Reading Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince and Ch. 1-20 of The Discourse on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy.
What's a philosophically astute approach to political matters? What makes a government successful? Should you keep that fortress or sell it for scrap? If you conquer, say, Iraq, do you have to then go and live there for the occupation to work out? Is it OK to display the heads of your enemies on spikes, or should you opt for a respectful diorama?
Besides the famous Prince, Mr. M. wrote, at about the same time, the Discourses on Livy which focus on republics instead of princedoms, so the combined picture is less out of sync with our time than you might think, meaning we talk about G.W. Bush for a bit (sorry).
Plus: An inspirational speech to play at middle school assemblies across the land!
The Isaiah Berlin article we talk about a bit is "The Originality of Machiavelli," which you read most of if you search for the essay title in this book preview.
End song: "Se Piangi, Se Ridi" (Mogol/Marchetti/Satti), recorded by Mark Lint in 2000.