Eagle Nests And Sheeple Stalls

Grand strategy as a discipline is the study of power and how to get it. It is not about deconstructing power, attacking power structures or subverting hierarchies – although all of these can be skills a young eagle needs.

Published on: March 31, 2012
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  • Quotes from Chairman Mead (my thoughts to follow):

    “Napoleon strikes me as a pivotal figure in strategic history whose rise and fall have much to teach”

    “to help them grasp the sheer greatness and audacity of the man. They have to feel his accomplishment:

    “The most important thing about the young Napoleon that students need to appreciate is the intensity of his ambition and the will and the intelligence he brought to the task of fulfilling it.”

    “For many of my students, this is the first class they’ve taken in which they’ve been encouraged to think seriously about the nature of their ambitions and how to achieve them”

    “Throughout the millennia teachers have assumed that getting and keeping power was one of the chief reasons that students came to their classes.”

    “I would hope my students would be as good at reading people as an accomplished scam artist”

    “the goal of the class is to teach students to acquire, hold and use power in society at large?”

    “An education, among other things, should help you become adept at the power game. Few things are as deeply human as the drive for power, and ambition remains one of the great drivers of any society. Getting away from that reality and providing courses that aren’t grounded in helping young people achieve the fame, glory and power that it is natural for them to seek is getting away from an essential and vital part of the educational process.”

    ” if we had the same ratio of eagles to sheeple that Rome and Athens did our social order might burst apart under the stress of all that ambition.”

    “Perhaps Frank Fukuyama is right, and the end of history both demands and creates a race of sheeple (“last men” in Nietzsche’s phrase) to staff and uphold it.”

    “Eagles don’t make good pets.”

    “They are carnivores not vegans, they like winning more than they like sharing, and they see bureaucrats as obstacles to be circumvented and tools to be used rather than as serious and thoughtful professionals guiding mankind toward a higher path.

    They are, in other words, insufferable — and perhaps especially so when young and still unformed. But we need them.”

    “Grand strategy as a discipline is the study of power and how to get it”

    Let’s get a few things out of the way at the start. First, Napoleon was a sociopath. He had no moral conscience, no sympathy for his fellow human beings. In this he was like Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao.

    Second, as a general his two strengths (neither of which Mead mentions) were speed of march and the loyalty of his troops, whom he got down with. In this he was like Julius Caesar and, yes, Andrew Jackson. He surprised his enemies and inspired his troops.

    Third, he was not without wit and charm, wit especially. His bon mots are legion. How Mead got this wrong is beyond me.

    Fourth, he was the inspiration of Nietzsche and as such, the father of modern nihilism. His attitude towards people was the supremely time-tested aristocratic one: they were like domestic animals, to be used, scorned, and forgotten. It is hard to imagine a less democratic world-view. Hard to believe self-described Christian Mead is offering him as a model of human behavior to his ambitious students. You can’t love God and Mammon.

    If you want to find a model hero try Lincoln. I frankly find this post morally disgusting.

  • John Burke

    I think Luke Lea is off the deep end here. To the best of my knowledge, Napolean did not employ military or political power deliberately to murder millions of people. He was certainly not one of my favorites of history and I think we are all better off that he met his Waterloo, but the impact of his quest for power was undeniably enormous on Europe and the world. One should study him in any course on “grand strategy” as one might study Alexander, Caesar, Ghengis Kahn, Frederick the Great, Bismarck, and Churchill or for that metter, Lincoln and Washington — not to mention a couple of dozen other major figures if the past two millenia or so.

  • Matthew Brotchie
  • Mrs. Davis

    Agree with you, Luke, about Boney. But I read the essay as less about him than Mark Hopkins meets Metternich. And the indefatigable desire of the Northeastern professoriate since Cotton Mather to create the next generation’s elite. That is a large part of why they don’t like Hayek. He speaks to the wisdom of letting people lead their own lives instead of detesting life by being led by their betters.

  • Pete Dellas

    Can anyone see the good characteristics in a man without necessarily seeing the man as an evil to never be studied? Are there no notable characteristics in even Hitler? Or, must we always discard as anathema anyone who is ultimately deemed so by history?

    I don’t see this as Mead using Napolean as a role model to morally emulate as much as I see him pointing out the certain qualities of a man that brought him his successes.

    Theologically, the doctrine of privatio boni implies that even Satan himself still has something good in him in that he still exists since evil cannot exist by itself but is rather a privation. That is, if we adhere to the Christian belief that God alone is the cause of all that is.

    Good post Professor Mead, as usual.

  • Roey

    Alexander cried when he heard Anaxarchus talk about the infinite number of worlds in the universe. One of Alexander’s friends asked him what was the matter, and he replied: “There are so many worlds, and I have not yet conquered even one.”

  • Chase

    Napoleonic audacity has been replaced by the SAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT and etc. Flattery and maneuvering don’t count if you don’t have the standardized test scores to get into the game. It’s worth noting that most of the great entrepreneurs of our time – Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, etc. – had the scores to get into the great schools that they eventually dropped out of.

    Without a good score, future Napoleon imitators won’t get into one of the service academies. The very wealthy and/or well connected are of course exempted from this rule of thumb – e.g. both Bushs, Kerry, and Gore.

  • John Alsina

    I disagree concerning the relative social value of eagles and “sheeple.” There is no such thing as an effective leader without competent, dedicated, self-sacrificing followers. Who would remember Jesus without the apostles or Caesar without his legions?

    Teaching students about history’s powerful leaders is perfectly legitimate, of course, but it should be done with care. Like pornography, the stories of great leaders can be exciting to think about, but actual attempts to follow in their footsteps are likely to end badly. The inconvenient truth is that most eagles were, or eventually became sociopaths. Even those we think of as exceptions, like Lincoln, Churchill, and Gandhi, left trails of corpses behind them.

    As a Frenchman, I can state that nothing is more frustrating than attempting to work in a society where every man Jacques considers himself a latter-day Napoleon entitled to color outside the lines and be obeyed by others, and cannot fathom that since everyone else feels the same way, nothing can possibly get done.

    Premature outside-the-line-itis and its consequences can be witnessed today in Washington, DC. Confident of his talents and destiny, a young leader believes he is entitled to make recess appointments when Congress is not in recess, use budget reconciliation to pass a non-budget bill, force involuntary contracts on citizens, and make Catholic clergy choose between going to Hell for facilitating abortion, or going to Hell for failing to minister to the poor and sick. After all, what is the Constitution if not lines, and are not great men entitled to color outside them? Clearly, one can believe one is a Napoleon without having Napoleon’s intelligence, industry, and luck. Just compare Obama’s accomplishments in his first three years to Napoleon’s, and you’ll see what I mean. And let’s not forget, even Napoleon had his Moscow and his Waterloo.

    As a young man, Josef Hoffman, the finest pianist of his generation, was privileged to be the only private student of Anton Rubinstein, the finest pianist of his. One day he ignored the master’s instructions and instead took the liberty of trying to imitate his style. When reprimanded by Rubinstein, Hoffman had the impertinence to ask “Why must I follow these rules when you don’t?” To which the master replied “When you have finished your studies you will be free to play as I do – if you can.”

    I wish WRM well with his course in eagle science, but I hope it is offered as an elective with prerequisites that include mastery of the basic skills of sheepledom. That includes learning where the lines are, and why, and how to color inside them.

  • Kris

    Luke, would you agree that Napoleon was no worse morally than Alexander or Julius Caesar?

    As to considering Lincoln a hero…

    Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

    In other words, “I’ll pursue this war until the other side surrenders, and if this means a veritable bloodbath, oh well.”

    (Note: I highly respect Lincoln. But I doubt Virgil Caine would buy our distinctions.)

  • Gene

    I would give quite a lot to sit in on your class discussions about Napoleon.

  • Anthony

    WRM, Napoleon’s trajectory coincides with both revolutionary France and its development of a powerful army as a consequence of nationalism (Nation in Arms)- Napoleon definitely organized a more qualitative army power vis-a-vis his rivals up to 1815 in continental Europe.

    Yet WRM, at one level essay brings to mind both Harvard Business School and Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene – survival machine)in this manner: “Do students want power, influence and wealth enough to work and scheme for them…What does success look like and how is it assessed….I’m trying to encourage my grand strategy students to hone their people reading and people pleasing skills….When paradigms need to shift, there is no point in teaching students to conform to the intellectual and occupational patterns that have already been established around them. They need to explore, to challenge and to dare….” Is it only about learning to fly…

    Similarly WRM, the Napoleon synopsis undergirding essay’s grand strategy motif superimposed on blue model transformations and model’s effects on young Americans leads me to conclude your use of grand strategy as a discipline in the study of power and how to get it is to teach future young leaders how to imaginatively as well as effectively utilize Napoleon and ways of power as part of comprehensive plan of action (going forward) in changing world – means to some indefinite end. Nevertheless, Eagle Nests And Sheeple Stalls is intriguing read.

  • Gary L

    This passage from a 1968 tome titled General Systems Theory by Karl Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1901-1972), the founder of General Systems Theory (the grad school I attended was bigtime into GST, but not so much as to refer its students to actually read anything written by KL v B):

    [Let us refer to the] concept of nomothetic” method in science and “idiographic” method in history. While science to greater of less extent can establish `laws’ for natural events, history, concerned human events of enormous complexity in causes and outcome and presumably determined by free decisions of individuals, can only describe, more or less satisfactorily, what has happened in the past.

    …..For example, the Dutch historian, Peter Geyl….wrote a brilliant book about Napoleon (1949), amounting to the result that there are a dozen or so different interpretations – we may safely say, models – of Napoleon’s character and career within academic history, all based upon “fact” (the Napoleanic period happens to be one of the best documented) and all flatly contradicting each other. Roughly speaking, they range from Napoleon as the brutal tyrant and egotistic enemy of human freedom to Napoleon the wise planner of a unified Europe; and if one is a Napoleonic student (as the present writer happens to be in a small way), one can easily produce some original documents refuting misconceptions occurring even in generally accepted, standard histories. You cannot have it both ways. If even a figure like Napoleon, not very remote in tie and with the best of historical documentation, can be interpreted contrarily, you cannot well blame the ‘philosophers of history’ for their intuitive procedure, subjective bias, etc., when they deal with the enormous phenomenon of universal history. What you have in both cases is a conceptual model which always will represent certain aspects only, and for this reason will be one-sided or even lopsided. Hence the construction of conceptual models in history is not only permissible but, as a matter of fact, is at the basis of any historical interpretation as distinguished from mere enumeration of data – i.e., chronicle or annals.

  • Kenny

    The eagle is a scavenger. Hawks are the preeminent predators of bird-land.

    As for the sheeple, isn’t turning Americans into them what John Dewey’s public schools are all about? Yes it is; yes it is.

    But even so, Americas has not been castrated to the degree the pitiful Europeans have. (Thank you 2nd Amendment.)

    Maybe the Napoleonic influence you cite in Europe today, Mr. Mead, is not all that conducive to developing free men in the long run.

    You might want to explore that thought with your kiddies.

  • Gary L

    Abel Gance’s 1926 Napoleon has a plethora of spectacular scenes, but this is perhaps its greatest: we cut away from the teenage Napoleon in Corsica circa 1780 to Paris 1792 with the French Revolution in full bloom. As Danton, Marat and Robispierre meet at the Club of the Cordeliers, a young captain by the name of Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle steps forward to introduce a new song he has written. Danton agrees to let de Lisle present his song to the assemblage. As de Lisle begins singing, sheet music is distributed to the crowd, and soon everyone is belting out this new anthem with frenzied patriotic fervor. A silhouetted figure steps toward Captain de Lisle – “Your song will do more for our Revolution than a 1000 cannons” the silhouette declares. “To whom may I thank for this gracious compliment?” asks de Lisle. Stepping out from the shadows, the actor Albert Dieudonné intoduces himself as “Napoleon Buonaparte.”

    The song is of course Le Marsailles – we’ve all thrilled to Paul Henreid and company belting it out in Casablanca, but Gance’s rendition – which I cannot, alas, find online – is even more electrifying…..

  • Aron Matskin

    There is not mention in your essay how many deaths Buonaparte was responsible for.

  • Jeremy, Alabama

    Your point about Napoleon starting from nothing is well-taken. However, I have always had higher regard for Wellington’s military qualities.

  • Very much enjoyed the perspectives, including the compare and contract implied with George Washington.

    Though I am surprised that kids these days know so little about Napoleon.

  • WigWag

    “They have to feel his accomplishment: how a poor young man from Corsica, who didn’t speak French well, wasn’t particularly handsome or witty or charming, who had no connections with the powerful and the rich made himself master first of France and then of half the world” (Walter Russell Mead)

    Speaking of grand strategy, it would be interesting to know why the nationalism and chauvinism of the type exhibited by Napolean so often seems to have it’s genesis in their peripheries. Napoleon was Corsican, Alexander was Macedonian, Stalin was Georgian, Hitler was from a small town in Austria and Tito was Slavonian.

  • Professor Mead is right on target regarding ambition. The French novelist Anatole France commented that Napoleon thought like every captain in the army but he thought it with unprecedented force.

  • Laura


    I couldn’t agree with you more, that Napoleon was a sociopath, and virtually everyone who supported him ultimately was worse off for doing so. BUT, that’s the best argument for studying him in great detail. His traits are inborn in every human, to some extent, and present in dominating degree to many in our society today (like every other society there has ever been or will be). At a bare minimum, an educated person should understand, thoroughly and completely, the lengths that such persons will go to in order to achieve their goals and the range of techniques they will use to recruit willing (even eager) assistants.

    I’d wager that people who do have that understanding will look quite differently on, say, the best approach to Ahmadinejad/Khamenei’s Iran, or Fannie/Freddie, or the environmental movement, or regulation of the internet, among many other topics.

    Even better if they realize how the means chosen can take over and pervert the ends, in their own actions and in those of the people around them.

    Likewise, it is a key point that every human being should be ambitious about achieving the pinnacle of success; the personal definition of success is the difference between amorality and greatness. Witness, for example, St. Paul urging Christians to strive for personal salvation as hard as athletes strive for victory in the Olympics. Ambition in a good cause is the only way to actually achieve a good end in society and in one’s personal life. Thinking hard about what you want to spend yourself on at the beginning of your adult life, rather than squandering yourself on flashy immediates and then regretting it once time has run out for you, is the best possible thing that a young person could do.

  • Mrs. Davis

    Gene, Try this.

  • @ 21 Laura,

    Yes, of course, I agree with you. We should study Napoleon for the same reason we should study Lenin and Hitler. What I object to is Mead’s incipient hero worship and the insinuation that students should study him as a model to follow. No doubt he will deny that in his next post. But look at the quotes.

    Again, if you want to learn the lessons of leadership in a modern democracy look to Lincoln as the supreme example. He was equal in ambition, a psychologist of others, not a cynic exactly but a subtle strategist, a logician of the law (Cooper’s Union Address). No one envied him, a major achievement in itself. His humanity was profound, his rhetoric unmatched, his example inspiring. The greatest modern man.

  • I was particularly disturbed by Mead’s definition of what is obviously his principal interest: ““Grand strategy as a discipline is the study of power and how to get it.”

    In the first place grand strategy (or the “Great Game” as he likes to call it) is not or should not be about how to achieve and hold personal power. We don’t need another Machiavelli.

    Grand strategy, for us, should be about states not individuals. In particular democratic states, liberal democracies. It should be how to perpetuate and spread liberal institutions in a half-converted world. Right now our biggest challenge is China and people like Mead don’t seem to grasp it except in military terms, as a problem of containment. It is the internal structure of China that demands to be changed.

  • And of course we don’t want to undermine our own society in the process of engaging with China. Short-term corporate profits are no way to design a foreign policy.

  • Our trade with China should be limited, conditional, and we should take measures to reverse the redistribution of income caused by it. That takes state intervention for all you foolish libertarians out there.

  • MarkE

    I think the lesson that Meade meant to teach is that we are coming up on a big paradigm shift. This kind of change leads to danger and opportunity (think Chinese ideogram). This will challenge both managerial leaders and necessitate charismatic leaders. Be warned youth of America!
    During the Revolt of the Sections in 1795 in Paris Napoleon was willing to fire grape shot at the rabble and the National Guard. He formed an effective modern army based on channeling the empowering democratic liberation of his soldiers at a time when neighboring powers were plotting to take advantage of the apparent chaos, confusion, and failure in Jacobin France. The rest is Continental history.
    Another more Anglo-American paradigm shifter was Oliver Cromwell. Not as glamorous as Napoleon, but ultimately equally successful. By seizing power from the crown then refusing to accept hereditary power he allowed the British to eventually proceed to a Parliamentary dominated democracy. The rest is Anglo-American history.

  • With China numbers swamp everything. Comparative advantage becomes comparative disadvantage.

  • China’s red model is undermining America’s blue model. That is a big part of the story.

  • Eric from Texas

    At the risk of starting another round of controversy, I think an interesting life/career trjectory for WRM’s students would be to study Sarah Palin.

    She has been one of the best self-made politician /political figures in my lifetime, and I challenge you to find another with the combination of personal stength and ambition in the face of electoral defeat, incredible pushback from her foes and the MSM.

    Too many people have gotten caught up on whether she was qualified to be President in 2008 (she wasn’t, but then neither was Obama) and the Left’s attempt to use her and her family as the modern equivalent of the detestable “pollack” jokes of my youth to see the “eagle” qualities that WRM is highlighting with Napolean.

    Ms. Palin rose through the ranks in Alaskan politics as a reformer, taking on pols in her own party, was thrown into the national political scene under the more stressful of circumstances (like putting a talented AA pitching prospect as a starter of the second game of the World Series), and was subjected to press scrutiny that would have put most politicians into a fetal position sucking their thumbs.

    After the 2008 election, using Facebook, she became the unofficial leader of the opposition to the overwhelming Dem. Congress and was one of the first politicians to see the rise and strength of the Tea Party movement. No politician did more to turn the Republican’s fortunes around, even if, as a sharp politician does, “found a parade, put herself in front of it, and acted as if she were leading it.”

    The advantage of studying her career path would be to put a person to whom WRM’s students would know, during their own lifetime’s. And whatever her faults, she can’t be accused of being responsible for the death and destruction the great men of history have wrought.

  • Sam

    I have to disagree with you Luke, just on the basis that any leader of a great nation during a time of war could be considered a sociopath. I’m no American Civil War scholar, but weren’t some of those battles the bloodiest in the world up to that point? By that reasoning, Lincoln himself is as much as a sociopath as Napoleon. Also, there are many conflicting factual views of Napoleon, as mentioned previously. To label him as a sociopath is to see only one side of Napoleon. Certainly he is more complex than that. And on the topic of grand strategy, why should it be limited to liberal democracies? There are more examples of those using grand strategy in order to perpetuate something other than a democracy, to the point that one cannot base their “model” entirely on men like Lincoln. You would need men like Napoleon to use as examples.

  • peter38a

    Dr. Mead,

    I find Napoleon an astonishing choice to teach as a person who would instruct a life. First, you do not give, at least in your essay any substantives that I would care or would care to have my children embrace or for that matter, anyone’s children embrace.

    The abilities with peers that you relate used to be called “manipulative behavior,” has that changed? Someone mentioned in comments that he wasn’t a mass murderer but can anyone believe that if he had the means and thought “they” were in his way that he would have held back? He did have the equivalent of secret police that did all the secret stuff of which the job description has ever known and performed by all accounts with the usual enthusiasm.

    As far as generalship one might note that as his enemies caught on to his methods he became progressively less successful. Nor was he as great a general as Alexander who marched farther, fought greater odds and… and forbade his men rape and in a few instances put women in the prime power positions in cities he had captured. In the latter case long before that seemed like a good idea and I must admit I still wonder about it today. LOL

    Nor was he even close to the greatest general in history: George Washington. As I think you know, war is about politics and fighting is merely a symptom of war; it is first, last and always political. Which means, just for example, that the Japanese never won a single battle in WWII. Washington’s political end product was the First New Nation conceived in liberty. And I might add he alone in the history of the world as the commander of a successful revolution stepped down from power voluntarily.

    You mention Napoleon’s humble beginnings. May I suggest Socrates’ humble middle class background? But they part company there. They both, as do all humans, had will to power. But to what end power; I’ll suggest control? But to control what? With Socrates sovereignty resided in the individual with control being directed at self, the goal, being the best path to happiness. And I will argue there is no other goal than happiness for a human life. Where does sovereignty lie with Napoleon and to who’s end? A rhetorical question.

    And as far as some of the uses of power and possible paths a young person might take, mentioned or implied in your essay, must I remind you that, “For what does it profit a man to gaineth the whole world but looseth his own soul.” Sorry, not being a Christian, well ok a little bit, I’ve always had trouble spelling that “gaineth and looseth” stuff.

    I will allow that Nappy and I do have one thing in common; we both like stinky women, oh my, oh my! LOL

  • Montjoie

    “One doesn’t want to end like Napoleon, but one could do much worse than begin as he did.” Which, of course, will lead to the same ending. That’s sort of the problem, isn’t it? It’s called human nature. There’s a little tome in the western tradition, a “Book,” I think it’s called, that spells this out. Anyway, I can’t believe any serious mind uses the word “sheeple.” Sheesh.

  • @ Sam “To label him as a sociopath is to see only one side of Napoleon. Certainly he is more complex than that.”

    Who says sociopaths cannot be complex? What they lack is conscience, empathy. It is a neurological condition you are born with, unrelated to intelligence or talent or a lot of other things. Sociopaths are often charming yet manipulative: they understand what they ought to feel and how other people feel, they just don’t feel it themselves, though they can fake it. There is a whole website written by and for sociopaths called sociopath world. It’s worth reading.

  • ams

    A repost of my response to this article by way of another blog:

    Any classical liberal/libertarian should look at these sort of charismatic tyrants as their mortal enemies. Magnificent bastards, but bastards. It’s important to understand them, but it’s also important to avoid falling for their glamour.

    More people like Napoleon is exactly what the world *doesn’t* need. I fear we’re only one or two of these guys away from WWIII, American society has a critical lack of respect for individual liberty, and a longing for some overarching goal being given to them, and forced on their neighbors, longings that these sort of people live to fulfill.

    We need inventors, we need industrialists, explorers, entrepreneurs, all people who are very different from Napoleon types. All people who are dismissed as sheeple and pawns in the minds of these people and their henchmen. If someone’s concept of the world is that of expendable raw material for some narcissist’s vision, they’re no friend of men like me.

    Was Einstein a pawn? Was the life of Edison expendable? Would civilization have been greater had he been conscripted and subsumed into the schemes of a political visionary? Did the Wright Brothers have too much undirected time on their hands? Did they need someone to give their lives a greater purpose?

    The only greatness that someone like Napoleon can achieve is that of aggrandizing political power for himself, building some empire by the sacrifice of his people. It is destructive to the type of greatness that all other men could achieve if they were left alone as the masters of their own lives.

  • Jim.

    “We need them”

    Yes, but what do we need them for?

    Near the end of a long essay is a tough place to develop a new thought, but from the looks of the comments, this could have used more than bare assertion.

    Could we have another essay defending your assertion that dynamic characters are critical to history? Do these characters have to be so overwhelming as Napoleon, or the first two Caesars, or Ghengis Kahn? Are you looking for Edisons or Beethovens as well? What about a Howard Hughes or Elon Musk? What about cautionary tales like Wernher von Braun? I Aim for the Stars!… but sometimes I hit London.

    A few more words (not including the word “whether”) about what scruples should be taken into account might be helpful too.

    Teaching kids what it takes to realize their ambitions is a worthy effort; too many kids today are setting their sights far too close to the horizon, and settling for the dull effort of shuffling resources around so that everyone’s caesar salad has the same number and quality of croutons. The very dullness of that effort makes novel charismatics more enthralling when they do come around. Having a healthy crop of them, on the other hand, can energize and inspire all of our vocations.

    If that’s what you were getting at, the point didn’t come across. Could you elaborate?

  • Kris

    [email protected]: It should indeed be uncontroversial that Washington is a much better role model. On the other hand, it is dubious that Alexander was a greater general than Napoleon, and it is truly fantastic to claim that Alexander holds the moral upper ground.

    [email protected]: While they might have funneled their efforts in more positive directions, are Edison or Steve Jobs significantly different personality types than Napoleon? And once again, can we please remember that Napoleon was more than a great general, and that a good argument can be made that in the Europe of his day, he was a positive force?

  • Vilmos

    > Restless intellectuals can spend their
    > tenured lives debating the fine points
    > and arcana of recondite disciplines
    > without in any way inconveniencing the
    > social order.

    I also had this thought for a long time that one important aspect of the universities is to warehouse smart (but reckless or not too intelligent) people away from the rest of the society. They can mess there, but they should do it in the wider society. When these people break out, they can create an immense mess like social engineering.


  • Hardy

    I have to admit I was left confused and a bit troubled by this piece.

    There is no doubt that Napoleon changed the very face of Europe and the world, and, to study and understand the how and why is fine, but, to study his tactics and methods in order to emulate and learn how to acquire power and influence Napoleonic style?

    Ambition unmitigated by moral inhibition is not something I would encourage the young to study in order to emulate or apply to their own lives. As others have already stated, we are already drowning in an ocean of leaders who have embraced that approach.
    Why would we wish to encourage more of the same? We have no shortage of ruthless, lying, ambitious people who have acquired power at the expense of moral decency. Who needs more of them?

    I simply feel I must be missing something when I read this piece.

  • Jim.

    More thoughts-

    Strategyh about power and how to get it? What about goals and how to achieve them? Please note the admiration for Wellington, whose self-regard is encapsulated in a single quote… once the Guard was retreating at Waterloo (iirc) Wellington was begged by subordinates to retire from the front lines. His reply is classic — “It doesn’t matter if I die now. The battle’s won.”

    If Mead was going to emphasize the importance of ingratiating one’s self to people, he could have quoted someone more inocuous, like Mike Huckabee– “I need to make ten friends a day, because in a job like this [a governorship], I’m going to be making at least seven enemies.”

    If Mead wants to talk about Will, Nietzsche canbe inspiring; although including the fact that he spent the last ten years of his life as a raving mad syphilitic tempers the message nicely.

    When systems are falling you might not actually want eagles; Chinese historical figure (villain) Cao Cao is famous fulfilling a prophecy about himself, “a talented administrator in times of peace; a wily and ambitious schemer in times of unrest” (or something to that effect; I don’t have my copy of Three Kingdoms handy.) By the way, that whole book is a great treatise on how to attract talent and keep it loyal to you.

  • One good piece of news is that sociopaths are born not made. Thus there is little chance Mead is going to create one. He might encourage one.

  • Ted

    I would suggest the new book “Napoleon and the Art of Diplomacy,” by William Nestor (2011, Savas Beatie LLC), for coverage of both diplomacy and grand strategy. Very insightful.

  • jkñ

    In the movie Desire, he is made a soap opera character.Even he was interpreted by Brando.
    His connection to America in the movies? He rejected Robert Fulton offering of building a subamrine to break the blockade.

    Of course , the best american related anecdote?
    On boarding the ship to Saint Helen: ” Im going but I leave you America and Russia”

  • jkñ

    Anthony Burgess wrote a “Napoleon´s Simphony”. So he has not been ignored in full by anglosaxons.
    Napoleon was a the son of no one that rised by his own effort to power. What wrong with that?
    He broke the iron hand of the church over education
    And chose the best to govern,

  • Our trade with China should be limited, conditional, and we should take measures to reverse the redistribution of income caused by it. That takes state intervention for all you foolish libertarians out there.

    We could always work to make our system more competitive. Lower taxes and fewer regulations would help a lot. You know. The libertarian solution.

    BTW did you see Jim Demint saying the Republican party was not libertarian enough? A link:


  • Tom

    @Peter–31: The Japanese won several battles during WWII–Singapore, Corregidor, and Pearl Harbor, just to start with.

  • Unkown

    [Quote]Other people are not so much stupider than Napoleon than they are lazier and less driven. [/Quote]

  • GBinTN

    I think therefore I own! What could be wrong with that strategy?

    Using human intelligence and behaviour as a guide to intelligence and behaviour is a questionable assumption.

    Humble yourself to your vanity and … think again.

  • Joseph Lammers

    Another man who started with nothing and whose career was similar to Napoleon’s was Adolf Hitler. Hopefully, if we are going to train grand strategists in this manner, they will be a force for good and not evil.

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