[July 22, 2020] Experienced leaders understand that not everything they do is intuitive or makes complete sense on the surface of it. When it comes to carrying out one’s duties, success is often hard-won, complex and ambiguous, and requires good judgment. That is why the concept – if you want peace, prepare for war – is both controversial and contentious.
“Si vis Pacem, Para Bellum.” – classical Latin, meaning If you want peace, prepare for war1
The phrase is an adaptation from a statement found in Latin author Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus’s works from the 4th or 5th century AD. The idea that it conveys also appears in earlier works such as Plato’s Nomoi (Laws) and the Chinese Shi Ji.2 It represents the counter-intuitive insight that the conditions of peace are preserved by a readiness to make war when necessitated.
Whatever the source, the adage has become a living vocabulary item itself, used throughout the world with only slight variations in meaning. Undoubtedly, the concept has been around since the dawn of humankind and is reflected in the more recent written philosophies of statesmen beginning with the establishment of city-states. Its meaning is clear, if a nation wants security and harmony, then it must be prepared to use violence. Prevention is the key.
It is written in Matthew 5:5, that Jesus said that the “meek” shall inherit the Earth. The translation from Greek misinterpreted the Biblical phrase. Meek means, in this context, not someone who gives up or runs away or turns the other cheek, but someone who is capable of force and decides not to use it unless needed. A more literal translation would meek refers to those who have weapons and know to use them but are determined to keep them sheathed.3
A more straightforward interpretation is “be prepared.” Be prepared for anything that may come your way. It is a well established personal philosophy. For leaders, it is mandatory. A leader who cannot foresee what may come about in the future is not a reliable leader in times of great emergency. It’s also the American Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.