My interpretation of Machiavelli's Prince is that he understood that in the region where he resided, it was often a kill or be killed world. Rather than writing an opus about the inner workings and complexities of domestic politics or economic policy development, he wrote about ensuring survival. After all, the first end of politics is the survival of oneself and one's constituents. Ensuring survival is primarily a military matter so assembling an army is the first matter of business:
"before all else it is essential for it, as the right basis for any campaign, to raise a citizen army; for there can be no more loyal, more true, or better troops."
A strong and loyal army is the first priority; now how that army is used is a matter of time and circumstance; time, circumstance, and the disposition of the leader. The prince must exercise sympathy and understanding in times of peace and ruthless and strategic aggression in times of war. Time and circumstance determine one's course of action and since the future is always uncertain, thorough preparation is an end in and of itself. Machiavelli condemns ill-preparedness on page 78, illustrated by the phrase: "Their own indolence was to blame, because, having never imagined when times were quiet that they could change(and this is a common failing of mankind, never to anticipate a storm when the sea is calm." The means by which one can raise a loyal and subservient army is through fear, trust, and respect - this is obviously not an easy task. Trust is built through mutual understanding and this can only be done through open communication. Seeking advice is necessary, but do it at your own pace and a times of your choosing. The prince's presence is of the utmost importance; not only is it a reminder of who is in charge but it also makes dealing with internal conflict that much easier to contain:
"Being on the spot, one can detect trouble from the start and deal with it immediately; if one is absent, it is discerned only when it has grown serious, and it is then too late."
Being present also has the added advantage of familiarity with one's constituents. People are more likely to loyally follow a leader who is available and understands the issues from the ground up, as opposed to someone who rules from a distance or from a fortress. As Machiavelli notes, "the best fortress that exists is to avoid being hated by the people."(p. 70) Trust and mutual understanding are by-products of being present and are two avenues through which the prince can achieve familiarity and…