From the desk of Napoleon

Monsieur le président,

From the tops of those ancient steles in Baghdad, three millennia of history look down on your presence in Iraq. You came to Iraq in 2003, as I came to Egypt in 1798. Like me, you won the day militarily; indeed you won it more quickly than I did, for it took me many months and tens of thousands of lives to overthrow the evil Mameluke government. (I envy you your good fortune in having the British on your side. I did not.)

I write you now to help you to stay your course. The world is at a turning point, and you have a decision to make. If I speak bluntly, monsieur le président, it is because I sense in you something of a kindred spirit. You are, like me, not a man to doubt yourself, not a politician to ask useless questions or ponder the polls and the pols. But you have been too remote, shall I say, too implicit. The time has come for you to step forward.

I speak not as a Frenchman to an American but as one born ruler to another. In the current state of world affairs, it is your country that rivets my attention, not the ungrateful nation that I adopted and conducted to its summit of historic glory. France’s current international policy is moralistic posturing, a nostalgie de grandeur. She is obsessed with American power, yet she hasn’t the means or the will, only the burning desire, to imitate America.

I came to the Middle East with a better...

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About the Author

E. J. Dionne Jr. is a syndicated columnist, professor of government at Georgetown University, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His most recent book is Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (Bloomsbury Press).