The argument that "The Prince" is an immoral treatise on how to satisfy one's endless ambition is legitimate and to view Machiavelli's work as such is useful and necessary. Despite this, labeling "The Prince" as solely immoral is misguided, regardless of that argument's credibility. In order to understand "The Prince", one must consider the context. Peaceful diplomacy was almost non-existent; the nature of the world at the time, and in a sense politics, was inherently violent. Creating some sort of informative manual as to make dealing with the frequent hostilities of an inherently violent world a little less painful was a noble undertaking. Machiavelli succeeded in this and the result was a work of political strategy that has stood the test of time. "The Prince" is amoral and viewing Machiavelli as an advocate of violence is wrong and a bit naive. Is violence an instrument that can be utilized effectively from a governing position? Of course it is, but to think that its alone in its effectiveness is short-sighted. Machiavelli was realistic. "The Prince" has stirred controversy since its emergence and continues to be debated today. It is timeless and its content can be applied in even the most trivial of situations. If the end was to pen a masterpiece essential to any leader who reads it, then the means of arousing heated debate and sometimes being labeled immoral is, in my eyes, justified.
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 through