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March 18, 2005

Something Napoleonic about Bush

Jaithirth Rao, a columnist writing in the Indian Express (Bombay), says there is "Something Napoleonic about Bush."

Reading that headline, one might expect it to be followed -- especially if the source were an American or European newspaper -- by alleged comparisons to unending wars, the retreat from Russia, and possibly even megalomania.

Instead, Mr. Rao discusses the interventions by Napoleon and Bush in the Middle East:

While the biographer of Napoleon may make the Egyptian campaign a footnote, the historian of the Middle East will not. Every one of them will tell you that Napoleon's brief interlude in Egypt marked a major inflexion point in the history of that entire region. It was a military, political and cultural watershed with incalculable consequences to the collective psyche of all inhabitants.
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I would make the argument simply as a matter of historical prophecy that Bush will go down in the same category as Napoleon in terms of his impact not only on the history of the Middle East but also in terms of the analogy that Bush's intervention will be seen by future historians as having similar consequences - creating a discontinuity, establishing an inflexion point.
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The physical presence of the Anglo-American coalition, the worldwide disgust with the horror of totalitarian regimes (the Baathist tyranny being merely the most egregiously sickening one), the exemplary impact of elections where actually the results turned out quite different from what the conquerors might have wanted, the ability and the willingness of the winning armies to punish the sadists among them after open trials while the regimes of the Middle East treat the existence of their own torture-chambers as matters of casual routine, the simple fact that there are a hundred newspapers and a hundred cable channels in the previously monochromatic Iraq — all of these are impacting the psyche of the much-maligned Arab street in ways that we may not be able to discern for a long time. After all, we are too close to the events and do not have the benefit of the telescope of history.

Hat tip: