Top 4 Lessons Trump can Learn from Napoleon in Russia

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Trump’s New York Times interview can only be understood, to the extent that it can be understood, as the ramblings of someone suffering from delusions of grandeur. It is rambling, full of non sequiturs, and of bizarre allegations.

Trump said that he regretted appointing Jeff Sessions attorney general, since Sessions went on to recuse himself from the investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election (what with Sessions repeatedly meeting with the Russians and all). Sessions stepping aside that way led the assistant AG to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Trump’s Russia ties. Trump warned the prosecutor, Robert Muller, not to look into his business affairs. But gee if you were investigating Trump’s Russia connection, his business ties would be high on a prosecutor’s list. Don Jr., who has a big mouth, let it be known on the golf course once that the Trumps routinely borrowed large sums from Russian banks.

Trump says that he had told French President Emmanuel Macron that Napoleon Bonaparte had been a failure, but that Macron demurred, saying he designed modern Paris. Actually that was Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann who designed modern Paris, at the order of Emperor Napoleon III, and one suspects that Macron must have gotten mixed up about his Napoleons (assuming Trump reported Macron correctly, which cannot be assumed).

Then Trump observed that Napoleon had not ended up so badly (he was exiled to a very remote island after losing at Waterloo to the British).

And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather [garbled]?”

Napoleon’s Jeff Sessions was Charles Talleyrand. Talleyrand thought it was wiser to consolidate French conquests and to make peace with, e.g., Austria than to go on dangerously extending the imperial army. He was against Napoleon’s plan to invade Russia and had to step down in 1807. He later conspired against Napoleon, and played a role in the peace settlement when Napoleon was overthrown, leading to his exile.

Actually I wrote a book about one of Bonaparte’s invasions (of Egypt, not of Russia).

I can attest that Bonaparte had an affair(probably what Trump meant by extracurricular activities) while in Cairo, with the wife of a junior officer, something that embarrassed his stepson, Eugene de Beauharnais, who was forced to ride behind the adulterous carriage. Eugene was being overly sensitive, since his mother Josephine usually had at least a couple of affairs going on, herself.

Perhaps Trump is projecting on Napoleon his own extracurricular activities in Moscow, though I couldn’t tell you if Napoleon liked golden showers. I doubt it, since the biographers say he was sensitive to smells and was attracted to women who smelled good to him.

However, I can assure Mr. Trump that Bonaparte would never have let some mere p-grabbing interfere with his duties as a leader on the battlefield and that he did go to Moscow and wasn’t delayed in Paris by a dalliance. Unlike some people, he wouldn’t have had time to go off to a hotel with some ladies of the night while he was supposed to be staging a major operation.

Trump is right that Napoleon’s army was in part defeated by the Moscow winter. Note though that winters were colder and harsher then since that was before human beings spewed so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that they changed the climate.

In fact this is Charles Joseph Minard’s famous attempt to visualize the Russia campaign. The broad brown lines are the troops that wen to Russia and the thin black ones are those that came back. Temperature is plotted at the bottom.


So to sum up, what can Trump learn from Napoleon, really?

It is dangerous to get bogged down in Moscow.

It is especially dangerous to get bogged down in Moscow with escorts.

You might lead a lot of people on a campaign but if it crashes and burns you might not be able to lead a lot of people after that.

If you dismiss a powerful official, it can come back to bite you in the ass.


Related video:

Late Night with Seth Meyers: “Trump Turns on Sessions Amid Russia Probe: A Closer Look”

21 Responses

  1. As far as I can see Trump seems to going around the world trying to be friendly with everyone, including the Russians The only country his is hostile towards, is Iran and this for no good reason that I can see. I would suggest its the Neocons who are itching to start some kind of military conflict with Russia and bad weather isn’t likely to stop them. Trump does indeed have lots of connections with the Russians which may well be his downfall, but it won’t be for any military ambitions. Maybe Trump has an hotel on the Isle of Elba he can go to if he loses out to Russia gate! LOL

      • I think Putin and Xi would have something to say to – whoever is running Saudi Arabia – when they prepare to wage nuke war with Iran –
        Also the SA forces can’t even subdue a bunch of rebels in Yemen, with more modern armaments than almost any second world country on the planet – good luck invading or attacking Iran…!

    • You need to look more closely. He has been hostile to South Korea, China, and many of the actual democracies of Europe. The only “everyone” he tries to be friendly with are one-man dictatorships (China being run by a group of faceless bureaucrats), but then there aren’t many functioning democracies left.

  2. Given Trump’s shaky acquaintance with of history and his penchant for exaggeration, I doubt very much that Macron didn’t know about Haussmann. More likely that Trump once again made something up to suit his talking points.

  3. It is true that Haussman for Napoleon III did far more building of Paris than anybody else ever, but in fact there was a lot of construction in Paris under Napoleon I. One of the most important things he did was a fundamental infrastructure investment, the sewers, les egouts. While Napoleon III was tops for construction, NB was one of the tops, with few others at his level. Macron was not mistaken in his comment.

  4. From the NYT interview, it is very obvious that our new President places his own personal interests and those of his family far above the actual interests of our country and everyone in it.

    Clearly, Trump and the Rule of Law are mutually exclusive.

  5. My first thought with the talk of “extracurricular” activities is that Trump heard somewhere — the History Channel or something like it — that during the invasion of Russia, Napoleon was unusually distracted, spending a great deal of time with his Polish mistress, Maria Walewska. On the whole, most accounts agree that Bonaparte by 1812 had aged and gotten used to physical comfort, such that the Napoleon of the older campaigns, who used to just wrap himself up in a great coat sitting in a chair for a few hours each night, was no longer around.

    I think this might be what Trump is gesturing at, after having conflated a number of events and compressing the time-scale in his mind (“the night before” doesn’t make sense, it was a six months long campaign).

  6. Whilst bivouacked in the Egyptian desert, Napoleon’s cannon officers practiced by shelling the the recumbent Sphinx, it’s nose missing to this day:

    “Able was I ‘ere I saw Elba” (now read it backwards…
    Neat, eh?

    • That story is an old wives tale.

      The moisture in the soil under the sphinx has for thousands of years seeped up into the stone through a salty layer and this process erodes the stone, hence the nose falling off. Bonaparte brought along scientists and they were very keen to record, not destroy the antiquities. Ordinary soldiers, sometimes inconvenienced by the scientists, took to calling their donkeys “M. Scientist.”

  7. Glad to see one of the best graphic being used to remind what it cost to approach Russia. By the way Joseph Minard gives an example of great communication : “telling a maximum information in a minimum space, understandable by a maximum people in a minimum time ” quote from Mr. Tufte.

  8. I’m surprised to see you continue to accept as legitimate the fabricated and discredited Trump Moscow dossier. Expounding on (fake) golden showers is really beneath the general tone of Informed Comment.

    There’s enough to hammer Trump for (climate change, Goldman Sachs connections) without making up dirty fairy tales.

    • So how do you perceive Trump’s long history of business deals with Russia’s state-capitalists, which may have rescued him from ruin after he had cheated so many Americans? Can you at least consider the possibility that they expected a major favor in return? Or do you subscribe to the belief that America is uniquely evil?

    • geez, that was a satire; I know it is hard a keep a sense of humor in these dark times, but let’s try

    • Strange how you Trump dead enders grasp at the flimsiest of (fake) straws to defend your tangerine tinted leader; the link you referred us to was a breathless and worthless conspiracy site full of delusional allegations of Clinton-Ukraine collusion, fueled, apparently by too many shots of bourbon coupled with too many consecutive hours of Alex Jones, a very bad combination. Speaking of something beneath the general tone of Informed Comment…

    • I think I AM QUALIFIED to speak of hammering, sir!! So you agree Trump is lunatic scum who lies like others breath, BUT you think the Russia Conspiracy is all nonsense- let me tell you as someone who had spent over a decade in the evil Empire and dodged assassins at my aptmt- trap + compromise anyone rich, powerful, famous is WHAT THE RUSSIANS DO! They will find a babe who is a dead ringer for your high school/college crush and throw her at you… but she is 15 yo…. or do some tremendous dirty deal with you… by the time you realize how dirty, the money is in your account and the video in the FSB’s vaults. With serial woman molester/abuser/ pedophile (maybe) Chump it probably didn’t take much work. Steele is a highly respected agent and it all fits with TPD’s pathology – I believe his report implicitly, so when Chump meets secretly w Vlad Vlad, he is getting his marching orders.

  9. Ha ha Juan. First rule of Trump World- there ARE no rules- you are dealing with a mentally ill swine traitor. Even reading his disjointed gibberish can induce vertigo. Second rule: DON’T GO TO MOSCOW (sorry too late, unless my Cameron movie comes out). But really, Frances adventure in Egypt again flooded the Egyptians with more rich cultural Earth, like the Nile itself, wonderful people. Al Sisi and the radical upwelling there is so so sad. I was going to go back w some Univ Arch Dept and unearth some of the 20,000 buried ancient sites, they know where they all are- just don’t have the money to dig them up.

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