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The Mercenary, Considered. Does history not tell us that once there were many soldiers in Italy, who, failing for pay because the wars had at length come to an end, formed themselves into Companies and extorted money from the city-states, plundered the countryside, and were a plague upon the nation? . . . Such outrages do not come from anything other than the fact that these men were skilled in the arts of arms, and turned this into a profession. Do we not have a proverb that reasons as I just have, saying: “War makes thieves, and peace hangs them?” Because those who do not know how to live by any other occupation and who do not find anybody who will support them in soldiering, and who are possessed of such limited skills otherwise that they cannot join together in pursuit of an honest trade or living–these men become mercenaries, they turn to rob on the highways. And in the end, justice has no recourse: it must extinguish them all.
–Niccolò Machiavelli, Dell’arte della guerra, bk i, sec ix (1519-20)(S.H. transl.) also in: Machiavelli: Chief Works and Others, vol. ii, pp. 574-75 (A. Gilbert transl. 1989).
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Ratio of the average cost of a gallon of gas in Britain last September to that of a gallon of Starbucks coffee:
Her Majesty's Customs and Excise (London)/Starbucks Coffee Company (London)/Harper's research
The faculty of embarrassment was located in the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex by neurologists who made brain-damaged subjects sing along to “My Girl” and then listen to their own singing played back without musical accompaniment.
Greece evacuated 72,000 people from the town of Thessaloniki while an undetonated World War II–era bomb was excavated from beneath a gas station.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."