirability of free markets, while in practice looking to the state as the ultimate guarantor of their prosperity. Accordingly, democratic leaders cannot escape responsibility for the performance of their economies, even where it is clear that larger forces are at work over which they have little control. In this sense, at any rate, prosperity has to be considered a fundamental task of modern statecraft. But what exactly is it that leaders should know or do to achieve or maintain it?

    Economics is unique among the...

  20. SEVENTEEN Diplomacy
    (pp. 151-158)

    The conventional distinction between domestic and foreign affairs has less meaning for statesmen than it does for social scientists. At the highest reaches of government, compartments of information and expertise tend to break down, as leaders are confronted with issues that ramify in unexpected directions and affect a wide range of policy decisions. The interpenetration of domestic and foreign economic issues is a notorious case in point. In general, leaders must always calculate the effects of their deeds and speeches on audiences abroad as well as at home.

    This needs to be kept in mind as we turn to consider...

  21. EIGHTEEN Force
    (pp. 159-168)

    “A prince should have no other object, nor any other thought, nor take anything else as his art but that of war and its orders and discipline; for that is the only art which is of concern to one who commands. And it is of such virtue that not only does it maintain those who have been born princes but many times it enables men of private fortune to rise to that rank; and on the contrary, one sees that when princes have thought more of amenities than of arms, they have lost their states.”¹ This comment may have seemed...

  22. NINETEEN Intelligence
    (pp. 169-179)

    “The reason the farsighted ruler and his superior commander conquer the enemy at every move, and achieve successes far beyond the reach of the common crowd, is foreknowledge. Such foreknowledge cannot be had from ghosts and spirits, educed by comparison with past events, or verified by astrological calculations. It must come from people—people who know the enemy’s situation. . . . Intelligence is of the essence in warfare—it is what armies depend upon in their every move.” Thus Sun Tzu, a Chinese general of the sixth century B.C. and author of what is arguably the greatest treatise on...

  23. TWENTY Communication
    (pp. 180-191)

    We come finally to an area of statecraft that is supremely important for leaders in our media-driven age. Political communication is an inescapable leadership responsibility, one that is impossible to delegate (like war or diplomacy, for example) and that is increasingly seen in the advanced democracies as a key test of political competence. Yet the study of political communication, it is fair to say, remains at the margins of contemporary political science and tends to be neglected in mainstream historical research. The speeches of politicians are the last place contemporary scholars are apt to look in attempting to understand their...

  24. TWENTY - ONE On Strategy
    (pp. 192-199)

    Mastery of the various instruments of statecraft is a formidable undertaking for the aspiring leader, but by itself it is not enough. The leader must also be able to use them in coordination with one another and in an operationally effective fashion. We turn next, therefore, to consider the modalities of leadership decision and action—strategy and planning; crisis management; and advice and the decision-making process. We will be primarily concerned, as throughout, with leadership in its contemporary democratic setting.

    Today, crisis management in a pejorative sense of that term may be said to be the modus operandi of most...

  25. TWENTY - TWO On Crisis Management
    (pp. 200-206)

    Everyday life is full of crises—personal crises, family crises, financial crises, and the like. Governmental crises, whether caused by scandal, coalition politics, or unexpected international developments, are always preoccupying events for the leaders of states. Severe nonmilitary crises (the Great Depression of the 1930s, for example) can pose challenges as fundamental as major wars. At the extreme, crises of regime—the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 or the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s—can lead to revolution, civil war, and vast and unpredictable changes on the international scene. Political scientists and historians today too...

  26. TWENTY - THREE Advice and Decision
    (pp. 207-214)

    Leadership engagement in the management of crises points to a more fundamental issue: How do or should leaders make decisions generally? Particularly in contemporary democracies, what exactly is the scope and character of executive decision making, and what is its relationship to legislatures or public opinion? To what extent can leaders be expected to rely on their own knowledge or instincts in making important decisions, and to what extent should they depend on advice, whether personal or institutional? When one surveys the various instruments of statecraft and the requirements they levy on political leaders, it is plain that they amount...

  27. TWENTY - FOUR Leadership and Politics
    (pp. 215-220)

    Even in the most autocratic of regimes, leaders are rarely able to rule through simple command. In today’s democracies, where the powers of leaders are constitutionally circumscribed and subject to constant political challenge, leadership is very much an art of indirect rule. It is worth examining briefly the ways in which democratic leaders seek to shape the political environment in order to facilitate achievement of their policy ends. For by the use of these methods, modern princes can leverage the formal weakness of the modern political executive to create real, operational strength.

    It is fashionable nowadays, particularly among political scientists,...

  28. TWENTY - FIVE Why Leadership Depends on the Times
    (pp. 221-224)

    Machiavelli offers a useful reminder of the variability of human affairs and the difficulty of predicting or shaping their course. At the same time, he cautions princes against taking this as a counsel of despair. “Fortune” can be likened to a violent river that from time to time overflows its banks and floods the surrounding countryside: while the flood itself cannot always be prevented, it can at least be contained and its effects mitigated by the construction of dikes and levees. A prudent prince will adjust his behavior to accord with the times in which he lives. But he will...

  29. TWENTY - SIX Exhortation to Preserve Democracy from the Barbarians
    (pp. 225-232)

    The requirements of leadership are diverse, today as always. The need for great founders has not been made obsolete by the march of history, as was evident in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. As Lincoln for one insisted, however, the preservation of established regimes is in some ways an even greater challenge for leaders than their founding. Soaring political ambition finds greater outlets and opportunities in unsettled times; there is little glory in being seen simply as a steward of monuments erected by others. This is particularly so in our contemporary democracies, where (to...

  30. Notes
    (pp. 233-264)
  31. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 265-266)
  32. Index
    (pp. 267-275)