Bonaparte Only Stans 5' 6"

Hmm, I’m not sure that “reckless aggressiveness” is how most military historians would describe Napoleon’s victories (or his defeats, really). I understand the larger point about his aggression and hubris being his ultimate downfall, that much is beyond dispute.

I think Marengo is a good early example of the organizational skill and flexibility that marked most of his most famous battles; he took a downtrodden, backwater French army in 1799 and drastically reformed its tactics and morale to emphasize mobility and discipline while also reforming its supply system to actually get food in his soldiers’ bellies and shoes on their feet.

Although he was initially deceived about the order of battle and was overly dismissive of the Austrian’s ability to attack, when he realized his error he was able to retain control and counter-attack with superior movement, destroying the superior Austrian force.

Austerlitz is the other most obvious example of the tactical genius Napoleon was able to employ, and “reckless aggression” would not be at the top of anyone description of Napoleon’s tactics there. (Robert Goetz’s book about the battle and the destruction of the 3rd coalition is really fantastic if you’re interested)

Along with the uncommon flexibility in command, I’d also point to his ability to recognize and promote talented subordinates, as well as giving them the autonomy to thrive. There may be some examples of subordinate commanders as effective as Marshals Davout, Lannes, and Suchet, but that list is short. That kind of ability to manage talent is far different than merely being willing to smash things and violate norms.

With all due respect, I don’t see a lot of examination of the facts of Napoleon going on at the moment, just some pretty generalized statements of historical philosophy. To be fair, you earlier used the description of “starting a war on an unprepared enemy” to dismiss my reference to Napoleon’s gift of strategy, which I don’t think displays an abundance of familiarity with the “real history” at issue.

1 Like

He was a true genius. I hope the movie explores this.




Oooh; good one!


It must be good if has a horse on it.


Although, it’s not a moral judgment to acknowledge he most definitely was a strategic and tactical genius, on par with Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar.

His ability to maneuver and control the Grande Armée is difficult to comprehend even now, and there’s a reason war colleges still teach about Austerlitz and Ulm. And, to be fair, about 1812 as well.


Certainly I don’t think I’ve ever heard a military historian praise Hitler’s strategic genius – some Nazi generals yes, but the Führer himself no. And any compliments to Putin seem to be pure authoritarian propaganda.

But then while Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon all win battles against impossible odds, they also all take completely unnecessary risks, and lots of their own men were lost because of them. Culminating as mentioned in the loss of an entire army in Russia. That isn’t usually factored into their traditional ranking as geniuses…but maybe it should be?

That’s of course before you get to Mindy’s point, which is that their great achievements were for themselves, at the expense of everyone else. We don’t usually celebrate the genius of serial killers…maybe parallel killers shouldn’t be so different.


I definitely wouldn’t put Hitler on any list of tactical or strategic brilliance, of course, but I did think Downfall was an incredible movie and Kershaw’s biography was fascinating to read. (A political genius, yes, but again, that’s not a moral judgment. Stalin would be in that category as well.) Who is putting Putin in any of these categories, though?

Having not seen the movie, I don’t know whether it is a “celebration” of Napoleon or not and don’t have an opinion on that. I don’t think it’s at all impossible to recognize the true cost of “Great” leaders’ ambitions in blood and destruction while telling the story, but I suppose we’ll see if Scott is up to it. I’m a bit partial to this period of history (if the name didn’t give that away) and I think the tension between the brutality and enlightenment as the old world was giving way to something new is endlessly fascinating. To me, at least, ymmv.


Great terminology there.


Thanks! I stole it from a dark joke in Schlock Mercenary.


You are, of course, free to care or not care about any historical figure, just as I am free to be interested or not interested in the same. I was merely pushing back on the suggestion that Napoleon’s historical reputation for strategic genius was not warranted.

I certainly hope that Scott tells the more interesting story that is closer to the truth than making him a romantic anti-hero, but I suppose we’ll see.

It seems that you’re conflating the moral component with the question of political skill, which I don’t agree with. Stalin and Hitler were two of the 20th century’s most skilled politicians, while also being monsters who brought about tens of millions of deaths and incomprehensible destruction. These concepts are only incompatible by choice.

To use another example from history, would you agree that Genghis Khan was a political and military genius? I would argue that he was every bit the instrument of destruction that any of these other more modern tyrants were, but he was also supremely talented.


Let me point out that you replied to me, in order to “correct” my views on Napoleon, that I should consider him a “strategic genius”…

No, I’m not. Hitler and other fascists practiced bullying via politics. That’s not “genius” that’s just using violence to get what you want.


They weren’t at all clever, they were ruthless. The two are not related. This is like calling Cain the most skilled politician of his time, because he murdered Abel over some barbecue instead of the other way around.


You disapprove of their methodology, which any sane, reasonable, and decent person does. We apparently disagree whether the moral component can (or even should) be separated from considering someone a military or political genius, which is fine.

Or, it might be like recognizing that two people who rose to wield absolute power in two of the 20th century’s most powerful states were very, very skilled in doing so. Their skills were monstrous, but we return the above question.

1 Like

No, it can not.

But over and above that, I don’t find “bullying” to be particularly “smart” practiced by an individual or by political parties. Winning is not evidence of brilliance, not when it comes from the barrel of a gun.

Meme Reaction GIF by Robert E Blackmon

More just willing to use force. Again, I’d argue it shows a lack of intelligence.


How very magnanimous of you.

The devil can afford to pay very well; you don’t need to be a volunteer ‘advocate.’

Well, when all your posts herein have that exact same needlessly condescending tone, that tends to happen.


I edited my post because I regret the tone. I disagree with you conclusion, and that’s ok.

1 Like

So this is the key myth behind fascism, that it takes some special skill. It doesn’t. Breaking things does not require any special genius, and once things are shattered, a battle royale will always have some winner – and it tends to be the biggest thug.

I mean, what makes these people geniuses? Stalin murdering his adversaries counts more than the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact somehow? Hitler died in a bunker with all his “accomplishments” torn down around him, but that’s just something that happens to political geniuses sometimes?


As a maker, and as an artist, I can definitively say that it takes way more skill and talent to create than it does to destroy; fucking shit up is easy, that’s why so many discontented people (also known as haters) do it, constantly.


I’ll admit I don’t follow this.

There may be some confusion about what being a skilled politician means in this context. It does not mean that one is free from fatal hubris or all bad (even catastrophic) judgment (much less morality).

I would be interested in your answer to my question above re: Genghis Khan, though. Do you think it’s reasonable to consider him a political and/or military genius, even though he wrought more destruction than all but a small handful of human beings?