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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:
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
No Comment — March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm
On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers
Rolls of toilet paper Chicago’s city government has produced this year from recycled City Hall wastepaper:
Two thirds of U.S. teenagers experience uncontrollable rage.
Russia lost, then regained, contact with a satellite carrying five geckos sent to copulate in zero gravity.
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“I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.”