Invading the Middle East: Napoleon to Bush
In 1798, France under Napoleon, invaded Egypt. In 2003, the United States, under Bush, invaded Iraq. Both invasions were characterized by colossal ignorance and breathtaking arrogance. Both rulers were going to remake the map of the Middle East. The quest for domination was camouflaged behind a façade. Spreading the ideals of freedom, liberty and democracy were the rhetorical covers for a much larger imperial agenda. After a relatively quick and easy conquest of Cairo, the French began to face an insurgency. Resistance spread. Sound familiar? People didn’t like to be occupied then and they don’t like it now. But apparently Napoleon and Bush knew what was best for the natives. In the end, the French emperor and his legions returned to France dispirited and defeated. Interview by David Barsamian.
Juan Cole, a widely respected expert on the Middle East, teaches history at the University of Michigan. He is a guest on major news programs. He is the author of Holy War and Napoleon’s Egypt.