Machiavelli’s Prince and the al-Qaeda Manifesto

Jun 17, 2021 at History Free Essays

The Compare and Contrast MachiavelliВ’s Prince and the al-Qaeda Manifesto

This paper will analyze, compare and contrast two documents, namely MachiavelliВ’s Prince and the al-Qaeda Manifesto, with regard to the 20th and 21st century terrorism. The central theme to be discussed in these two documents will be patriotism through terrorism. An in-depth discussion will include identifying the theme of terrorism in the documents, the origin of these documents and the way they encourage the use of weapon against rebels as a sing of patriotism.

 

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The al-Qaeda Manifesto of 1998 which determined the features of terrorism in the 20th and 21st century was authored by Osama bin Laden and his associates. This Manifesto is an official document, the origin of which is attributed to the extreme nature of the Sharia law in Muslim countries. Osama bin Laden was a strong follower of the Sharia law and prepared this material with a strong belief that GodВ’s law was to bring order in the Muslim world. At the beginning of the Manifesto, bin Laden notes that В“When we used to follow Muhammad's revelation we were in great happiness and great dignity, to Allah belongs the credit and praiseВ” (bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, Taha, Hamzah, & Rahman, 1998). He believed that war was the ultimate means which they should use to free Muslims from western injustices and eliminate the state of Israel, which was a non-Muslim state. This document was aimed to encourage the volunteering Islam fraternity to uphold the Sharia law so that they could displace infidels from the United States and Israel and fight for their rights with Americans.

On the other hand, MachiavelliВ’s Prince is a short book with innovative and striking teachings. The Prince document was created in the 16th century in Italy by the philosopher and politician Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli was a scholar who learned grammar, rhetoric, and Latin and was appointed to an office of the second chancery after the death of Savonarola (Anglo, 2005). He wrote this book for Lorenzo de Medici in an effort to gain political favor. The document originated from the authorВ’s beliefs and experience gained from BorgiaВ’s teachings and witnessing Alexander VI expansion of his territory. The main ideas of BorgiaВ’s teachings that were utilized in the book include the use of cruelty, fraud, and conspiracy when establishing a kingdom (Sokoloff, 2017). In his teachings, Machiavelli encouraged his audience (Lorenzo de Medici) to use various strategies to fulfill his political ambitions. According to Machiavelli, brutality is a virtue and thus, it is a В“central part of his humanismВ” and В“unchristian charityВ” (Machiavelli, 2009). This attribute is essential because political journey typically begins with bloody and inhuman actions, which are cruel but inevitable. The origin of MachiavelliВ’s thoughts about terrorism as an ultimate method of gaining control can be attributed to BorgiaВ’s moderate use of cruelty, which he believed was the best way to secure his regime and bring peace and unity in a state. Machiavelli applies these ideas and develops them, claiming that terror is the primary means of ensuring patriotism and justice.

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The two documents can be attributed to intensification of nationalism globally and have both similarities and differences. At the time of their creation, nationalism did not come easily because people were exposed to war and other harsh situations (Galula, 2006). Ethnicity, race and other features became a way of gaining identity. Some nations were occupied by others, which were stronger and thus exploited the opportunity to extend their territories through war. On the other hand, weaker states felt the need to fight to maintain their freedom from dominating powers. In both documents, authors described terror as a means to achieve their ambition, marking it the beginning of terrorism.

Historical Context

The al-Qaida Manifesto was developed when the American society was involved in the military actions in the Islam world. Arabic Forces were fighting against the Soviet Union in Afghan, while the Americans were interfering with the Gulf War in 1991. Many people from the al-Qaida had been arrested by the US as a result of these conflicts, and thus Americans were seen as enemies by Muslims. In addition, Israel as a non-Islamic state was also considered an infidel, who had to be removed from the Islam world as governed by the Sharia law. This manifesto contributed to a violent movement of Muslims to fight the US military forces based in Saudi Arabia. The al-Qaida also conducted a series of simultaneous bombings, such as the USS Cole bombing and two bombings of the US Embassy in Africa. On the 11th of September 2001, the organization hijacked and crashed two passenger jets into the world trade center in the New York City and another the Pentagon in Virginia even though the attack was targeted at the White House.

The historical context of the Prince can be traced back to the time when Niccolo Machiavelli was born, raised and he ruled in Florence. At that time, popes waged wars against Italian city-states, and the leaders lost their influence and control over their kingdoms. There was a frequent change of political and military alliances, and many governments emerged and disappeared then. From 1502 to 1503, there was a brutal state-building activity of Borgia together with his father Pope Alexander VI. Borgia committed cruel actions, claiming that he was protecting the interests of the church, and in 1503-1506, he developed the Florentine militia, which helped him rule over Florence (DeLong-Bas, 2008). However, according to Lamus (2017), BorgiaВ’s kingdom was soon destroyed and Machiavelli was taken into custody. In exile, Machiavelli was able to write various political documents, including the Prince. Even after exile, Machiavelli developed the document because he had an intense passion for returning to politics through winning the favor of Lorenzo de Medici, as the book was dedicated to him. Machiavelli uses BorgiaВ’s ideas of force, fraud, and corruption to gain political power and maintain it. According to Galula (2006), В“BorgiaВ’s moderate use of cruelty as an effective mode of securing his participates contains this much of justice: that it also brings order (В“peace and unityВ”) to the princeВ’s state and its people.В” Machiavelli used BorgiaВ’s teachings of cruelly in treating people, killing them, and performing fraudulent deals.

Both documents explore the theme of anarchism. According to Galula (2006), anarchism, which is often linked with nationalism, was the principal origin of modern terrorism, which mainly occurred in the 19th century. The same idea can be seen in MachiavelliВ’s and OsamaВ’s documents, where leaders justify and even encourage brutal means to remain in power by instilling fear in the subjects and enemies. In the 19th century, terrorism was highly associated with the state terror and reign of terror (Ball, Dagger, & OВ’Neill, 2016).

Besides, in both states, there was the development of robust, affordable yet stable explosives, while global integration was rampant. In addition, there was the development of radical political movements, which profoundly influenced their fanatics. The historical settings of both documents show intense manifestation of political warfare with a major interest of acquiring power. The concerned regions were expanding territories, protecting territories or rising to power. In both documents, there is an immense use of brutal bloody means to achieve political goals. The authors of these documents are enlightened and extract their ideas from already established documents. For instance, Osama bin Laden gets inspiration from the QuranВ’s Sharia law, while Machiavelli is inspired by BorgiaВ’s writings and activities.

Interpretation of Content

Both documents give the reader an in-depth understanding of how terrorism was used as a means to achieve a patriotic objective. Referring to the Al-Qaeda Manifesto, terrorism is used by a group of people to conquer Israel, which is considered a weaker state and an infidel. In MachiavelliВ’s Prince, terrorism is justified when Machiavelli teaches the use of uncouth means to rise to power in Florence. Practically, he uses the Florentine militia to rise to power, while Borgia and his father Alexander VI use terror to expand their rule in Italy. Anarchy is also a major means which these two authors uphold in their documents. They believe in strategies which will instill intense fear in their enemies and make them unable to fight. In Prince, Machiavelli (2009) notes: В“At this point, one may note that men must be either pampered or annihilated. They avenge light offenses; they cannot avenge severe ones; hence, the harm one does to a man must be such as to preclude any fear of revenge.В” He uses this quote to educate that excessive force and affliction should be used to conquer a state. In the protection of the state interests Machiavelli (2009) writes:"seditious people should be amputated before they infect the whole state." The harm should be massive to ensure that fear is instilled in the targeted population.

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The theme of anarchy is also obvious in the Al-Qaeda Manifesto. Thus, bin Laden (1998) claims:

The ruling to kill the Americans and their alliesВ—civilians and militaryВ—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al-Aqsa Mosque and the holy mosque [Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim.

Both documents have been developed by ambitious leaders who are patriots. They strongly believed in serving their governments and propagated gaining and maintaining power by any possible means.

Conclusion

The two documents, al-Qaida Manifesto and MachiavelliВ’s Prince, have a common theme, which is patriotism and terrorism as a means to achieve and protect the interests of the people. Both documents originated in the societies which were characterized by intense war activities. Hence, the authors of the documents were determined to free their communities from enemies through terrorist activities. The acts of terrorism in these documents are seen as virtuous and a way to show solidarity and patriotism to a particular group of people. Both Machiavelli and Osama bin Laden argued that fear facilitates leaders because it enables them to bring people into submission through establishing anarchy. Both authors are leaders, and their style of leadership is inspired by writings which are harsh by nature. With the knowledge they gained from the writings, bin Laden and Machiavelli were able to form significant militia groups that caused mayhem in the targeted society to protect their interests, expand their territories and rise to power.

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