Barnett does not explain how a man who never made a good decision dominated Europe for two decades. If Napoleon prevailed time and again despite his bad decisions, what was the quality of his opponents?
Barnett’s Napoleon comes across as an American neoconservative who seeks hegemony via violence and not diplomacy. Napoleon’s diplomatic incapacity lost Spain and Portugal to the English and tied down a huge French army in Spain to no effect.
The British do not like Napoleon because he, like Hitler, constituted a grave threat to Britain’s hegemony over the European continent. But Barnett goes to such length in exposing myths of Napoleon’s capabilities that it removes all the glory of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo.
Actually, Napoleon wasn’t defeated by Wellington at Waterloo. According to another English historian, David Howarth in his 1968 book, Waterloo: Day of Battle, Napoleon was sidelined by an extremely painful bladder infection and could not concentrate for more than 3 minutes at a time. The battle was conducted by Napoleon’s Marshall Ney who did not adhere to Napoleon’s instructions, some have said in an act of treason. It was Ney who defeated Napoleon by committing France’s last reserves just prior to the unexpected return of the Prussians under Blucher, who had been driven from the field the previous day by Napoleon.
Barnett dismisses Napoleon as a tyrant and an egoist. But Napoleon rose from the failure of the French Revolution. When the social structure that upholds a society is destroyed by revolution, the vacuum is filled by whoever can best use power. In the Russian Revolution this was Lenin. In the French Revolution it was Napoleon.
Napoleon became France. He was the government. The inability of his beloved wife Josephine to deliver an heir endangered France, which could fall again into internal strife or to which the Bourbons could be restored by the English. Barnett’s conclusion that Napoleon’s divorce of Josephine was “one of the most selfish and dishonourable actions of his life” is untrue. Napoleon gave up his happiness and life of memories with Josephine in order to produce stability and continuity for the French empire by marrying an Austrian princess who delivered the heir. Of course, it was all for nothing when Napoleon’s willfulness sent him marching off into Russia.
Why am I writing about Napoleon? Because reading Barnett brought to mind that revolutions never achieve their ends. They destroy a civilization. The result is chaos into which power steps and becomes the basis of government.
Unlike the French and Russian revolutions, the so-called American revolution did not overthrow an established order. The American revolutionaries merely evicted the British tax collector and took that role for themselves. The same society and law prevailed. Life went on as usual. It was not a real revolution. British rule ended, but the society was not overthrown.
Today the US is susceptible to revolution. Jobs offshoring has destroyed America’s economic vitality. Living standards are falling, and homelessness is rising. Debt service drains the remaining resources. The country has become racially diverse and divided by Identity Politics.
The white liberal-left segment is alienated from, and critical of, the country’s history which they portray in the most unfavorable light. The result is a loss of confidence on the part of the original white population and growing assertiveness of “oppressed” people of color. White Americans are being margainalized just as were their counterparts in France and Russia. In the US today, there is more weakness than strength in the bonds that make a cohesive society. Today we are experiencing the total failure of enculturation of Western elites in Westerm culture. Among the elites, Cultural Marxism’s march through the institutions has succeeded in destroying the structure of belief that upholds society.
When Louis 16th called the Estates-General in 1789, he did not expect to be beheaded. When Russian liberals pressured the Tsar during WW I for a constitutional republic, they did not understand that they were destroying the structure of belief in the society, much less expect Lenin to be the result. There are always unintended consequences. The folly of America’s white liberals will produce its own unintended consequences.