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Delete That Option and Choose Another: The Quest for Europe

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Lannes View Drop Down
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  Quote Lannes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Delete That Option and Choose Another: The Quest for Europe
    Posted: 19-Aug-2004 at 15:42
It seems to be universally agreed upon that Napoleon's biggest blunder was his Russian invasion of 1812, in which his mighty Grand Arme was utterly destroyed by marauding Cossacks, foolish battles, sickness, and the harsh seasons of Russia. So, I ask you, what should Napoleon have done in place of his massive invasion?

Some notes and ideas I have for you:

*You need to keep in mind Napoleon's reasoning for attacking Russia- Russia was a threat that was likely to attack France when a suitable oppurtunity peeked its head out, so they are a threat you have to think about. Furthermoif you plan on switching to an eastern defensive geared strategy, then you need to realize that if allowed to march against France, Russia would undoubtedly join up with some Austrian and Prussian forces, putting you in a position that could bring no success, considering that this massive invasion force to the east, coupled with the Spanish-British alliance attacking you from the west, would have you nearly completely trapt within France.

*Shifting all focus to the struggle in the Pennisula wouldn't be a path to success either, as it would be that perfect oppurtunity for Russia to march against you that I mentioned above, and would put you in a very similar situation to the one listed above.
τρέφεται δέ, ὤ Σώκρατης, ψυχὴ τίνι;
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Herodotus View Drop Down
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  Quote Herodotus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Sep-2004 at 17:17

I think you said it well. Napoleon could not expect to fend off the Russians (with possible Prussian and/or Austrian assistance) AND complete the conquest of the peninsula in the west.

However, im not saying that Napoleons situation was doomed. There was another option, perhpas not politically or morally acceptable, but surely the best bet from a strictly strategic standpoint: retreat.

If Napoleon had constricted his frontiers  to "old" france plus perhpas the low countires and some of italy, he could have sued for peace, while enjoying the spoils of looting most of europe. With the Emperor nearby, immense wealth, and still a great mass of militarily eligable manhood, i doubt any of the great powers (aside from britain) who had suffered so much and seen so much defeat would have chosen renewed conflict on french homesoil over a relatively mild peace. Not to mention that the revolution and its democratic ideals that the monarchist powers set out to crush had long since vanished from france.

The balance of power in Europe really wouldnt have changed all that much from the historical reality: france remained the greatest continental power in europe untill nearly the 20th century, But Britain dominated the colonial sphere.

 

"Dieu est un comdien jouant une assistance trop effraye de rire."
"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh."
-Francois Marie Arouet, Voltaire

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  Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22-Jan-2007 at 19:24
I would say that his biggest mistake was his failure to enforce Continental System. Many European nations were quite angry at Britain's way of handling everything in the seas. Imagine if economical blockade against Britain was successful. Imagine if Napoleon stopped all the trade routes, including the trades between American and Britain. Imagine if he was able to eliminate the black markets. Perhaps he did not have to attack Russia while having troubles in the Spain.
     
   
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  Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Jan-2007 at 07:08
Herodotus has it right.
 
All Napoleon had to do was ensure he was no threat to the other powers. That would have meant giving up some territory and much of his ambition, but he could have settled for it. It's not as though the other powers were naturally allies - rather the opposite in fact. There was no reason for quarrel between Russia and France: historically they are more naturally allies.
 
But Napoleon didn't have it in him to climb down. He wanted it all.
 
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  Quote Styrbiorn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Jan-2007 at 08:30
Originally posted by pekau

I would say that his biggest mistake was his failure to enforce Continental System. Many European nations were quite angry at Britain's way of handling everything in the seas. Imagine if economical blockade against Britain was successful. Imagine if Napoleon stopped all the trade routes, including the trades between American and Britain. Imagine if he was able to eliminate the black markets. Perhaps he did not have to attack Russia while having troubles in the Spain.
 
But several other nations had very large exports to Britain, especially Russia and Sweden relied on export of ore and forest products to Britain. Further, many continental nations were in great need of British products, so it wouldn't have worked anyway, even if only Portugal and Sweden were the only countries that refused to join the Continental System.
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  Quote rider Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-Jan-2007 at 12:31
I would have had the idea, of reincorpoating the Kingdom of Poland from Austrian and Prussian lands, then giving it a King and a powerful army. This way, the state would buffer Russian attacks (led by Polish patriots, the state would be) and so a good defence. Another important factor is the sultan of Turkey. He should have been consulted and promised him some fourth of the lands in Russia...
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  Quote pekau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25-Jan-2007 at 14:13
I don't know... the Continental System might have worked if France had railways. That way, Russia could easily traded with France. Russia needed Western goods, not Britain's goods. It's just that most cheap transportation to get these goods were by sea, which was controlled by Britain.
     
   
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