A reliable source suggested I check out a thread of postings on web site by an author and scholar, starting with this on Ex Urbe. As was predicted I was strongly ambivalent about it. The series presents a view of Machiavelli as a person worthy of study, with sizable portion of praise.
Long ago, I abandonned any view of Machiavelli as real person. I now see him as an ideal. And I an easy enraged by people quoting “the end justifies the means”. Most who use that line appear to have not the slightest inkling of what it means. Maybe, the translator responsible for English version of his masterpiece distorted it, but I equate that phrase with the Biblical admonishment “You will know them by the fruits of their labours”.
As I understand it (and preach it), your objective in any course of action cannot of itself provide any moral justification for your actions. As a learned, rational person (as might have learned from the master Machiavelli), you are to look to the historical record for an outcome or outcomes that match your objective. If such an outcome exists, then clearly you are to use one or other of the methods that produced the desired outcome. Absent that outcome being actually achieved at some point in history, then look to the outcomes that resulted from each method you consider to know which to avoid more strongly. You have no justification for expecting a result that never happenned from the application of any method.
The ideal Machiavelli was a champion of empiricism. We study the master in his ideal form that we may become more like that ideal. The evidence of history is always more compelling than any model derived from it. Models (mathematical, algorithmic, narrative, analogue, etc.) that do not match historic outcomes are trash, while the great ones go beyond matching to accurately predicting outcomes. Such models are the sources of human power.