Machiavelli and Iraq

The following is a passage from Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy.

...the method is to be noted of how a divided City ought to have its order restored, which is none other than to kill the leaders of the tumults, and it is not otherwise to be cured, and it is necessary to take one of three ways: either to kill them as the Romans did, or to remove them from the City, or for them to make peace together under an obligation not to offend each other again. Of these three methods this last is the most harmful, less certain, and more useless; for it is impossible where much blood has run or other similar injuries inflicted that a peace made by force should endure; for seeing themselves together face to face each day, it is difficult that they should abstain from injuring each other, as new causes for quarrel can arise among themselves because of their intercourse every day.

I want to discuss the uselessness that results from the holding of towns by having a divided government. First it is impossible for a Prince or a Republic to maintain both old parties. For, by nature it is given to men to take sides in any difference of opinion, and for them to prefer the one more than the other. So that, having one party of the town discontented, the first occasion of war will cause you to lose it, for it is impossible to guard a City that has enemies outside and inside. If it is a government of a Republic, there is no better way to make your citizens bad, and to make your City divided, than to have a division of parties in the City; for each side seeks to obtain aid, and by corruption of every king to make friends for themselves. So that two very great evils arise. The one, that you do not make friends of them because you are not able to govern well, often changing the government, now with one humor, now with another. The other, that such favoring of parties of necessity keeps your Republic divided.


The first thought that came to my mind was how this passage relates to the situation in Iraq with regard to the Sunnis and the Shiites. It would seem that according to Machiavelli, the US should remove one sect so that there may be peace. What concerns me however is that there is no mention of morality anywhere in the passage; the fundamental question of the right to make that decision is not even brought up. It is my belief that any action that might hurt others should always be preceded with the consideration of morality.

The second thought that I considered was the applicability of this passage to the situation in Iraq. It is likely that what Machiavelli had in mind when writing this passage was different from what Iraq is experiencing now. Seeing how I know very little about Iraq and its history, I can not comment any further on the passage's applicability.

My final thought is that it would be very cruel to apply the first method and that it should be attempted last, if at all. One would hope that exiling the second party or allowing them to create their own state would suffice. Furthermore, it seems to me that the third method would actually be ideal, but the fact that it is the least effective I am willing to accept.