Possibly the French and British attack on Libya will produce better results than the 1956 Eden-Mollet campaign against Egypt;  however some resemblances exist. President  Sarkozy acted first and rather ferociously, so somebody maliciously hinted that the President  is trying to emulate the napoleonic conquest of Egypt. Out of the innumerable campaigns of the youngest among modern-age generals, the victory in Egypt is the enterprise nearest to Libya.

 In 1797 the 28-year old genius has already triumphed over several sovereigns of Europe, including the Holy Roman Emperor. So Napoleon is given an army to invade Britain, but decides to take Egypt. In  June 1798 the Man from Corsica conquers Malta, in July he subjugates Alexandria and defeats the Mameluk army at the Pyramids. When admiral Nelson destroys the French fleet at Abukir, Napoleon marches against Turkey, enters Syria, does not conquer Saint-Jean d’Acre  and in October 1799 returns to France. In a few months Bonaparte becomes First Consul, in 1802 a plebiscite gives him life tenure as  First Consul (3,577,000 voters, 3,568,000 yes). Two years later Napoleon becomes the Emperor.

I rather feel that the war on Libya shows some similarities to a serious disaster of France, the 1870 war against Prussia, i.e. against the future German Reich. The 1870 act was astonishingly senseless- after 141 years the historians only know of one single reason for the war, a diplomatic slight of Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian head of government, to the French ambassador. To defend her ‘prestige’ France, then the greatest power in Western Europe, declared war. In a few weeks she was disastrously defeated in just one major battle, at Sedan. The humiliation was so bitter that the French nation was ‘condemned’ to seek revenge through a First World War wich killed 1,5 million Frenchmen. Finally in 1940 the German revenge against the French one costed France the most smashing defeat in modern history.

This terrible chain of events began (in 1870) because of a French overreaction to a discourtesy, i.e. to a minor offense. The antecedent facts: a Hohenzollern prince, cousin of the king of Prussia, having been offered the crown of Spain, Paris vetoed the acceptance: The father of the German prince renounced the crown on behalf of his son; the king of Prussia confirmed the renounciation. When the French embassador pressured the king for a more emphatic renounciation, chancellor Bismarck jumped on the matter to entice Paris into a war by denying the French diplomat an extra audience of the King.

The ministers, generals and court gentlemen of the French emperor, Napoleon the Third, promptly fell into the Bismarck trap, so Paris declared war on Prussia on the assumption that the French army was mighty. As we know, the defeat was immediate. It must be clear that France’s public opinion had ardently demanded war.

Today many observers believe that the real motive of the Libyan campaign of Paris is improving Sarkosy’s chances of re-election. If this is true, evidently the French nation is as enamoured of ‘glory’ as she was when she assailed Bismarck. Everybody knows the results of 1870: the emperor fell prisoner ad was deposed; France went republican; a bloody Commune revolution in Paris killed 20 to 30 thousand; Germany unified into a powerful Second Reich. In due time we shall see whether the French voters will reward Sarkosy’s undertaking.

Was David Cameron, the British premier, moved by a French-type pursuit of ‘grandeur’ in sending the RAF and Navy against Muammar Gaddafi? Perhaps not. We only remember Winston Churchill, a glorious predecessor of Cameron, doing his best to involve his mighty country into WW2.  His much-stated goal was defending the Empire. He won the war but the Empire soon evaporated. Today his proud nation is one of the satellites of the United States -not the most important of them.


da Daily Babel