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I got a lot of anguished emails about Machiavelli and the British soldier who had the chance to kill Hitler in the First World War. I suppose it’s hard for people to deal with Machiavelli out of context, and I should have written more, so I apologize for laziness.

My point–Machiavelli’s point, actually–is that real decisions in real life are almost never easy, and those called upon to make those tough decisions have to be willing to “enter into evil.” Sometimes by doing that–as briefly as possible, he implores us–means doing things we know to be morally wrong. I gave the Hitler example because Machiavelli knows, as every grownup thoughtful person knows, that it is also possible to do the morally right thing, and by so doing, we unleash great evil.

Life is tough. And the abstract moralists are not a very good guide for leaders, at least not all the time.

Obviously I was trying to get people to think more deeply about the Marine in Fallujah. And along those lines, I urge everyone to look at the wonderful remarks by “Baldilocks” on her excellent blog.

She reminds us–and many of my correspondents got this wrong–that the Marine did not shoot a PRISONER. He shot an enemy combatant. And his own experience had shown how dangerous such persons were, even–maybe especially–those who appeared severely wounded.



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