October 26, 2015

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Is Trump Our Napoleon?

For a decade and a half Napoleon wrecked Europe. He hijacked the platitudes of the French Revolution to mask his own dictatorship at home and imperialism abroad. Yet today, two centuries after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, he remains an icon for many in, and a few outside, France. Why? How could geniuses like the novelists Victor Hugo and Stendhal both acknowledge Napoleon’s pathologies and the damage that he did to the early 19th century European world, and yet enthuse that he made the French feel both politically and morally “great?” Most French even today believe that he did.

Of course, for a while at least, Napoleon really did “make France great again,” at least in terms of territory and power.  At its pinnacle between 1806-11, Imperial France ruled the continent in a way not seen again until the Third Reich’s briefer rule between 1940 and 1942 from the Atlantic Ocean to the Volga River. It threatened to do away with the incompetent and reactionary regimes in every European country and replace them with a supposedly meritocratic class of social reformers, beholden to a natural Napoleonic hierarchy.

Moreover, Napoleon’s own political agenda was a mishmash of conservative authoritarianism and populist social justice. So effective was the strange brew that even to this day scholars fight over whether Napoleon was a proto-Hitler whose unhinged ambitions led to millions of innocent European, Russian, Caribbean and North Africa dead, or was a loyal defender of the French Revolution, whose eleventh-hour iron hand alone kept alive the threatened ideals of fraternity and egalitarianism.

Donald Trump is not going to invade Russia, but he is starting to sound a lot like Bonaparte, well aside from a similarly-narcissistic convergence of America’s future with his own Napoleonic persona.

Though how can Trump be Napoleon, when, at least according to Newsweek, our current one is still in office? And note, much like rival Time magazine comparing Obama to FDR in November of 2008, Newsweek meant this November, 2012 cover to be a compliment:

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