Thursday, November 29, 2007

Book Review: Mirage

The Canadian Press

Mirage - Napoleon's Scientists and the Unveiling of Egypt by Nina Burleigh (Harper)

Napoleon Bonaparte had an idea for winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim people he invaded: He told the Egyptians that he and his army wanted to be Muslims, too.

It wasn't true, but that didn't bother Napoleon. What might have bothered him was that the idea didn't work.

He delayed revealing that he had targeted Egypt until hundreds of troop carriers were plowing through the Mediterranean, vainly hunted by Britain's navy. Some in France already knew what he wanted. He thought Egypt could be the start of an empire rivalling the one Alexander the Great conquered 2,000 years earlier.

As Nina Burleigh's "Mirage" describes it, the 28-year-old general lacked intercultural savvy. It may not have occurred to him - or it may not have mattered - that people dislike being invaded, especially when they get shot at, even if the invaders come from a country with democratic institutions.

No comments: