"Bush’s Napoleon Complex: What the French experience in Spain could teach us about Iraq" by Gregory Cochran in the March 28th edition of The American Conservative.
No two wars are ever the same any more than you can step on the same banana peel twice. That said, Napoleon’s invasion and occupation of Spain, from 1808 to 1814—the war that gave us the word “guerrilla” and was immortalized in Goya’s “Third of May,” the war that drained France’s army, smashed Napoleon’s reputation for invincibility, and left Spain thrashing like a broken-backed snake for decades—has striking similarities to our invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Both wars started under the influence of similar delusions. Napoleon thought that the Spanish would roll over and play dead as so many other European states had; he thought marching to Madrid and placing his brother Joseph on the throne would complete the subjugation of Spain. We pretty much thought the same: crushing Saddam’s army would be easy; we would then install a pro-American government (Ahmad the Thief) and have most of our Army home by fall.
The invasions went well, as expected, but in each case a tiresome guerrilla war broke out. The French eventually lost over a quarter of a million men in “the Spanish ulcer,” as Napoleon called it, while Iraq has tied down half of the Army and is costing us more than $75 billion a year. What went wrong? As it turns out, Boney and Bush made some of the same mistakes. [Subscribe to The American Conservative]