Tim Collins: Why Nicolo Machiavelli is one of my heroes

From a speech by the British Army colonel at the Royal Society of Arts Time Europe debate in London
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The Independent Online

Heroes exist in our society. Some are sporting heroes, some are fashion icons or pop icons. Very few of them are military heroes in the modern age, and none of them are politicians. But people do need heroes.

Heroes exist in our society. Some are sporting heroes, some are fashion icons or pop icons. Very few of them are military heroes in the modern age, and none of them are politicians. But people do need heroes.

First of all, I leap to the defence of Nicolo Machiavelli, one of my particular heroes, because Machiavelli described man's state as it was, as opposed to how it should be, and that's an important distinction. The universe, which he encapsulated in that slim treatise The Prince (which I carried in my map pocket during the war in Iraq), helped me to bring, what I regard as my best attempt at freedom and justice to the people of Iraq.

Machiavelli pointed out the dangers of trying to be nice to everyone, because he pointed out that the Prince should attempt, in caring for a people, to control only those things which are in his power, and therefore he should not attempt to be loved.

What he should seek to do is bring justice and equality to people. In that sense people, especially people in a war-torn area, will regard justice and stability as a good thing, and eventually they will accept that it's something they need, and in enjoying that stability and justice, they may even in future come to love the Prince.

One has to caution our close ally, the United States, as it moves towards what can be misconstrued as empire. I'm certain that's not what they intend to do. In some respects we find ourselves trying to inform our closest ally not to make the some mistakes that we [the British Empire] made.

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