Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Emperor’s Clothes

By Dr. John R. Bomar
In his grand crusade for republicanism, Napoleon Ponaparte marched into Moscow relatively unopposed, then they burned it down around his ears.

This tyrant of the early nineteenth century had rallied all of France, and much of Europe in the name of egalitarianism, freedom and liberty. Yet, in the end he had become a true despot, garnering almost unlimited power unto himself – intimidating his enemies, spying on his friends and following a megalomaniac’s delusion of being “boss of the world.”

Sharing the delusional path of most power filled men, he led his nation into multiple foreign misadventures of immense consequence. His invasion of Russia at the head of the largest army ever assembled, taken up with such casualness against a former ally, was to ultimately cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. The Russian campaign was his true undoing, nearly bankrupting the country, not the later battle of Waterloo. The battle of Waterloo was only the cap on the bottle that sealed his fate – to become a deranged old man in exile on a deserted island, slowly dying of syphilis.

Napoleon’s personality had a certain charisma, especially before a crowd, and he was known for his speaking ability and the ability to rouse a people and make them believe in the rightfulness of his causes. His actions spoke a completely different language. When he sat the crown of “Emperor” upon his own head, he saw nothing unnatural in the act. Such can be the delusion of unlimited power and control over people’s lives.

For those with the eyes to see and the ears to hear there were early signs of his approaching neurosis. His rage and anger in private was legendary but closely concealed from the public, where he only wore the face of benign concern and reason. His inability to admit to mistake separated him from many of his comrades and drove him to fabricate the most twisted rationales for failure that defied all reason. Yet, he would not be deterred. He was known to have never offered an apology in his life, even after the many disasters he spawned. In both the campaign in Egypt and later in Russia he left behind tens of thousands of stranded troops, to suffer the harsh fate of the marooned in a foreign land. Yet, such was the hero worship around him that even in defeat he seemed victorious. Victory was all he spoke of, even in the face of unmitigated ruin. His obsession for “winning at all cost” squandered mighty treasuries and lay waste to whole regions of villages and towns.

To accept a defeat at the hands of cruel fate was tantamount to death for Mr. Bonaparte. As a result he was rigid and inflexible as a warrior. While brilliant in his ability to devise military tactics beforehand, he was unbending and inadaptable on the battlefield. His preconceptions and ego driven will became his stumbling blocks when the tide turned against him. Hundreds of thousands died or were maimed as a result.

The most singular lesson that Mr. Bonaparte left the world of thinking men is that – given enough power – all men become corrupted and lead nations to ruin.


Blogger BZZZT said...

thanks for posting this -- just one more reminder of Santayana's oft-quoted, rarely heeded warning about history and human insistence on repeating but not learning from it.

3:31 AM  

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