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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The intrinsic limits on power

I've been reading the third volume of Oman's excellent A History of the Peninsular War, and a particular passage on the solid reasoning that lay behind Napoleon's self-obstructive and objectively suboptimal decision to refuse to appoint a proper unitary command to execute the invasion of Portugal and the attack on Wellington's British army while simultaneously maintaining the Spanish occupation caused me to reflect on the limits imposed on evil by its own nature.
As has been shown above, from his own words, he [Napoleon] was conscious that he was too far from the scene of operation, and that mere ordinary directions to his lieutenants might not be carried out with zeal. ‘Je donne l’ordre. L’exécutera-t-on? De si loin obéit qui veut.’ But if this were so, it was surely necessary either that he should go to Spain in person, or else—the more obvious alternative—that he should appoint a real Commander-in-Chief in the Peninsula, who should have authority to order all the other marshals and generals to obey his directions, without malingering or appeals to Paris. Napoleon had deliberately created a divided authority beyond the Pyrenees when he set up his military governments, and instructed Suchet, Kellermann, and the other governors to report directly to himself, and to pay no attention to commands emanating from Madrid. King Joseph, as a central source of orders, had been reduced to a nullity by this ill-conceived decree. Even over the troops not included in the new viceroyalties he had no practical authority. Not he and his chief of the staff, but Masséna, ought to have been entrusted with a full and autocratic power of command over all the armies of Spain, if a true unity of purpose was to be achieved.

This necessary arrangement the Emperor utterly refused to carry out: he sent rebukes to Drouet for hesitating to obey the orders of the Prince of Essling, and he jested at the absurd conduct of Ney and Junot in conducting themselves like independent generals. But these officers were in command of troops definitely allotted to the Army of Portugal. Over the other generals of Spain he refused to allow Masséna any control, and he continued to send them his own ever-tardy instructions, which had often ceased to be appropriate long before the dispatch had reached its destination. If we seek the reasons of this unwise persistence in his old methods, we find that they were two.

The first was his secret, but only half-disguised, intention to annex all the Spanish provinces north of the Ebro to France, an insane resolve which led him to keep Suchet and Macdonald in Aragon and Catalonia, as well as the governors of Navarre and Biscay, out of the control of any central authority that he might set up in Spain. The second was his jealousy of entrusting the vast army south of the Ebro, far more than 250,000 men at the moment, to any single commander. He remembered Soult’s absurd strivings after royalty in Portugal; he knew that Masséna, though the best of soldiers, was false, selfish, and ambitious; and he refused to hand over to either of them a full control over the whole of the forces in the Peninsula. It was even better, in his estimation, to leave King Joseph a shadow of power, than to take the risk of giving overmuch authority to one of the two able, but not wholly trustworthy, marshals to whom he must otherwise have entrusted it.
Napoleon made a conscious choice to reduce the probabilities of defeating Wellington and conquering Portugal in order to reduce the risk of creating a powerful rival power on the Peninsula. He knew he couldn't trust Soult or Masséna to remain loyal to him if either of them found themselves victorious and in command of an army capable of rivalling his own forces, so he refused to take the step that was absolutely required in order to win the war.

This is one of the fundamental weaknesses of evil, however strong it appears, however much potential force it has at its disposal. Self-interest imposes an intrinsic limit on evil's ability to bring its power to bear, because it always has to worry about its forces fragmenting and pursuing their own goals instead of the obediently pursuing the goals set by the leadership. This, of course, is why evil puts so much effort into creating social pressures and false narratives its NPCs will blindly follow, and to ensuring that its NPCs never dare to think independently or in a critical manner.

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64 Comments:

Blogger Emmett Fitz-Hume February 19, 2019 7:26 AM  

" Self-interest imposes an intrinsic limit on evil's ability to bring its power to bear, because it always has to worry about its forces fragmenting and pursuing their own goals instead of the obediently pursuing the goals set by the leadership."

Like Trotsky and Lenin and Stalin and all their various purges and terrors.

Blogger Stilicho February 19, 2019 7:34 AM  

Oft evil will shall evil mar.

Blogger Cataline Sergius February 19, 2019 7:36 AM  

Self-interest imposes an intrinsic limit on evil's ability to bring its power to bear, because it always has to worry about its forces fragmenting and pursuing their own goals instead of the obediently pursuing the goals set by the leadership.

I think Operation Barbarossa could be another example of this.

The Germans had no business doing anywhere near as well as they did.

Stalin's paranoia had shattered the Red Army.

The initial attack was nearly a black comedy on the Russian side, with units at first being told that they absolutely were NOT under attack and any causalities they were suffering were the result of anti-Soviet sentiments and that the NKVD would be there shortly to cart off the offending officers. And under no circumstances were they to shoot at troops belonging to Stalin's bestie, Hitler.

Another might be the Iran-Iraq War. Military professionals were flummoxed by Saddam's decision to halt offensive operations when the Iraqis had the Iranians reeling and on the ropes. It made no sense militarily.

However, it makes plenty of sense if you are a crime boss and one of your capos is suddenly a lot more popular than you are.

Blogger McChuck February 19, 2019 7:42 AM  

This is why Stalin had the competent generals purged. The internal threats to personal power are always more important than external threats to the nation.

Blogger VD February 19, 2019 7:53 AM  

You are banned from commenting here, Phillip George, and neither cyberstalking nor persistent harassment is consistent with your profession of Christian faith.

Do not attempt to comment here again. You are not permitted to do so and you are serving as an anti-Christian witness when you actively disobey the clearly expressed wishes of the host. Shake the dust off your sandals or not, as you wish, but regardless, move on and go away.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan February 19, 2019 8:00 AM  

That is the unspoken rule of conservatism to unite the enemy and keep their coalition together, then lose to it.

Blogger Balkan Yankee February 19, 2019 8:17 AM  

An insight like that is why Tolkein had Gollum - not Frodo - destroy the Ring of Power. IMHO.

Blogger Keyser Soze February 19, 2019 8:23 AM  

Sauron does not share power.

Blogger Duke Norfolk February 19, 2019 8:47 AM  

No honor among thieves.

You see it in the mafia (and similar criminal orgs). Always rife with suspicion and distrust, causing paranoia at the top (and throughout), as the underlings constantly plot to take them out, in their thirst for power.

And then you have the rats.

Blogger Innamorato February 19, 2019 8:47 AM  

This must be why nowhere in our society do we see real empowerment of any sort. The forces of evil only promote subcultures which subvert, and benefit from, the destruction of the heterosexual, white, industrious, Christian male. God have mercy on their darkened souls.

Blogger Lucas February 19, 2019 9:02 AM  

That is probably why "coerent" humam evil has always an unified supernatural source (demons). Because it is written: "And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand" Mark 3:24

Blogger Silent Draco February 19, 2019 9:04 AM  

Machiavelli spoke similarly to his prince, regarding capable and incompetent mercenary captains. Ultimately, do only what within your personal grasp. But evil always exceeds its grasp, and so will fail.

Fortunately, our Supreme Dark Lord works for good. The angels and puppies are on his side.

Blogger Falcatus February 19, 2019 9:08 AM  

The Portugal royal family left/fled the country at the insistence of the English. Our kings since its foundation till the death of King Sebastião always fought/lead from the front. Since then it has been a never ending coward and faithless retreat. What we did with 1 million we cannot dream now with 10 or 20.
This affair in the peninsula is like a memory that denies itself (from dune), it is an English memory with a French lover.

Blogger Sam Spade February 19, 2019 9:09 AM  

It reminds me also of the Siths in Star wars. Masters need powerful apprentices to advance their agenda, but not to much or they risk being betrayed.

Evil is gimped. In the end they cannot win.

Blogger nbfdmd February 19, 2019 9:26 AM  

Aren't the Globalists working together quite well though?

Blogger KG February 19, 2019 9:29 AM  

I wouldn’t consider Napoleon’s fear of conflict with a rival general evil. By that logic the Roman republic’s fear of a powerful returning general would be evil, and the American second amendment would be evil. Yes, those two examples were attempts to put a leash on the power hungry and Napoleon’s scenario was an attempt to keep himself from being leashed. But in Napoleon’s case it would be far more damaging to France as an empire for a rival to appear and cause civil disorder and upset laid plans than it would be to sacrifice the full conquest of the Iberian peninsula. The Pyrenees being secured, France doesn’t have much of a defensive interest in Spain to keep England out. As Van Creveld calls him “the most competent human being who ever lived” Napoleon saw the looming threat of a military rival where others wouldn’t have, and saw it as a greater threat to his strategy than acceptable losses in the peninsula. I fully understand the analogy that can be derived from the power hungry, but it may have been more of an unfortunate reality than an evil motivation. Then again the peninsular war is definitely my blind spot when it comes to napoleonic history. (And my Italian bias refuses to accept the Anglo propaganda against Bonaparte)

Blogger Cataline Sergius February 19, 2019 9:39 AM  

This, of course, is why evil puts so much effort into creating social pressures and false narratives its NPCs will blindly follow, and to ensuring that its NPCs never dare to think independently or in a critical manner.


I admit my knowledge of the Peninsular War doesn't go much beyond the Richard Sharpe novels by Cornwall. However, those books do bring to mind a relevant point.

The Sharpe books were where I first got interested in the subject of "buying a commission." Which is to say, buying an officers rank in the British Army.

My initial impression was that the custom was ghastly, inefficient and lead to disasters like the Charge of the Light Brigade. And it was all those things but when it was introduced it solved more problems than it created.

It turned out to be a matter of trust.

Charles II trusted the instincts of the aristocrat class. He wasn't (too) afraid of them thinking independently so he came up with a system that directed that trust he had in them, to their mutual benefit.*

That custom of the Crown's trust in the aristocracy created an institution that was able to stand up to Napoleon's grande armee.

Wellington's elbow wasn't constantly being jiggled from London.



*His baby brother James famously did not share that trust.

Blogger swiftfoxmark2 February 19, 2019 9:40 AM  

nbfdmd wrote:Aren't the Globalists working together quite well though?

For now.

Although one could argue that there are multiple competing factions within globalism who are vying for dominance. Some days it's hard to determine if Trump is draining the swamp or if it's just one group purging another.

Blogger nbfdmd February 19, 2019 9:44 AM  

@18:

I'm not convinced, but I'm open to having my mind changed. I just think that saying evil can't work together or trust other evil, is just wishful thinking. To me it sounds like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon.

By the way, this is off-topic, but how do you directly quote someone on this board?

Blogger McChuck February 19, 2019 9:51 AM  

@18 “I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are good people and bad people. You're wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad people, but some of them are on opposite sides.” ― Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!

Blogger Sam February 19, 2019 10:05 AM  

@19
If you wish to be technical it is 'people who gain power by subverting and undermining people who are identified as on their side' cannot work together in the long term or trust each other. Betrayal is a skill and being surrounded by those who are good at it is unstable and falls apart as soon as their target is destroyed.

As for globalists the thing to realize is they hide themselves, not because they fear peasants murdering them, but because being revealed is the signal for other members of the elite to turn on them.

Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelphia February 19, 2019 10:07 AM  

One of the corollaries to being evil is to believe that your actions themselves are not just indications of your greatness, but ARE your greatness.

No one else can be great to the evil person. Only YOU can be great.

In the bunker scene in "Downfall" parodied so often, Hitler says he conquered Europe all by himself. Yep, even if true, that's the remark of an evil person.

Of course, that doesn't preclude unitary command. There was no doubt Wellington was in charge, but it was never ever about him.

Blogger Johnny February 19, 2019 10:07 AM  

Cataline Sergius wrote:The Germans had no business doing anywhere near as well as they did.
An additional comment here is that owing to Glasnost we now know what Stalin was up to. If Hitler had not attacked Russia, Stalin would have attacked Germany. In anticipation of an eventual assault, the Russians had way too many troops on the front line. As they predictably could not avoid penetration by the mobile German forces, most of these front line troops accomplished nothing but getting captured. The Russians lacked the troops in depth needed to respond to the German assault.

Blogger Salt February 19, 2019 10:08 AM  

it always has to worry about its forces fragmenting and pursuing their own goals instead of the obediently pursuing the goals set by the leadership

"Hitler's own people tried to kill him a few days ago." - George C Scott as Patton

Blogger 351wsl February 19, 2019 10:08 AM  

Those who would betray, fear betrayal the most.

Blogger wreckage February 19, 2019 10:10 AM  

@19 Pure evil could trust pure evil, because at all times it is more evil to corrupt or destroy the even marginally innocent than it is to destroy another evil. But human evil is conditional. Usually it is less a true dedication to evil as an absolute, and more a strong commitment to "values" that are actually destructive to human flourishing and co-operation, usually involving a massive degree of malignant narcissism as well.

So they can co-operate only in a limited way, because they are actually not pure, dedicated, or selfless enough to be utterly evil. They are less like a legion of demons under Satan and more like ten thousand petty competing Satans. To put it another way, the primary reason evil has triumphed is because good men, or at least men whose role and station was to defend the good, have consistently and enthusiastically done nothing.

Blogger VD February 19, 2019 10:11 AM  

I just think that saying evil can't work together or trust other evil, is just wishful thinking.

That's almost insanely stupid. You're actually saying this while staring a significant historical example right in the face. You are far too short for this ride.

Was it wishful thinking by Wellington when he correctly concluded the French generals would never be able to bring enough force against the lines of Torres Vedras to break them due to their divided responsibilities? Not at all.

And if this system continued Wellington was free from any real danger. He knew it himself; he studied diligently both the political position and the details of the emplacement of the imperial armies in the Peninsula.

It is the exact opposite of wishful thinking. It is reliable observation.

Blogger Johnny February 19, 2019 10:12 AM  

Napoleon's big problem, over and over, was his tendency to take more territory than France could easily adsorb. It surely didn't help to botch up the military stuff, but the longer France held Spain, the more the Spanish came to hate the French. He wasn't nation building, he was holding a captured territory that became progressively harder to hold.

Blogger Станислав Бартошевич February 19, 2019 10:17 AM  

@16
"I wouldn’t consider Napoleon’s fear of conflict with a rival general evil."

But Napoleon's overall political goals most certainly were. His overarching purposes were first to accumulate as much power for himself as he could, second to bend the political and economic order of Europe to serve interests of France and France only, which became pretty much the extension of #1, and third to grant crowns and possessions to his entire family, as long as that did not contradict #1-2. These goals could only be achieved by dominating Europe (which at the time pretty much meant the world) by brute military force, because even besides imposition of new foreign rulers and territorial demands, French trade could never compete with English in absence of direct coercion. That in turn produced endless wars, bloodshed, and devastation. Particularly as Napoleon's personal fortunes were entirely founded on military success, and he refused to agree to any sort of compromise settlement that involved the French backing away from anywhere, fearing a coup, until his empire was in full collapse. Speaking of that, almost every erstwhile ally/puppet Napoleon had turned on France as soon as they started to believe that Napoleon may actually lose. That included Sweden, which in 1813 sent troops to fight alongside its most bitter ancestral enemy, Russia, which annexed close to half of its territory just four years ago, even despite having a former French marshal on the throne. But the possibility of getting rid of Napoleon overrode all other considerations. Talk about extreme unpopularity!

To repeat, "evil" is a perfectly serviceable word to describe Napoleon's politics.

Blogger nbfdmd February 19, 2019 10:25 AM  

@27:

Ok, VD, I'll accept your one example. But an example doesn't prove a general principle. Examples are used to disprove for-all statements. They can't be used to prove a for-all statement.

So take, for example, the alliance between Hitler and Hirohito. I think you would agree that both men were evil. Yet they worked together for most of the war. Hitler was even able to work with Mussolini, even though they shared the same continent.

Do you have a counter argument, or will you just resort to calling me a moron?

Blogger Doug Cranmer February 19, 2019 10:34 AM  

I'll go first.

Blogger Balkan Yankee February 19, 2019 10:36 AM  

@22: "No one else can be great to the evil person. Only YOU can be great."

That sounds like Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

NPD - just another name for evil!

Blogger DaveD February 19, 2019 10:39 AM  

@30

Except for the fact that Hirohito's drive for his own power, and that of Japan, caused him to betray Hitler by attacking America at Pearl Harbor, drawing us into the war, and leading to the defeat of both countries. Germany had been clear that they did not want the US in the war. Japan attacked us anyway. At some point, evil will always turn on evil to make themselves more powerful/important.

Blogger jfreddd February 19, 2019 10:40 AM  


Falcatus wrote:
The Portugal royal family left/fled the country at the insistence of the English.
Yes, they left most of their nation behind but they never left their empire, as Brazil was run by Potuguese as surely as Portugal had earlier been run by the Moors. Nations or Empires, intermixed in Iberia until the 20th Century.

Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelphia February 19, 2019 10:44 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger nbfdmd February 19, 2019 10:45 AM  

@33:

So your argument is that Hirohito betrayed Hitler by attacking their common enemy at the most opportune moment to cripple their Pacific fleet (according to Japanese intelligence at the time)?

Blogger nbfdmd February 19, 2019 10:47 AM  

@35:

You don't think the Japanese would have given some Zeros to Germany if they didn't have Russia between them?

Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelphia February 19, 2019 10:52 AM  

nbfdmd wrote:@27:

Ok, VD, I'll accept your one example. But an example doesn't prove a general principle. Examples are used to disprove for-all statements. They can't be used to prove a for-all statement.

So take, for example, the alliance between Hitler and Hirohito. I think you would agree that both men were evil. Yet they worked together for most of the war. Hitler was even able to work with Mussolini, even though they shared the same continent.

Do you have a counter argument, or will you just resort to calling me a moron?


Well, you're probably not a moron, but even about this you’re wrong.

Aside from the instances where Italians provided troops for the Eastern Front, and when the Germans took over the Greek campaign because the Italians made a hash of it, these alliances were on paper only.

Japan and German never "worked" together -- the only thing they had in common was fighting the British and Americans. There was never any discussion or consensus on strategy, tactics, or long-range planning.

Victor Davis Hanson drives home this point in "The Second World Wars." The allies coordinated with each other, provided other allies with resouces (we gave the Russians trucks so they could concentrate on making tanks, shared technology (the Rolls Royce engine was the key to making the American P51 the most formidable propellor fighter in the war), and otherwise tried to build consensus. Churchill loathed Stalin, but they had quite a few meaningful conversations about what to do.

The alliance didn't always work, and there were betrayals (by the evil side) but the "allies" were a lot more "allied" than the Axis.

Blogger tublecane February 19, 2019 11:05 AM  

@1- In a movie I saw recently, Death of Stalin, though everyone jockeys for position--especially Beria and Khrushchev--they also speak in frightened tones of party unity and factionalism, as though Stalin were still alive with the power of death over them. Which isn't just a personality thing, but is ideological as well. Lenin banned factions back when, and everything had to be unanimous or the whole Soviet project might become illegitimate.

Whether or not that was merely because they were afraid of eachother, at last everyone turns on Beria in concert. Though Malenkov has to be dragged along.

Napoleon advanced the revolution and liberalism, he didn't stand for them. Nor did he ultimately stand for anything so concrete as himself and the royal House of Bonaparte he carved out. Not for the French nation nor the Church nor the Old Regime.

There was no communist ideology to bind his followers. Nor did he have a surveillance state to keep an eye on everyone.

Blogger Xiety February 19, 2019 11:06 AM  

nbfdmd wrote:You don't think the Japanese would have given some Zeros to Germany if they didn't have Russia between them?
The original post discusses an intrinsic limit, not a complete absence.

Blogger Johnny February 19, 2019 11:40 AM  

>>You don't think the Japanese would have given some Zeros to Germany if they didn't have Russia between them?

Even if we overlook that they were unlikely to do it, the Japanese had very limited manufacturing capacity. They weren't in a position to give much of anything to anybody.

The attack on Pearl Harbor was a tactical success and a fabulous strategic blunder. As an island nation, the war with Japan would be about sea power, and we could outproduce them in excess of ten to one. Their only hope of a good outcome would be to keep us out of it. And given the mood in the United States prior to Pearl Harbor, maybe that was doable.

Blogger VD February 19, 2019 12:27 PM  

Do you have a counter argument, or will you just resort to calling me a moron?

Considering the levels of wrongness in both your cited example and your incorrect assumptions, I'm going to save everyone some time and just point out that you're a moron.

Blogger Uncompliant February 19, 2019 12:34 PM  

@10. Agreed. The SJWs are not building anything, they are just destroying and deconstructing. Advancing the SJW ideology is the goal; not accomplishments, achievements or building any sort of functioning society. As noted on other threads, SJWs will self-destruct themselves if doing so removes an enemy or otherwise advances the cause. Example: canceling Roseanne's reboot.

Blogger Uncompliant February 19, 2019 12:46 PM  

@18 through @21

Evil happily unites and enthusiastically cooperates to create the destruction. That is easy; gather the tinder, throw the zippo. The backstabbing and betrayal occur during the fight over the corpse.

Blogger Uncompliant February 19, 2019 12:48 PM  

@ 29. You said: "To repeat, "evil" is a perfectly serviceable word to describe Napoleon's politics."

No. Your definition of "evil" would apply to the Founders of the USA and the Framers of the Constitution.

Blogger sammibandit February 19, 2019 12:53 PM  

Just an aside here re: The Axis

>The alliance didn't always work, and there were betrayals (by the evil side) but the "allies" were a lot more "allied" than the Axis.

Based on my understanding of Von Mackensen in WWI who commanded a variety of units, the Axis wasn't much United at all. I don't know if this is a reflection of geography in East Central to South Europe. Theresa press of Austo-Hungary also had a hard time holding onto her lands when at war.

Blogger Skyler the Weird February 19, 2019 12:54 PM  

No surveillance state? Didn't Fouche's Ministry of Police do a good job of thwarting domestic plots against the Empire?

Blogger Skyler the Weird February 19, 2019 12:57 PM  

@46. Diversity was the strength of the Hapsburg army(along with conveniently being bolstered by Russian or German allied troops).

Blogger sammibandit February 19, 2019 1:06 PM  

Skyler the Weird, just confirming that I am poster 46. If so, hahaha. I'm no military historian but if your Empress leads you to war where you will no doubt lose land, maybe she's not fit to be top commander. But what a fertile woman she was at least.

Now with regards to Japan and Germany in WWII, Germany had a cultural partnership with China until ~1941 I believe. I highly doubt that would give enough time to have a similar partnership with Japan.

Blogger tublecane February 19, 2019 1:12 PM  

@47- Not no surveillance capability. That already existed under the crown and certainly existed under the Committee on Public Safety. But Napoleon lacked the level of surveillance available to a Stalin, which was the context of my comments.

Blogger 1st Earl Hardwicke February 19, 2019 1:56 PM  

When in need, the Devil will eat flies.

There any not evil, or only slightly evil heads of state or Government. (I suppose Trump might be a recent exception) When I hear Napoleon, can hardly help thinking of the loony Toons. JE SUIS NAPOLEON!!!

Was Julius Caesar Evil? Is the bulk of humanity evil, I would tend to say so.

Blogger Haxo Angmark February 19, 2019 4:02 PM  

@4: Stalin's massacre of (some of) his most competent Generals was provoked by Nazi counter-intel (Heydrich/SD) which planted documents indicating a (non-existent) anti-Stalin military plot. However, Stalin particularly detested Tukhachevsky because T had called out Stalin as a military incompetent during the 1921 Red invasion of Poland.


@15: not too well lately, what with (((Rothschild))), (((Soros))), and (((Zuckerberg))) at odds over various issues.


@27: Germany and Japan were at repeated strategic right angles during 1937-45:

in 1937, Chaing kai-shek's armies, led by c. 100 German military "advisors", were close to an absolute victory over the communists. But the Japs, understanding that they could only maintain their position in China by keeping the Nationalist vs. Communist Civil War going, strongarmed Hitler into withdrawing the German officers and then invaded north China themselves, precisely in order to save the Reds.

in 1939, Japan and Russia engaged in a ferocious, large scale battle along the Russian-Manchurian border...with the Japs losing. The Japs wanted Germany to attack Russia then and there and bail them out...but Hitler instead signed the Pact with Russia.

April 1941, Payback Time: with the Germans clearly heading for war with Russia...Japan signs a non-aggression Pact with Russia.

December 1941: with Army Group Center being blasted back from Moscow by a massive Soviet counter-attack (which began on 4 December), Hitler desperately needs a Japanese attack into Siberia to hold Russian forces there. Instead, cornered by Roosevelt, Japan attacks America.

March, 1942: Japan offers to extend its projected Indian Ocean carrier raid to the point of seizing Madagascar (then held by Vichy) so as to cut the last remaining Allied convoy route to the Middle East. Mussolini, less stupid than Hitler, wants to accept. But Hitler, who wants to destroy the Red Empire not the British Empire, refuses the offer...and the War is lost.

Blogger KG February 19, 2019 4:51 PM  

Napoleon’s goals from childhood were nationalism. They may have swayed into self agrandization later, but the core of Corsican nationalism and later French nationalism remained. Many European nations today stem from the napoleonic system and organization. If Napoleon’s ambitions or politics are evil, so were every other conqueror and emperor’s. He was simply better at it.

Blogger Emmett Fitz-Hume February 19, 2019 5:09 PM  

tublecane wrote:@1- In a movie I saw recently, Death of Stalin, though everyone jockeys for position--especially Beria and Khrushchev--they also speak in frightened tones of party unity and factionalism, as though Stalin were still alive with the power of death over them. Which isn't just a personality thing, but is ideological as well. Lenin banned factions back when, and everything had to be unanimous or the whole Soviet project might become illegitimate.

Whether or not that was merely because they were afraid of eachother, at last everyone turns on Beria in concert. Though Malenkov has to be dragged along.

Napoleon advanced the revolution and liberalism, he didn't stand for them. Nor did he ultimately stand for anything so concrete as himself and the royal House of Bonaparte he carved out. Not for the French nation nor the Church nor the Old Regime.

There was no communist ideology to bind his followers. Nor did he have a surveillance state to keep an eye on everyone.


I have debated watching Death of Stalin. What did you think of it overall?

Its a historical period near and dear to my heart. I grew up next door to a man who just barely escaped execution by the Chekists. Most of his family did not escape them. I'm glad I had him growing up to counter the Progressive programming from school and my "ex" hippie parents while growing up.

Blogger 1st Earl Hardwicke February 19, 2019 6:17 PM  

I have debated watching Death of Stalin. What did you think of it overall?

I've seen the movie, saw it a while a go. Not the sort of movie I would usually go and see.

Was working at an estate in Norfolk at the time, doing some gardening. The owners of the estate wanted to go see it, and offered to take me along.

Was kind of surprised by the outright executions in the movie, wasn't really sure how to make heads or tails of it. I didn't particularly like the movie.

Blogger rumpole5 February 19, 2019 6:53 PM  

This line of thinking makes me think of what is going on right now in the Democrat party, and of course in the many branches of the Republican party. What a fractious mess our "leaders" have become!

Blogger Falcatus February 19, 2019 7:12 PM  

@34 Portugal as a political entity was never occupied by the Moors. It debut at 1143 and it is one of the oldest nations in Europe with stable boarders. It was literally built as a product of the Reconquista. We lost our independence to Spain after the betrayal (conspiracy theory) of our King Sebastian in 1580 and regained it, more or less, in 1640.
And then there were the French invasions 1807–1814.

Blogger Edgar Abbey February 19, 2019 8:25 PM  

It seems that there may be a lesson here for leaders of the political right when trying to deal with the forces of the left.

Blogger tublecane February 19, 2019 8:49 PM  

@53- There isn't really any way you can call marching all over Europe and installing members of your family as crowned monarchs nationalism. He was at best a Frenchified imperialist.

Corsica obviously didn't matter to him after he had a revolution elsewhere to clear a path for him, though once he was infected with independence fever there. Really, if he wanted to be nationalistic he could have unified Italy since that's where his blood came from.

Blogger tublecane February 19, 2019 8:55 PM  

@54- Whether you enjoy Death of Stalin depends on your sense of humor, I suppose. The guy behind it was also responsible for the show Veep on HBO and the movie In the Loop, if those are familiar.

I thought it was funny.

Blogger DonReynolds February 20, 2019 2:13 AM  

Whether thinking in terms of Kaiser, or Stalin, or Napoleon, what strikes me most is the recurring separation between the absolute authority that is concentrated in the dictator (and his associates) and the patient authority of the state as an entity separate and apart from the dictator, always in the background, almost as a backup form of authority. The state has the law and the courts and any moral authority that exists in the church. The state also has the inherent wealth and power that is part of the nation, but only nominally subject to the dictator. Should the dictator fall or fail, and even the best ones do sooner or later, the eternal state is there as a backdrop to fill the vacuum left by his departure. The two are never actually rivals or partners, but they co-exist as supreme authorities, with the State eternal and patient for when the dictator is gone.

The Kaiser was also the King of Prussia, and even with all of his authority, it was not he who ended the war but the State, which actually came into it's own to end the war without end. The Kaiser was allowed to escape to neutral Holland, without recrimination or trial, for the rest of his natural life in exile.

For all of his exercise of boundless authority, because of his failing to correctly anticipate Operation Barbarossa, Stalin expected to be arrested and executed by his own Politburo. Instead, they came to his home and asked him to lead them in the war.

After the loss at Waterloo, Napoleon returned to Paris to find the legislature and the people had turned against him. He abdicated and fled to a waiting British ship, where he was given asylum. It was France that surrendered to the allies and Napoleon was taken to Saint Helena, where he lived out his days.

Blogger tublecane February 20, 2019 7:13 AM  

@61- Asylum is an odd way to characterize it. Kinda like saying Batman offers the Joker asylum at Arkham.

Lived out his days is also suspect. It's perfectly possible the Brits poisoned him or allowed him to die before his time .

Blogger DonReynolds February 20, 2019 12:38 PM  

tublecane wrote:@61- Asylum is an odd way to characterize it. Kinda like saying Batman offers the Joker asylum at Arkham.

Lived out his days is also suspect. It's perfectly possible the Brits poisoned him or allowed him to die before his time .


Napoleon actually DEMANDED asylum of the British ship's captain. So it is not odd in the least to characterize his stay with the British in exactly that way.

Napoleon was trying to escape from France to the United States by ship, but all of the harbors were blocked by British ships. The invading Prussian military had orders to capture him, dead or alive, so he was fleeing for his life. He had already abdicated his official status, so he was being hunted like a common criminal.

The British would have been entirely justified had they summarily executed Napoleon on board ship, especially once out at sea. They could have tried him for any number of war crimes or crimes against humanity. They could have turned him over to the Spanish or the Prussians to slack their own thirst for revenge, but they did not.

As for Napoleon's death, there has always been considerable speculation that he was poisoned, which may or may not be true. Based on autopsy by his own French attending physician, he died of stomach cancer...and had been suffering acute stomach pain anytime he ate for years. Unknown at the time of the autopsy, was the fact that his own father had also died of stomach cancer.

Blogger tublecane February 20, 2019 1:04 PM  

@63- Generally nations don't grant asylum in terms that give you a life sentence and garrison of soldiers to guard you. True, he was fleeing a "wanted: dead or alive" situation, but he only went with the Brits be a as you say they were blockading the ports. Which is like submitting to arrest from one guy because you know another, scarier guy is coming for you.

I don't know a great deal about international law during that time, but I know there was no conception of crimes against humanity. Napoleon presented a problem, first because he represented a threat to all the crowned heads of Europe. But more importantly because he had made himself into a sort of supervillain after his return from Elba and the 100 Days. No one wanted him to rise again.

At the same time, he was treated remarkably shabbily for a man of his stature. And history would have judged Britain even worse had she put him in the gallows.

Nowadays we consign losing heads of state to whatever ghastly, cruel, or kind fate we like, based on whim. But they were more civilized.

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