Divide and rule
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Divide and rule (Latin: divide et impera), or divide and conquer, in politics and sociology is gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy.
The use of this technique is meant to empower the sovereign to control subjects, populations, or factions of different interests, who collectively might be able to oppose his rule. Niccolò Machiavelli identifies a similar application to military strategy, advising in Book VI of The Art of War (1521) (L'arte della guerra): a Captain should endeavor with every art to divide the forces of the enemy. Machiavelli advises that this act should be achieved either by making him suspicious of his men in whom he trusted, or by giving him cause that he has to separate his forces, and, because of this, become weaker.
The strategy, but not the phrase, applies in many ancient cases: the example of Aulus Gabinius exists, parting the Jewish nation into five conventions, reported by Flavius Josephus in Book I, 169–170 of The Jewish War (De bello Judaico). Strabo also reports in Geographica, 8.7.3 that the Achaean League was gradually dissolved under the Roman possession of the whole of Macedonia, owing to their not dealing with the several states in the same way, but wishing to preserve some and to destroy others.
The strategy of division and rule has been attributed to sovereigns, ranging from Louis XI of France to the House of Habsburg. Edward Coke denounces it in Chapter I of the Fourth Part of the Institutes of the Lawes of England, reporting that when it was demanded by the Lords and Commons what might be a principal motive for them to have good success in Parliament, it was answered: "Eritis insuperabiles, si fueritis inseparabiles. Explosum est illud diverbium: Divide, & impera, cum radix & vertex imperii in obedientium consensu rata sunt." [You would be invincible if you were inseparable. This proverb, Divide and rule, has been rejected, since the root and the summit of authority are confirmed by the consent of the subjects.] On the other hand, in a minor variation, Sir Francis Bacon wrote the phrase "separa et impera" in a letter to James I of 15 February 1615. James Madison made this recommendation in a letter to Thomas Jefferson of 24 October 1787, which summarized the thesis of The Federalist#10: "Divide et impera, the reprobated axiom of tyranny, is under certain (some) qualifications, the only policy, by which a republic can be administered on just principles." In Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch by Immanuel Kant (1795), Appendix one, Divide et impera is the third of three political maxims, the others being Fac et excusa (Act now, and make excuses later) and Si fecisti, nega (If you commit a crime, deny it).
Elements of this technique involve:
- creating or encouraging divisions among the subjects to prevent alliances that could challenge the sovereign
- aiding and promoting those who are willing to cooperate with the sovereign
- fostering distrust and enmity between local rulers
- encouraging meaningless expenditures that reduce the capability for political and military spending
Historically, this strategy was used in many different ways by empires seeking to expand their territories.
Immanuel Kant was an advocate of this tactic, noting that "the problem of setting up a state can be solved even by a nation of devils" so long as they possess an appropriate constitution which pits opposing factions against each other with a system of checks and balances.
The concept is also mentioned as a strategy for market action in economics to get the most out of the players in a competitive market.
Divide and rule can be used by states to weaken enemy military alliances. This usually happens when propaganda is disseminated within the enemy states in an attempt to raise doubts about the alliance. Once the alliance weakens or dissolves, a vacuum will allow the state to achieve military dominance.
A primary strategy the narcissist uses to assert control, particularly within his/her family, is to create divisions among individuals. This weakens and isolates them, making it easier for the narcissist to manipulate and dominate. Some are favoured, others are scapegoated. Such dynamics can play out in a workplace setting.
In politics, the concept refers to a strategy that breaks up existing power structures, and especially prevents smaller power groups from linking up, causing rivalries and fomenting discord among the people to prevent a rebellion against the elites or the people implementing the strategy. The goal is either to pit the lower classes against themselves to prevent a revolution, or to provide a desired solution to the growing discord that strengthens the power of the elites. It was heavily used by British Empire in India and elsewhere.
Psychopathy in the workplace
- Germany and Belgium ruled Rwanda and Burundi in a colonial capacity. Germany used the strategy of divide and conquer by placing members of the already dominant Tutsi minority in positions of power. When Belgium took over colonial rule in 1916, the Tutsi and Hutu groups were rearranged according to race instead of occupation. Belgium defined "Tutsi" as anyone with more than ten cows or a long nose, while "Hutu" meant someone with fewer than ten cows and a broad nose. The socioeconomic divide between Tutsis and Hutus continued after independence and was a major factor in the Rwandan Genocide.
- During British rule of Nigeria from 1900 to 1960, different regions were frequently reclassified for administrative purposes. The conflict between the Igbo and Hausa made it easier for the British to consolidate their power in the region.
- While the Mongols imported Central Asian Muslims to serve as administrators in China, the Mongols also sent Han Chinese and Khitans from China to serve as administrators over the Muslim population in Bukhara in Central Asia, using foreigners to curtail the power of the local peoples of both lands.
Pakistan and India
- Pakistan and India were also divided by this policy.
The strategy of "Divide and Rule" was employed by most imperial powers in Indian subcontinent. The British and French backed various Indian states in conflicts between each other, both as a means of undermining each other's influence and consolidating their authority. The Durand line divided Afghanistan and Northwest Pakistan, the homeland of the Pashtuns.
Further, it is argued that the British used the strategy to destroy the harmony between various religions and use it for their benefits; a Times Literary Supplement review suggests that although this was broadly the case a more nuanced approach might be closer to the facts. In the same vein, Kashmiri Indian politician Markandey Katju wrote in The Nation:
It was Emperor Akbar who laid the foundation on which the Indian nation is still standing, his policy being continued by Jawaharlal Nehru and his colleagues who gave India a secular constitution. Up to 1857, there were no communal problems in India; all communal riots and animosity began after 1857. No doubt even before 1857, there were differences between Hindus and Muslims, the Hindus going to temples and the Muslims going to mosques, but there was no animosity. In fact, the Hindus and Muslims used to help each other; Hindus used to participate in Eid celebrations, and Muslims in Holi and Diwali. The Muslim rulers like the Mughals, Nawab of Awadh and Murshidabad, Tipu Sultan, etc were totally secular; they organised Ramlilas, participated in Holi, Diwali, etc. Ghalib’s affectionate letters to his Hindu friends like Munshi Shiv Naraln Aram, Har Gopal Tofta, etc attest to the affection between Hindus and Muslims at that time. In 1857, the ‘Great Mutiny’ broke out in which the Hindus and Muslims jointly fought against the British. This shocked the British government so much that after suppressing the Mutiny, they decided to start the policy of divide and rule (see online “History in the Service of Imperialism” by B.N. Pande). All communal riots began after 1857, artificially engineered by the British authorities. The British collector would secretly call the Hindu Pandit, pay him money, and tell him to speak against Muslims, and similarly he would secretly call the Maulvi, pay him money, and tell him to speak against Hindus. This communal poison was injected into our body politic year after year and decade after decade.
- The Sykes–Picot Agreement, which carved the Middle East, is an example of a 'divide and rule' strategy.
- Some analysts assert that the US is practicing the strategy in the 21st century middle east through escalation of the Sunni–Shia conflict. Nafeez Ahmed cites a 2008 RAND Corporation study for the American military which recommended "divide and rule" as a possible strategy against the Muslim world in "the Long War". Dr. Christopher Davidson argues that the current crisis in Yemen is being “egged on” by the US, and could be part of a wider covert strategy to “spur fragmentation in Iran allies and allow Israel to be surrounded by weak states”.
- Herodotus (History, 5.3) said that the Thracians would be the strongest nation in the world if they were united.
- Tacitus (Germania, 33) says "Long, I pray, may foreign nations persist in hating one another .... and fortune can bestow on us no better gift than discord among our foes."
- Romans entered Macedonia from the south and defeated King Perseus of Macedon in the Battle of Pydna in 168 BC. Macedonia was then divided into four republics that were heavily restricted from relations with one another and other Hellenic states. A ruthless purge occurred, with allegedly anti-Roman citizens being denounced by their compatriots and deported in large numbers.
- During the Gallic Wars, Julius Caesar was able to use a divide and rule strategy to easily defeat the militarily strong Gauls. By the time the Gauls united under Vercingetorix, it was already too late for them.
- Following the October revolution, the Bolsheviks engaged at various times in alliances with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, some anarchists, and various non-Russian ethnic nationalist groups, against the White movement, Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, and other anarchist and ethnic nationalist groups. This was done to establish the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (the Bolshevik party) as the sole legal party in the Soviet Union. Similar shifting alliances were played out amongst various dissident factions within the CPSU, such as the Workers Opposition and Left Communists, with Joseph Stalin and his supporters gaining absolute power within the party by the mid-1920s.
- The Salami strategy of Hungarian Communist leader, Mátyás Rákosi.
- Alliances with various parties played a role in the Nazi Machtergreifung and Gleichschaltung, the seizure and consolidation of total power by the National Socialist German Workers Party. The Enabling Act, which banned the Communist and Social Democratic parties, was supported by the Nazis' coalition partner, the German National People's Party, as well as by the Centre Party. Several months later, all political parties in Germany were banned except for the NSDAP.
- The British Empire urged the Britons in British Cyprus to stir up the Turkish minority in order to neutralize agitation from the Greeks The British colonial policy of “divide and rule” intentionally cultivated animosity between the Greek majority and the Turkish minority (18% of the population) in the island that remains divided till today. A similar theme played out in Sri Lanka, where the British placed Sri Lankan Tamils (a local minority) in positions of power over the majority Sinhalese. This contributed to ethnic tension and ultimately violence, most notably in Black July.
- Control freak
- Culture of fear
- Criticism of multiculturalism
- Defeat in detail
- Divide and conquer algorithms
- Flying monkeys (psychology)
- Identity politics
- List of Latin phrases
- Playing one person against another
- Smoke screen
- Social undermining
- Societal collapse
- Thesis, antithesis, synthesis
- Toxic leader
- Toxic workplace
- Triangulation (psychology)
- Wedge issue
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