[lit-ideas] Re: France, a Rogue State in 1801-05

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 14 Aug 2006 06:38:12 -0700


You are going way way beyond the CSpan discussion.  Most of it was about
Napoleon and politics but some of it was about something apparently not in
Kagan's book: the nature of a rogue state.  That Iran and France of the
Napoleonic era were both rogue states says nothing about their relative
potency nor does it assert that Ahmadinejad is to be compared to Napoleon.
No one in the discussion suggested that nor did the tenor of the discussion
imply that.  A rogue state is one that wants to overturn the world order of
the day.  Iran wants it to be Islamist rather than Liberal-Democratic.  That
is not new information.  That Napoleon wanted to do that in his day ought
not to be new information either.

By the way, my original note was intended to be a data point.  I haven't
read Kagan's book and was doing nothing more than reporting my impression of
a book that seemed interesting.  Also, the discussion was interesting in
that it described Napoleon's France as a Rogue state and emphasized the
political situation of the time.  It also discussed the difficulty a rogue
state has in overturning the world order of its day.  Some of this
discussion applied to Kagan's book and some of it developed an incipient
principle about the nature of rogue states.  I said in my note that I was
not agreeing with Kagan because I didn't know enough yet.  I hadn't read his
book.  I now add that it seems equally difficult to disagree with Kagan for
the same reason.  My arguments against Andreas and Simon can be summed up as
that, they haven't read his book.  Why they feel it incumbent upon them to
disprove something they haven't read with extremely inadequate knee-jerk
arguments is beyond me.  The book is abstract and deals with a period long
before our own.  The concept "world order" wasn't originated by Bush.  The
concept "rogue state" wasn't either.  This has thus far been another tempest
in a tea pot.  


-----Original Message-----
From: lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx]
On Behalf Of John McCreery
Sent: Sunday, August 13, 2006 7:50 PM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: France, a Rogue State in 1801-05

On 8/14/06, Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> Kagan has taught at West Point, is considered a distinguished military
> historian

Agreed. So we should take his views seriously. That does not mean,
however, that we take them at face value.

Further, not having read the book, I rely on Bill Kristol's description of

"an integrated study of Napoleon's political diplomatic and military
strategy, an educated history of the Napoleonic Era and educated
diplomatic political and military history."

I note the absence in this description of any mention of population, a
critical factor when military/intelligence analysts move from
speculation about a potential enemy's intentions to the far more
hard-nosed business of assessing capabilities.

For the sake of argument, let us assume that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
shares not only Napoleon's megalomania but also his military genius.
What does he have to work with?

Googling leads me to two useful sources.

For the population of Europe in 1810:

For the the population of the world in

From the first, I obtain the following statistics:

France  38,000,000
Russia  31,400,000
Austria 19,000,000
Great Britain   12,000,000
Spain   10,000,000
Ottoman Empire: Europe  8,000,000
Italy   6,400,000
Naples  6,000,000
Saxony  5,600,000
Prussia 5,000,000
Poland  4,500,000
Bavaria 3,231,573
Denmark 2,400,000
Portugal        2,000,000
Sweden  2,000,000
Switzerland     2,000,000
Westphalia      1,900,000
Holland 1,880,000

These show that, at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, France had the
largest national population in Europe, a population larger than the
combined populations of Austria, Great Britain and Prussia.

From the second source, I obtain the following statistics:

China   1,313,973,713
India   1,095,351,995
United States of America        298,444,215
Indonesia       245,452,739
Brazil  188,078,227
Pakistan        165,803,560
Bangladesh      147,365,352
Russia  142,893,540
Nigeria 131,859,731
Japan   127,463,611
Mexico  107,449,525
Philippines     89,468,677
Vietnam 84,402,966
Germany 82,422,299
Egypt   78,887,007
Ethiopia        74,777,981
Turkey  70,413,958
Iran    68,688,433

Where France was No. 1 in population in 1810, Iran ranks No. 18 in
population in 2006. In 1810, Great Britain faced in France, an enemy
with a population more than three times its own. In 2006, the United
States faces in Iran an enemy with a population less than a third of
its own.

To this we may add, of course, that in 1810, France and its European
enemies were on a par when it came to military technology. Musket,
bayonet and muzzle-loading cannon were pretty much all that anyone
could muster. If we consider industrial base, defense spending, and
advanced military technology, the imbalance between the US and Iran is
far more lopsided than population alone would suggest.

This does not imply that Iran poses no danger. In an era of
asymmetrical warfare and weapons of mass destruction, even a small
nation with forces that see dying for their cause as glorious can do
grievous harm to a larger and better equipped antagonist. It does,
however, suggest that leaping to the conclusion that if  Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad is a Napoleon wannabe, he poses the same level of threat
to us that Napoleon posed to his enemies, the argument has become
far-fetched, as arguments based solely on speculations about
intentions often tend to be when capabilities are considered.

John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN

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