Will Mahathir adopt the Napoleonic lesson?

 |Oct 6, 2016
Will Mahathir adopt Napoleon's Russian lesson to abandon his army and flee.
Will Mahathir adopt Napoleon’s Russian lesson to abandon his army and flee.

The trouble with historians is they are human and humans have feelings, emotions, opinions, prejudices, likes, hates and so on.

In short, humans are biased and would look at things from a certain angle or perspective and normally would favour one opinion over another.

For example, I have read books written about Chin Peng and books written by Chin Peng.

I have also read books written about Lee Kuan Yew and books written by Lee Kuan Yew.

While all books might be talking about the same event, the conclusion or interpretation of these events may differ.

Let us take one event as an example, Henry Gurney’s assassination on Oct 7, 1951 along the Kuala Kubu Road while he was on his way to Fraser’s Hill for a meeting.

Earlier books that I read said the assassination was well planned and that Chin Peng had spies or double agents in the Special Branch.

Later, I read from Chin Peng’s own memoirs that the attack was just coincidental.

The CTs had actually laid in wait for three days and were just about to give up and go home when they heard the sound of a car engine and started shooting.

They really did not know who they had killed until the next day when they heard the news.

Then only did they realise they had killed the top man in Malaya without even planning to do so.

It was just a random attack.

But for decades we all believed that one of the Chinese Special Branch officers was a double agent (in fact, the number two in the CPM was a double-agent) and that this Chinese had betrayed the government.

That is why Malays never trusted Chinese in the military or intelligence service.

The belief was you never really know which side the Chinese are on.

So can you see how a distortion of history can cause severe damage to race relations?

When I was a kid the elders used to tell us to never trust Chinese.

They are all Communists without exception.

If we quarrelled with our Chinese classmates, we would insult them by calling them ‘Kominis’.

Anyway, we were all children back then and not as educated as children nowadays.

But we eventually grew out of these misguided beliefs.

Then there is the ‘official’ history about how Tsar Alexander I beat Napoleon and chased him all the way back to Paris.

We read these stories in school and I even took a course at Oxford to study the period of the 1800s, called ‘The Age of Revolutions’.

However, let me assure you that what we have been taught is not entirely correct and there are a lot of missing parts in the story.

To start off with, in the first war, France beat Russia and Alexander had to put his tail between his legs and sue for peace.

The reason why Russia lost is because Alexander would not listen to advice and he sacked all his generals and advisors.

In the second war with France, Alexander allowed the military genius, General Kutuzov, most respected by the entire country and all the people, to take over.

(Alexander’s image had declined because he lost the first war and was forced to humble himself before Napoleon while Kutuzov inspired the people, which also motivated the peasants to come out and fight for Russia).

Kutuzov met Napoleon on Russia’s border but he did not engage the French.

He ordered the army to retreat one mile at a time and to retreat just beyond the range of the guns.

(However, they did not retreat beyond the range of the cannons so many Russians were blown to bits by cannon balls. But the bullets fell just a few feet from the Russians like insects falling from the sky).

When Alexander heard the Russians were retreating and were not engaging the French, he was outraged.

He wanted Kutuzov dragged back to Moscow and shot for treason.

The Tsarina, however, calmed Alexander down and said Kutuzov was just drawing the French further and further into Russia so that they cannot escape.

“And then what?” Alexander grumbled, “Open the gates of Moscow and let the French in?”

If only Alexander knew at that time that his sarcasm bordered on clairvoyance.

Count Rostopchin and his troops were holding Moscow while Kutuzov and his troops faced the French on the battlefield.

But as the French got nearer and nearer to Moscow, and yet Kutuzov still did not stop them from advancing, Rostopchin told everyone to abandon Moscow and burn it down.

The Kremlin and all major public buildings, including churches and monasteries, were either blown up or set on fire.

When Alexander heard this news he almost had a heart attack.

The Tsarina was wise enough not to open her mouth, like the last time, or else Alexander would probably have shot her instead.

When Kutuzov reached Moscow four days later, he found it deserted and 75% of the city burned to the ground.

So he marched through the front gate of Moscow and out the back gate again.

But he left a few guerrillas to wait for the French and then burn the rest of the city down once the French are in it.

Napoleon and his ‘Grand Armee’ reached Moscow and found only rubble.

There was no food or shelter (not even for the horses) and winter was around the corner.

The French general, Armand de Caulaincourt, testified to this and he told the other generals that from that point on they were all dead men and would never see home again.

What Napoleon should have done on that Sep 18, 1812 is to do a U-turn and go back to France before winter came.

But Napoleon was so confident that he had won, so he told his army to set up tents and wait.

Wait for what?

Wait for Alexander to come begging for peace like the last time.

But Alexander was 400 miles away in Saint Petersburg.

Napoleon’s Grand Armee could never march 400 miles in minus 30 degrees temperatures with no food and shelter along the way.

Thinking that they would be home in France before winter, they only brought their summer clothing along.

All Napoleon could do was to sit out the winter and wait for summer or wait until Alexander sends his emissary to negotiate for peace.

But winter went on and on and Alexander’s emissary never came.

Meanwhile, the starvation and freezing temperatures were killing off the French by the thousands every day (it was so cold their dicks turned black with frostbite and when they tried to pee it dropped off like an icicle).

On Oct 18, 1812, Napoleon told his generals that they were all prisoners.

We are prisoners of Alexander and Moscow is our prison, Napoleon said. Break camp, we are going home, Napoleon told his army.

As Napoleon’s army marched home to France, the Russians started attacking and picked them off like flies.

The French were so weak they could not even carry their rifles, which they abandoned along the way.

Napoleon lost 400,000 men of his Grand Armee of 685,000.

Anyway, ‘what is the purpose of this grandfather’s story?’ you may ask.

The answer to that is simple. Alexander already lost the first war with France with great loss of men and loss of face.

In the second war, he let his generals lead the war and make all the decisions.

He disagreed with General Kutuzov’s decision to retreat all the way back to Moscow and with Count Rostopchin’s decision to burn down and abandon Moscow. (In fact, Alexander cried when he heard the news).

But these decisions resulted in the defeat of the French.

Then, about 130 years later, Hitler did the same thing that Napoleon did and Stalin did the same thing that Kutuzov did and Hitler faced the same fate that Napoleon suffered.

The moral of the story is those who forget history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.

Now let us relate that to today’s events.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad thought he was hounding Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Mahathir thought he had Najib on the run.

Najib, however, was just drawing Mahathir deeper and deeper into the shit hole and beyond the point of no return.

Mahathir thought he had Najib surrounded.

Mahathir now realised it was the other way around.

But it is too late to retreat because even if you do you are going to die along the way.

Napoleon stayed alive by abandoning his army and by running back to Paris on a fast horse.

If Mahathir wants to avoid death he, too, must abandon his army and quickly escape.

So let us see whether Mahathir suffers the fate of Napoleon or he suffers the fate of Hitler.

One abandoned his army by running away while the other abandoned his army by committing suicide.

More importantly, Mahathir calls Najib a coward for not daring to come out to face him.

Najib, however, is remaining silent so that his ‘generals’ can strategise and fight an effective campaign against Mahathir and win the battles and eventually win the war.

Mahathir uses pride and egotism as his strategy while Najib uses smart thinking and common sense.

History has already taught us many times who will emerge the victor in such battles.

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Raja Petra Kamarudin or RPK, cousin to the Selangor Sultan, is one of Malaysia's earliest online 'citizen journalists'. He started his website in 1995 before the internet 'explosion' triggered by the Reformasi movement in September 1998. Malaysia Today was launched as a blog in August 2004 and is one of the few pioneer blogs still active and posting articles on a daily basis 24-7. RPK, 66 years old, has been writing since 1990.