The Modern Prince: What Leaders Need to Know Now / Edition 1

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An eminent political scientist and government official here offers witty and trenchant counsel on what leaders need to know in order to be effective—how to deal with war and crises, diplomacy, secret intelligence, political advisors, the media, and more.

“A tour de force. . . . Lord’s understanding of the workings of government, both ancient and modern, is profound, and his ability to assimilate the two, makes The Modern Prince indispensable. . . . As a handbook for leaders it deserves to become an instant classic.”—Brian M. Carney, Wall Street Journal

“Our politics will be a lot healthier if our politicians can be persuaded to read Carnes Lord’s engaging and penetrating book. And even if the politicians don’t take Lord to heart, we should, so we can learn how to select better leaders.”—William Kristol, Editor, The Weekly Standard

“This wonderful book covers everything you need to know about politics today.”—Harvey Mansfield, Harvard University

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This wonderful book covers everything you need to know about politics today—and don't learn from political science today. Modelled on Machiavelli's Prince and focused on America, it offers insights from Aristotle and takes examples from around the world. As counselor to his readers, Carnes Lord shows statesmen what they must think about and the rest of us how to assess them."—Harvey Mansfield, Harvard University

"The Modern Prince offers a bold and thoughtful exploration of the nature of political leadership and its relationship to contemporary democracy. The book reflects Carnes Lord's unusual combination of classical scholarship and his experience working with national leaders on the highest level. It should be read by actual and aspiring leaders, and the citizens who select them."—Nathan Tarcov, University of Chicago

Foreign Affairs
In this Machiavelli-inspired reflection on the future of leadership and statecraft in Western democracy, Lord worries that the growth of bureaucracy, the weakening of political parties, the rise of egalitarianism, and the expanding power of unaccountable institutions have endangered modern leadership. Although such developments make "prudent and effective" leadership more difficult, Lord nonetheless argues that a chief executive — embracing a moral vision — can chart the nation's course. Ronald Reagan is the critical example: lacking a political mandate and facing resistance, Reagan still accomplished a great deal. Lord's primary concern here is effective statecraft, and the book undertakes an elaborate and, alas, disjointed discussion, informed by various political philosophers, of knowledge, judgment, prudence, and enlightenment in the conduct of foreign affairs. Lord's advice to leaders is to acquire more knowledge about their political environment, national elites, and tools of government — a sensible but rather simplistic message.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300105957
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 7/9/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 275
  • Sales rank: 1,276,943
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.94 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Carnes Lord is professor of strategy at the Naval War College. He was assistant to the vice president for national security affairs in the first Bush administration.

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Read an Excerpt


By Carnes Lord

Yale University Press

Copyright © 2003 Carnes Lord
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-300-10007-8

Chapter One

Why Leadership Is Still Possible

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 times greatly limits the sway of politicians over the wider society.

Over the course of America's history, many of its presidents have behaved as if they agreed with this view, deferring to Congress for policy leadership and in other respects playing a relatively passive or instrumental part in the machinery of government. Nowadays, for reasons we shall explore shortly, Americans have gotten used to the idea that presidents are all-powerful figures, princes in all but name. It is certainly convenient for presidents if people think this. But is it true? Or is democratic leadership, in the United States or elsewhere in today'sworld, perhaps an illusion, a sleight-of-hand perpetrated by politicians desperate to assert their own importance and justify their role? Are there broader trends at work that frustrate effective leadership?

A plausible argument can be made to this effect. Marxists have long held that the real rulers of capitalist states are not the politicians but the owners of the means of production. In spite of the obvious flaws in this notion, it would be hard to deny that democratic politicians today are extraordinarily sensitive to the needs of major corporations and other critical cogs in the machinery of the national economy. Other domestic interest groups (labor unions or trial lawyers, to name a few) can also wield substantial power, often because they contribute disproportionately to the coffers of political parties and candidates. It is hard to overstate the challenge some democratic leaders face in contending with the daily realities of party government. And virtually all democratic leaders today must defer to one degree or another to the wishes of deeply entrenched bureaucracies. In extreme cases (Japan, notably), leaders have little ability to contest policy positions developed within the state bureaucracy.

Especially, but not only, in the developing world, political leaders today complain that their freedom of action at home is increasingly constrained by global economic and technological trends. Global interdependence, so long talked about, is becoming a reality. And the growth of transnational regimes and institutions of all kinds limits what leaders can do at home as well as abroad. The United Nations has less patience than in the past with absolute claims of national sovereignty, and in Europe, a vast rule-making bureaucracy threatens to usurp the traditional powers of legislators and politicians.

Then, in some advanced democracies there is the near-crippling impact on leadership of the news media and the political culture. A culture of extreme egalitarianism of the sort now found throughout the English-speaking world as well as much of northern Europe tends to be hostile to the pretensions of politicians and unforgiving of their flaws and errors. This tendency is aggravated by the emergence of a mass media that is independent of government and, indeed, views the exposure of its shortcomings as a measure of merit and one of its primary functions. All this has contributed to a decline in public respect for the political class throughout the West, and it has fostered a wider alienation from politics that is reflected in reduced voter participation and a generalized cynicism concerning the motives and accomplishments of political leaders. Given such attitudes, it would hardly be surprising if even the most effective political leaders found it difficult to generate public interest or confidence in their programs or to mobilize the political support essential for implementing them.

What is true now of the West may be true soon enough throughout the rest of the world. If or to the extent that democracy is destined to sweep the globe, as argued not many years ago by Francis Fukuyama in a work of impressive historico-philosophical analysis, the legitimacy of leadership will be increasingly in doubt. The "end of history" has little place for leadership in the traditional sense of the word-leadership on behalf of great causes or ideals. The conquest of nature by modern technology, the unprecedented prosperity it has brought, the resulting growth of a democratically minded middle class, and the rarity, if not the disappearance, of great wars-all this threatens to make politics unimportant and leaders dispensable. To borrow the well-known Marxist prediction about the post-revolutionary future: the government of men will be replaced by the administration of things. Yet that is not all. The radically egalitarian culture that looms on the historical horizon may destroy the very psychological conditions necessary for the nurturing of leaders.

There is something to all this-certainly more than is generally recognized. Such a vision of the end of history may be off the mark in foreseeing the virtual disappearance of politics and international conflict, and overly optimistic in assessing at least the near-term prospects for democracy throughout the world. It is more compelling in its sketch of the trajectory of democratic ideology and culture. There can be little question that the egalitarian turn in world history marked by the American and French revolutions has fundamentally altered the way many if not most human beings alive today view social hierarchy and political authority. Nor can it be doubted that the democratic idea has an internal dynamic of its own, one that continues to play itself out in our own times. Slavery in the United States proved itself incompatible with the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. By the early twentieth century, indirect election of the Senate had lost democratic legitimacy. Women eventually acquired the right to vote. In consequence of the Great Depression of the 1930s and the political realignment it brought about, the interests of the "common man" trumped those of America's traditional elites, and the welfare state was born. Today's political movements on behalf of the rights of minorities and women continue this trend, while radicalizing it in significant ways.

Most important here is the rise of the feminist movement, and the increasing sensitivity of American politics to the concerns and outlook of women in general. Feminism of course takes many forms, but it tends to unite in questioning the legitimacy of traditional male leadership, whether in the public arena or the home. In such a view, the leading role assumed by men in virtually all societies in the past-"patriarchy"-is inherently oppressive, failing to acknowledge both the fundamental equality of women and their specific nature and needs. Feminism's milder variants tend to minimize male-female differences and focus on policy issues that are thought to empower women in the workplace and their private lives generally and thereby restore gender equality. More radical versions, on the other hand, make a more provocative claim-that women are in fact better suited to the exercise of political power than men. This is because women are allegedly less competitive or aggressive than men, more compassionate, and better at understanding and accommodating the needs of others. At the extreme, the argument is sometimes made that women should be welcomed as political leaders, for nations then would never go to war.

Such beliefs are almost certainly not widely shared, in America or elsewhere; but they have made their mark on politics and the wider global culture. Politicians, mindful of the voting strength of women, cater to their interest in such issues as education and health care. They tend to shy away from discussing policy matters women supposedly find frightening, particularly national defense. And they craft their own political personalities to be "unthreatening," caring, and compassionate. Hence the growing tendency in the United States for politicians to couch all public policy issues in terms of their impact on children.

Is all of this simply a passing cultural style? Or does it reflect a more fundamental shift in the character of contemporary politics-a kind of "feminization" of democratic leadership? It is not necessary to decide this question to wonder whether leadership can really be leadership if it is wholly lacking in such traditionally manly qualities as competitiveness, aggression, or for that matter, the ability to command. Women of course have no monopoly on compassion; it is a distinctive feature of our politics generally. It is the democratic virtue par excellence. The problem is that it is not a political virtue and, in fact, tends to be at cross purposes with the requirements of prudent and effective political leadership. Leadership that is not prepared to disadvantage anyone is hardly leadership at all.

Contemporary circumstances undoubtedly make leadership harder. Do they make it impossible? A backward glance over the last quarter of a century reveals surprising if not conclusive grounds for optimism.

By the late 1970s, it had become fashionable in the West to lament the "ungovernability" of contemporary democracies. Rising popular expectations of the welfare state were proving difficult for political leaders to meet in an economically responsible manner. President Jimmy Carter, frustrated by his inability to win public or congressional support for his reform initiatives, famously invoked a national "malaise" in assigning blame for this state of affairs. On top of that, the democracies seemed increasingly in the grip of an institutional crisis of governance. In the United States, questions began to be raised about the fundamental adequacy of the nation's traditional political structures. The deepening antagonism between the executive and legislative branches of the government, it was alleged by some, had led to a kind of political paralysis that could be broken only by far-reaching constitutional reforms to restore the possibility of effective political leadership. Others doubted whether Western leaders had the political will to confront the challenge of rising Soviet military power and global ambitions.

With the arrival of conservative governments in Washington and London at the end of the decade, such talk soon faded. Indeed, a new era seemed at hand. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher led a revolution in economic policy and (more important) in popular attitudes toward free markets and the role of government in their respective countries. No one should have been unduly concerned at the feminization of contemporary leadership during Margaret Thatcher's tenure as prime minister of Britain. Thatcher's successful assault on the power of the labor unions early in her term stunned the entire political class and established her personal authority to push forward an agenda of free-market reform; and her conduct of the Falklands War of 1982 demonstrated courage and strategic leadership of a high order. Reagan, his successor George Bush, Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, Helmut Kohl, and Yasuhiro Nakasone in various ways brought extraordinary leadership skills to bear on the key global geopolitical challenge of the day, the tottering Soviet empire. In the Gulf War of 1990-91, President Bush gave a further demonstration of political and military leadership in the decisive victory won by the United States and its allies in the largest international armed conflict in four decades. The collaboration of Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Klerk that led to the peaceful dismantling of the apartheid regime in South Africa is an extraordinary story of moral leadership and skillful political engineering. Moral leadership was a critical ingredient of the transition to democracy in central Europe-in the role played by Vaclav Havel and other former dissidents in circumstances of tremendous stress and uncertainty. In Russia, Boris Yeltsin's courageous defiance of a coup attempt in August 1991 by forces loyal to the old Soviet order will also be remembered as a decisive act of contemporary leadership.

From the perspective of the present, to be sure, such optimism may seem misplaced. Most of the leaders of the 1980s and early 1990s are long departed; few had worthy successors. At the same time, the achievements of the outstanding leaders of those years were rarely unalloyed or, for that matter, lasting. Thatcher was unceremoniously ousted as party leader and prime minister, thus ending the conservative resurgence in Britain. Nakasone's energetic leadership broke on the rock of Japanese political culture (for reasons we shall shortly explore). Revelations of financial improprieties and autocratic behavior threatened to eclipse Kohl's achievement in reunifying Germany. The first generation of Eastern Europe's new democratic leaders foundered in various ways on the wreckage left by the old order, opening the way for a return to power of former Communist apparatchiks. In Russia, Yeltsin failed spectacularly to manage the transition to stable democratic institutions and a free-market economy; rather than the "normal" Western country most Russians wanted and expected, what they got was a bizarre system of personalistic rule that was nonetheless unable to curb the rising power of the new barons of finance and the media or reverse the leakage of Moscow's authority to regional bosses or the collapse of its military power.

Much could be said in criticism or praise of these figures and their successors. For our purposes, though, the case of Reagan is critical. Reagan has been much criticized in the United States and elsewhere both for the policies he pursued and for his governing style. At the extreme, his apparent accomplishments (particularly the fall of Soviet Communism) have been chalked up to mere luck, and his presidency seen as little more than an actor's performance scripted by others. There can be little question that such a view is fundamentally wrong. Reagan certainly relied heavily on words as an instrument of governance, but he showed (by contrast with Carter) how presidential rhetoric could be used effectively to rally the nation behind a political agenda.


Excerpted from THE MODERN PRINCE by Carnes Lord Copyright © 2003 by Carnes Lord. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 Why Leadership Is Still Possible 1
2 Why Leadership Is Still Necessary 11
3 Leadership and Statecraft 21
4 On States 33
5 On Regimes 40
6 Elites and How to Manage Them 50
7 Modern Founders 59
8 Executive Power and Constitutional Democracy 69
9 Democracy Without Leaders 86
10 Autocratic Democracy 96
11 What Goals Leaders Pursue 106
12 What Tools Leaders Have Available 113
13 Administration 116
14 Law 125
15 Education and Culture 134
16 Economics 141
17 Diplomacy 151
18 Force 159
19 Intelligence 169
20 Communication 180
21 On Strategy 192
22 On Crisis Management 200
23 Advice and Decision 207
24 Leadership and Politics 215
25 Why Leadership Depends on the Times 221
26 Exhortation to Preserve Democracy from the Barbarians 225
Notes 233
Acknowledgments 265
Index 267
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