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Tuesday, 31 March 2009
If General Petraeus Had Read "War And Peace"

by Hugh Fitzgerald (April 2009)

Even if you have not read War and Peace, you will likely know that the title alerts the reader to the book’s unusual form: it shifts back and forth from the life of Russians, Bolkonskys and Rostovs and other aristocratic families, and at the moral center of this domestic universe, there stands Pierre Bezukhov, whose questioning inquietude makes him the most sympathetic and interesting of the Russians far from the front, while interspersed are the “War” chapters, the war in question being that brought to Russia by Napoleon, who invaded on June 12, 1812, with his 600,000-man Grande Armee. Less than 40,000 of them would return across the Russian border, back to Western Europe. more>>>
Posted on 03/31/2009 5:47 PM by NER
19 Jan 2015
Hugh Fitzgerald
I have learned my lesson now -- from two different comments,the first a while back, and the second just now from Mr. Groffman. Barclay de Tolly was not of French descent, but Scottish (like Lermontov), and spoke German (but I assume did not consider himself a "Baltic German," baltiiskij nemets). Next time I make a dumb assumption, I'd better double check. Which reminds me -- I'd better wiki-up on Baudouin de Courtenay right now, before I make another such mistake.

19 Jan 2015
Nicolas Groffman
Barclay de Tolly wasn't French. He was Russian and his family had lived in the Russian empire for 150 years. His family were German speakers, and his ancestry was Scots.

21 May 2013
Send an emailNick Obolensky

Or as the Chinese say "Wu wei re zhi" - or "Managing by doing nothing" - an approach formally adopted by the Tang dynesty, one of the most successful ones. Also adopted by one of the most diligent and succesful Emperoro, Kunghxi. Complexity Science explains WHY this works when things are very complex and hard to predict; Complex Adaptive Leadership (see Wikipedia) explains HOW to do it in a way which gets results!

3 Oct 2010

Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly was from Hasnseatic family which was, in its turn, the branch of Scottish aristocratic family of Barcleys. In some sources Michail Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly is known as representative of family of Welsh aristocrats. Point is--he was NO French. The article is good, albeit debatable.

P.S. War and Peace was a mandatory read in Russian Tzarist Academy Of general Staff.

13 Apr 2009
Martin Sattler

 Mr. Fitzgerald, two thoughts:  (a)perhaps the Islamists have read War and Peace and adopted the "retreat/don't engage" mentality by dawa, money, and demographics as you rightly identify the stealth jihad and (b)there is also a parallel between the above-it-all russian aristocrats and our self-satisfied elites who have no engagement with the evil and hatred infecting so much of the rest of our world.  Perhaps (b) is well beyond the scope of your article; but (a) is a matter of pressing urgency,  

8 Apr 2009

I wonder if a valid comparison can be drawn with the success of islam over a divided Christendom?  To what extent did filioque contribute to the present advance of desert barbarism?

Does anyone in power in the West even think as subtly as Kutuzov anymore?  Bush, Obama, whatever ... nothing but crass everywhere you look.

And another point ... if folks actually read War and Peace, they might begin to realize there is something to defend in Western Civilization, something profound and beautiful.  But alas, that would require curiosity and life experience necessary to appreciate the book; those have been squeezed out of the curriculum and the culture.  

5 Apr 2009
Send an emailHugh Fitzgerald

Dear Mr. Santiago Macquarrie,

Your last name, so winning in its mix, made me think of an  old anglo-argentine acquaintance of mine, John Murchison, who when Borges spent a year at Harvard was his course grader, his guide (from 22 Concord Avenue to the basement of the library at Radcliffe), and his all-round helper until  Norman Thomas Di Giovanni appeared, and pushed his way forward. Murchison's family had been in the Argentine since the railroads were built with British money; he could do a lunfardo muy cerrado as good, I suspect, as any Lugones or Fernandez.

And I take your a point. But did the American government have to spend two trillion dollars in Iraq  for such practice? While the Americans are doing that, Iran is building its bombs, and China has built missiles that can destroy American aircraft carriers in the China Sea. A clever usee of resources and, what's more, attention? 


And how many of the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have been thoroughly confused by the notion that they are there to "help the Iraqis" or "to reconstruct Afghanistan," and are kept, as much in the possible, in the dark about Islam. It doesn't help matters. It makes too many of the American military into Colonel Bogeys, pitching right in to build that bridge over the river Kwai, without asking themselves what the hell are we doing, and why?

4 Apr 2009
Santiago MacQuarrie

 As always, a first rate article, but do you not think it a good idea for US and British troops to get plenty of practice in fighting the holy warriors? The training they receive may prove very valuable back home when, as surely will happen soon enough, the Mohammedans go one step too far.

    Santiago MacQuarrie, Argentina

2 Apr 2009
Send an emailMary Jackson

As is plain to see. Ooops, that'll teach me to quote some half remembered stuff.

H?las no fury like a misquoted French poet.

2 Apr 2009

As ever, a great article and a true startegic understanding of the current condition.  The Master Principle of War taught in the past was that of the Selection and Maintenance of the Aim.   What is the Aim of the muppets of the universe who have led us to where we are?  EUrocrats and Obamaniacs with Gramsci's agenda?  Where is the alternative Aim being propounded intelligently at the right level?  Not too many places as Groupthink ensures it is unwelcome.  It'll take a disaster to sort this out after a lot of spilled red stuff.  Hey ho...


1 Apr 2009
Hugh Fitzgerald

Je ne me plains pas, but the spelling must be corrected– la plaine blanche and again la plaine blanche – with the nouns now recognizable under all that snow. Don’t blame me for taking pains. Blame Victor Hugo, hélas! Now, where have you heard that line before?

1 Apr 2009
Send an emailMary Jackson

Apres la plaine blanche, une autre plaine blanche.

You always hear that doing nothing is not an option. That's nonsense. Sometimes doing nothing - or merely retreating - and letting nature take its course is exactly the right option.