Those following the Stratblog posts know that we’ve been looking at sixteenth century grand strategy for a few weeks this spring. Garrett Mattingly’s The Armada and Machiavelli’s The Prince both address the politics of that eventful period, but the worlds the two books describe can seem radically different. Understanding the underlying similarities between Machiavelli’s apparent universe of amoral cynicism and the intense religious conflicts that swept Europe later in the century is a key to ‘getting’ what grand strategy is all about.
Machiavelli, despite his own idealistic political goals, describes a political world in which ideas and convictions don’t much seem to matter. The differences in Italian politics aren’t about how society should be organized; they are differences over who should rule what. Cesare Borgia and his enemies don’t disagree about the Real Presence of Christ in the consecrated elements on the altar; they disagree over how large and how powerful Cesare’s territories should be.(more…)