We are losing/have lost the information war between us (USA, the West, etc) and Al Qaeda. The same crew that could convince millions of poor Americans to support tax cuts for rich people can't convince the Middle East that it's better to become rich than a martyr. The society that can convince people to pay $800 for a flippin bag can't convince Jordanians that blowing up civilians is bad (do as I say, not as I do!).
...since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.
Machiavelli has an excuse for being wrong - he has been dead for five hundred years. The current neo-cons have no such excuse (much as I might wish otherwise). I mean, in the age of super-empowered individuals, when Bill Gates is richer than Kuwait, how can it NOT matter if millions of people hate you? The central failure of the "better to be feared than loved" maxim is that individuals and non-state actors don't have to fear anything because that are unaccountable to state power. Example A: Where's Osama? Hiding, yes, but alive and still able to communicate. Small states feared big states back in Machiavelli's time because small states could be crushed by big states. States can not go into hiding. Individuals, as bin Laden and Zawahiri, or Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, can. When you combine unaccountability with super-empowerment AND the plummeting cost of destructive power (the 9/11 attacks cost at most $500,000; the Oklahoma City truck bomb was probably cheaper), clearly public diplomacy and opinion formation will matter more than conventional force.
A college kid gets this and the most powerful elected official in the world does not.
Perhaps its a sign that Frank Zappa's "Dumb All Over" started playing (on shuffle) just as I was finishing up this post.