|Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's|
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These pages contain the complete manuscript of the new book
Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny,
written by John J. Xenakis.
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-- Lev Tolstoy, in War and Peace
Years ago, when I first read Lev Tolstoy's War and Peace, Napoleon's invasion of Russia made no sense to me whatsoever. It was the most bizarre war description I had ever seen. The French under Napoleon invaded Russia, and headed for Moscow. Instead of defending Moscow, the Russians fled, made no attempt to defend the city, and just allowed the French to walk in and take it. Nothing about this seemed credible to me when I read it.
It's only now, after developing Generational Dynamics, that the war is explained, and explained fully: It was a crisis war for Napoleon's France, but a mid-cycle war for Russia.
If you didn't carefully read the material in chapter 4 (p. [localization2#126]) about Germany's weak prosecution of World War I, then go back and reread it now, and get a feeling for what happened.
|Napoleon's invasion of Russia was the most bizarre war description I had ever seen|
Now, read the excerpts in this chapter of Tolstoy's account of France's 1812 attack on Russia, and get a feeling for that war. Not only is Tolstoy's description fascinating, but it also provides tremendous additional insight and understanding into the theoretical aspects of Generational Dynamics, since it's a narrative description of the difference between a crisis war and a mid-cycle war.
Although the French fought energetically, the Russians did not. It was remarkable though that capturing Moscow proved to be Napoleon's undoing, however, since his army gorged itself on the city, and lost all discipline. Napoleon had to retreat, thus proving that it's possible for a low-energy strategy to beat a high-energy strategy.
The main purpose of this chapter is to further illustrate the generational methodology by analyzing this invasion through Lev Tolstoy's novel, War and Peace.
The quotation at the beginning of this chapter encapsulates one of the most important points of this book: That major events, like wars, are consequences of history, not consequences of actions by individual politicians. The Napoleonic wars that engulfed Europe at that time would have occurred with or without Napoleon.
Lev Tolstoy's 1868 epic historical novel War and Peace is considered by many to be the greatest novel of all time. There are hundreds of named characters, and Tolstoy shows their interrelations and how wartime affects and interferes with their lives. Characters who start out as carefree youth grow in responsibility and maturity as they suffer the horrors of war. In the end, love and marriage seem to represent man's redemption.
By the time of France's 1812 invasion of Russia, Napoleon had already conquered most of Europe and made it part of France's empire, and now he wanted to annex Russia. Tolstoy tells how he succeeded in conquering Moscow, but his conquest led to the destruction of his own army, and eventually his defeat at Waterloo.
But that's not all. Tolstoy's philosophy of history and war and peace is scattered throughout the book. Furthermore, unlike many historians, Tolstoy understood mathematics and science, and used that understanding to show how great events in history by momentum rather than by politicians or generals, even a general as powerful as Napoleon.
Tolstoy's brilliant study of Napoleon's campaign gives us a sounding board to elucidate further aspects of the generational methodology for analyzing history.
In particular, where Tolstoy identifies the momentum that drove the campaign, he doesn't address the question of where the momentum comes from. We'll show that it comes from a war that was a crisis war for one side (Napoleon's) and a mid-cycle war for the other side.
In doing so, we'll address the issue of the difference between generationally driven events and chaotically driven events.
The particular question of why Napoleon invaded Russia at all is subsumed under the more general question of why any nation has to invade any other nation. It's clear that Tolstoy is confused about both the particular and the general questions, and despairs at trying to find answers.
Tolstoy was born in 1825, and fought in the Crimean War in the 1850s, so he well knew the horrors of war. Look at how he describes Napoleon's buildup of forces on the Russian border, in anticipation of the war that began on June 12, 1812. This is clearly an anti-war statement:
Like many people, Tolstoy felt that war was senseless, and he could not understand why Napoleon would even want to invade.
Many people consider a war to be an almost accidental thing -- someone gets pissed off at someone and decides to start a war. The book you're reading refutes that idea, but Tolstoy seemed to believe it thoroughly.
In the following paragraph, Tolstoy makes the point that different parties see completely different causes for Napoleon's invasion. You don't have to understand the meaning of each of the causes mentioned by Tolstoy to get the thrust of his point. Read his description of the various causes of the war without worrying about the specific names and events, and just feel his frustration in describing the causes:
It is natural that these and a countless and infinite quantity of other reasons, the number depending on the endless diversity of points of view, presented themselves to the men of that day; but to us, to posterity who view the thing that happened in all its magnitude and perceive its plain and terrible meaning, these causes seem insufficient.
To us it is incomprehensible that millions of Christian men killed and tortured each other either because Napoleon was ambitious or Alexander was firm, or because England's policy was astute or the Duke of Oldenburg wronged. We cannot grasp what connection such circumstances have with the actual fact of slaughter and violence: why because the Duke was wronged, thousands of men from the other side of Europe killed and ruined the people of Smolensk and Moscow and were killed by them.
Was Napoleon's attack really "incomprehensible," as Tolstoy claims?
A war does not occur because of a few random provocations. Various attacks, assassinations, and so forth occur all the time. Usually these provocations are contained. But a "pressure cooker" atmosphere builds up over decades, and finally the pressure cooker explodes into war -- in roughly 80-year cycles.
Writing the epic historical novel War and Peace, you would think that it would have occurred to Tolstoy to relate Napoleon's campaigns to historical campaigns of the past, but he evidently didn't.
France and England had been at war almost continuously for centuries. Many of these were distant wars over colonies, especially in America and India, but the most recent crisis war was the War of Spanish Succession that took place in 1701-1714, as described in chapter 8 (p. [westeurope#144]). That war, which engulfed all of Europe, ended with a treaty that the statesmen of the time signed because they wanted to avoid for as long as possible another conflict such as the one that had just ended.
The borders established by that treaty held until the French Revolution began in 1789, and that previous war was re-fought with a vengeance when Napoleon came to power in 1799.
|To the generals and old soldiers the chief reason for the war was the necessity of giving them employment|
Now, understanding that background, let's go back to Tolstoy's list of causes given above, and see why the invasion of Russia had to occur:
Actually, the answer to that is quite easy. Napoleon took power in 1799, but the French Revolution was engulfing all of Europe by 1792, when a coalition of Austria, Prussia, Great Britain, Spain, Russia, Germany and other countries was already forming to lead a counter-revolution.
So, a major war would have engulfed Europe at that time even if there had been no Napoleon. The name "Napoleonic Wars" wouldn't have been used, of course (duh!), but the war would have been just as devastating.
Major financial crises are almost always related to crisis wars; indeed, the French Revolution was triggered by the bankruptcy of the French monarchy. Financial crises cause people to look for people to blame; they cause people to seek justice and retribution.
Napoleon's invasion was a mid-cycle war for Russia (as we'll see), and they wanted no war. Russia's response to the blockade was to ignore it, and to continue trading with England. That was an act of war to the French.
However, the Continental System blockade was not the cause of the invasion of Russia. It was part of the fabric of the financial crisis surrounding the war.
Tolstoy treats all these and other causes as independent random occurrences, as he explains in the following paragraph:
It's remarkable that Tolstoy presents these events as if they are all independent occurrences, with no mutual causality except, we would assume, only in ways so obvious that they don't need to be acknowledged.
However, let's focus on one particular phrase in the above paragraph:
What does Tolstoy mean by this extraordinary statement? He seems to say that Napoleon wanted the war, and the people wanted the war. But why?
He explains this further in the next paragraph, which also refers to Tsar Alexander of Russia:
We are forced to fall back on fatalism as an explanation of irrational events (that is to say, events the reasonableness of which we do not understand). The more we try to explain such events in history reasonably, the more unreasonable and incomprehensible do they become to us.
This is really a remarkable conclusion. He argues that these great events do not occur because Napoleon or Alexander made them happen; he says that they occur because millions of people want them to occur. But then he throws up his hands in despair, because he can't understand why those millions of people suddenly, with one voice, say that they want to have a war.
Well, maybe it isn't so remarkable. Tolstoy is just stating his version of today's observation: "Everything changed on 9/11." Just as American society changed almost as one on 9/11, Tolstoy is noticing that everything changed after the French Revolution.
What Tolstoy didn't understand was the connection to the War of Spanish Succession, and how a generational change had occurred in 1789, causing those millions of soldier to be willing to take up weapons and go to war.
Russia was on a different timeline than France. Russia's last crisis war occurred with the massive internal Pugachev Rebellion and wars with the Ottoman Empire in the 1770s, under Tsar Catherine the Great.
So by 1812, Russians were tired of war, and were enjoying life. They were actually in an "awakening" period, during which arts and spiritual matters typically flourish. Ironically, the elite Russian classes, including the families described by Tolstoy, loved French culture, and the French language was widely spoken.
They watched Napoleon's march across Europe with alarm, but even as hundreds of thousands of Napoleon's troops massed on the Russian border, they did nothing about it. Here's how Alexander passed the time before the June 12 invasion:
The longer the Emperor remained in Vilna the less did everybody - tired of waiting - prepare for the war. All the efforts of those who surrounded the sovereign seemed directed merely to making him spend his time pleasantly and forget that war was impending.
The preceding paragraphs well illustrate the "no energy" concept of a mid-cycle war.
How could Alexander, knowing that an army of hundreds of thousands of men was heading in his direction, not make preparations for war? The answer is that he lived through the previous crisis war, and he knew that whatever would happen would happen. He knew that some French soldiers would be killed, and some Russian soldiers would be killed. He probably felt that no amount of preparation would, in the end, make much difference. This is an attitude that one can come by only through experiencing a crisis war, and that's why a new crisis war doesn't occur until the generation that experienced the last crisis war leaves the scene.
As Tolstoy pointed out, this indecision was not just on Alexander's part. Alexander was reflecting the feeling of all his soldiers and advisers, most of whom had some personal memory of the last crisis wars. They knew that something was coming; they didn't know exactly what it was, but they knew they would have to endure it no matter what they did, and eventually it would be over.
When Napoleon's attack began, Alexander tried a fairly typical mid-cycle stratagem to compromise and contain the situation. He sent a courier to Napoleon with the following letter. As before, read this letter to get an emotional sense of it, without worrying about the specific names and incidents it refers to:
Yesterday I learned that, despite the loyalty which I have kept my engagements with Your Majesty, your troops have crossed the Russian frontier, and I have this moment received from Petersburg a note, in which Count Lauriston informs me, as a reason for this aggression, that Your Majesty has considered yourself to be in a state of war with me from the time Prince Kuragin asked for his passports. The reasons on which the Duc de Bassano based his refusal to deliver them to him would never have led me to suppose that that could serve as a pretext for aggression. In fact, the ambassador, as he himself has declared, was never authorized to make that demand, and as soon as I was informed of it I let him know how much I disapproved of it and ordered him to remain at his post. If Your Majesty does not intend to shed the blood of our peoples for such a misunderstanding, and consents to withdraw your troops from Russian territory, I will regard what has passed as not having occurred and an understanding between us will be possible. In the contrary case, Your Majesty, I shall see myself forced to repel an attack that nothing on my part has provoked. It still depends on Your Majesty to preserve humanity from the calamity of another war. I am, etc.,
Sounds a little desperate, doesn't it? Actually, it conveys a great deal of sadness. Alexander wants no war. He's seen enough war in his lifetime.
Napoleon angrily rejected Alexander's plea, and blamed Alexander for starting the war. The reasons that Napoleon gave to blame Alexander are unimportant: if you're determined to go to war, then you can always find a reason to do so.
It was about 550 miles from the Russian border to Moscow. The French crossed the Russian border on June 12, and traveled rapidly towards Moscow, receiving no resistance for a long time.
It was not until mid-August that Alexander was able to pull his army together enough to make a stand at Smolensk. Even there, the Russians kept arguing with one another and retreating as the French advanced.
Tolstoy makes the battle at Smolensk almost to be an accident -- the French stumbled into a Russian division that hadn't retreated quickly enough. Read the following paragraphs, and notice that Tolstoy is now referring to the Russians as "we":
It was necessary to fight an unexpected battle at Smolensk to save our lines of communication. The battle was fought and thousands were killed on both sides.
Smolensk was abandoned contrary to the wishes of the Emperor and of the whole people. But Smolensk was burned by its own inhabitants -- who had been misled by their governor. And these ruined inhabitants, setting an example to other Russians, went to Moscow thinking only of their own losses but kindling hatred of the foe. Napoleon advanced farther and we retired, thus arriving at the very result that caused his destruction.
What is it that would make the inhabitants of a city burn down the city and flee? Tolstoy doesn't answer that question, but he says that that act brought about the destruction of the French army.
The shocking loss of Smolensk brought bitter recriminations within the Russian army, and for the first time the Russians gathered enough energy to make a stand. They defeated the French, who were getting complacent after their easy victory at Borodino.
The battle at Borodino destroyed a huge part of the French army, and in retrospect, it's clear that the French should have realized at that point that the conquest of Russia was impossible, and that they should have retreated.
Russia might have gone on to finish off Napoleon's army at that point, as Tolstoy describes:
But all that evening and next day reports came in one after another of unheard-of losses, of the loss of half the army, and a fresh battle proved physically impossible.
And so, the Russians had to retreat again, leaving the road from Borodino to Moscow free for the French to travel unchallenged.
Tolstoy is now at his best as he describes how the French invasion was now almost an elemental force of nature, incapable of stopping itself. In the following description, keep in mind that the French army contained conscripts from several European nations which Napoleon had previous conquered. Now, read Tolstoy's explanation of why the attack on Moscow was inevitable:
The more the Russian army retreated the more fiercely a spirit of hatred of the enemy flared up, and while it retreated the army increased and consolidated. At Borodino, a collision took place. Neither army was broken up, but the Russian army retreated immediately after the collision as inevitably as a ball recoils after colliding with another having a greater momentum, and with equal inevitability the ball of invasion that had advanced with such momentum rolled on for some distance, though the collision had deprived it of all its force.
|What is it that would make the inhabitants of a city burn down the city and flee?|
In this remarkable description, Tolstoy describes how both the French and Russian armies were traveling along a preordained path that neither side was any longer able to stop.
It's this description of the French army as a "ball of invasion" with so much momentum that it can't stop itself that has led me to identify certain types of battles or mid-cycle wars as "momentum battles" or "momentum wars."
In mid-cycle, societies are averse to war, and usually only go to war because of an attack on them or on allies.
However, as described in chapter 2, certain wars, such as our own Korean and Vietnam wars, are pursued even after the crisis war has ended, and for the same reasons that the crisis war was fought in the first place.
In Napoleon's case, following Tolstoy's description, the French should have retreated after their defeat at Borodino, but didn't because of their momentum as a "ball of invasion."
Tolstoy builds on this idea in explaining what happened at the battle at Borodino. He ridicules historians who claim that Napoleon might have won that battle and changed the course of history if he hadn't had a cold that day. Tolstoy rejects any such concept, believing as I do that many of these battles and wars go on because of their own unstoppable momentum. Read Tolstoy's stark description of how the French army, driven by cries of "Long Live the Emperor [Napoleon]," move forward to their own destruction, much like the popular perception of lemmings following one another off a cliff:
If it had depended on Napoleon's will to fight or not to fight the battle of Borodino, and if this or that other arrangement depended on his will, then evidently a cold affecting the manifestation of his will might have saved Russia, and consequently the valet who omitted to bring Napoleon his waterproof boots on the twenty-fourth would have been the savior of Russia. Along that line of thought such a deduction is indubitable, as indubitable as the deduction Voltaire made in jest (without knowing what he was jesting at) when he saw that the Massacre of St. Bartholomew was due to Charles IX's stomach being deranged. But to men who do not admit that Russia was formed by the will of one man, Peter I, or that the French Empire was formed and the war with Russia begun by the will of one man, Napoleon, that argument seems not merely untrue and irrational, but contrary to all human reality. To the question of what causes historic events another answer presents itself, namely, that the course of human events is predetermined from on high - depends on the coincidence of the wills of all who take part in the events, and that a Napoleon's influence on the course of these events is purely external and fictitious.
Strange as at first glance it may seem to suppose that the Massacre of St. Bartholomew was not due to Charles IX's will, though he gave the order for it and thought it was done as a result of that order; and strange as it may seem to suppose that the slaughter of eighty thousand men at Borodino was not due to Napoleon's will, though he ordered the commencement and conduct of the battle and thought it was done because he ordered it; strange as these suppositions appear, yet human dignity - which tells me that each of us is, if not more at least not less a man than the great Napoleon - demands the acceptance of that solution of the question, and historic investigation abundantly confirms it.
At the battle of Borodino, Napoleon shot at no one and killed no one. That was all done by the soldiers. Therefore, it was not he who killed people.
The French soldiers went to kill and be killed at the battle of Borodino, not because of Napoleon's orders but by their own volition. The whole army - French, Italian, German, Polish, and Dutch - hungry, ragged, and weary of the campaign, felt at the sight of an army blocking their road to Moscow that the wine was drawn and must be drunk. Had Napoleon then forbidden them to fight the Russians, they would have killed him and have proceeded to fight the Russians because it was inevitable.
|Both the French and Russian armies were on a preordained path that neither side was able to stop|
And it was not Napoleon who directed the course of the battle, for none of his orders was executed and during the battle, he did not know what was going on before him. So the way in which these people killed one another was not decided by Napoleon's will but occurred independently of him, in accord with the will of hundreds of thousands of people who took part in the common action. It only seemed to Napoleon that it all took place by his will. And so the question whether he had or had not a cold has no more historic interest than the cold of the least of the transport soldiers.
Moreover, the assertion made by various writers that his cold was the cause of his dispositions not being as well planned as on former occasions, and of his orders during the battle not being as good as previously, is quite baseless, which again shows that Napoleon's cold on the twenty-sixth of August was unimportant.
The dispositions cited above are not at all worse, but are even better, than previous dispositions by which he had won victories. His pseudo-orders during the battle were also no worse than formerly, but much the same as usual. These dispositions and orders only seem worse than previous ones because the battle of Borodino was the first Napoleon did not win. The profoundest and most excellent dispositions and orders seem very bad, and every learned militarist criticizes them with looks of importance, when they relate to a battle that has been lost, and the very worst dispositions and orders seem very good, and serious people fill whole volumes to demonstrate their merits, when they relate to a battle that has been won.
The dispositions drawn up by Weyrother for the battle of Austerlitz were a model of perfection for that kind of composition, but still they were criticized - criticized for their very perfection, for their excessive minuteness.
Napoleon at the battle of Borodino fulfilled his office as representative of authority as well as, and even better than, at other battles. He did nothing harmful to the progress of the battle; he inclined to the most reasonable opinions, he made no confusion, did not contradict himself, did not get frightened or run away from the field of battle, but with his great tact and military experience carried out his role of appearing to command, calmly and with dignity.
(Incidentally, St. Bartholomew's Massacre, mentioned in the previous paragraphs, is discussed in this book in chapter 8, page [westeurope#114].)
At what point was the destruction of the French army in Moscow preordained?
We might identify two other participants from Tolstoy's work: The Russian army that didn't want to fight the French army, but did; and the ordinary Russian citizens that didn't want to burn down their cities and desert them, but did. All of their actions were driven by the French invasion.
It's pretty clear, as Tolstoy explains in detail, that the Moscow destruction was preordained as early as the battle of Smolensk. Was it preordained as early as 1789, when the French Revolution led to a war engulfing all of Europe that could not have ended without a French invasion of Russia? That's an interesting question for historians.
But let's now move on to the Napoleon's invasion of Moscow.
After the Russians inflicted enormous damage on the French at Borodino, and still had to retreat, leaving the way open to Moscow, the Russians convened a Council of War:
They were all waiting for Bennigsen, who on the pretext of inspecting the position was finishing his savory dinner. They waited for him from four till six o'clock and did not begin their deliberations all that time talked in low tones of other matters.
Only when Bennigsen had entered the hut did Kutuzov leave his corner and draw toward the table, but not near enough for the candles that had been placed there to light up his face.
Bennigsen opened the council with the question: "Are we to abandon Russia's ancient and sacred capital without a struggle, or are we to defend it?" A prolonged and general silence followed. There was a frown on every face and only Kutuzov's angry grunts and occasional cough broke the silence. All eyes were gazing at him. ...
"Russia's ancient and sacred capital!" he suddenly said, repeating Bennigsen's words in an angry voice and thereby drawing attention to the false note in them. "Allow me to tell you, your Excellency, that that question has no meaning for a Russian." (He lurched his heavy body forward.) "Such a question cannot be put; it is senseless! The question I have asked these gentlemen to meet to discuss is a military one. The question is that of saving Russia. Is it better to give up Moscow without a battle, or by accepting battle to risk losing the army as well as Moscow? That is the question on which I want your opinion," and he sank back in his chair.
After much discussion, including a proposal by Count Bennigsen, Kutuzov announces his decision to abandon Moscow:
Kutuzov heaved a deep sigh as if preparing to speak. They all looked at him.
"Well, gentlemen, I see that it is I who will have to pay for the broken crockery," said he, and rising slowly, he moved to the table. "Gentlemen, I have heard your views. Some of you will not agree with me. But I," he paused, "by the authority entrusted to me by my Sovereign and country, order a retreat."
Later, after everyone leaves him alone in the meeting room:
"I did not expect this," said he to his adjutant Schneider when the latter came in late that night. "I did not expect this! I did not think this would happen."
"You should take some rest, your Serene Highness," replied Schneider.
His question, "When, when did the abandonment of Moscow become inevitable?" is still relevant today. In the war to come, there is certain to be some retreat or some humiliating defeat, and we'll be asking ourselves, "When, when did that become inevitable?"
When the French entered Moscow, they found that the city had been deserted. Napoleon's officers immediately recognized the potential disaster, and tried to stop it:
The orders did no good:
Why did Moscow burn? The French and the Russians blamed each other, but Tolstoy says it was unavoidable:
However tempting it might be for the French to blame [Moscow Mayor] Rostopchin's ferocity and for Russians to blame the scoundrel Bonaparte, or later on to place an heroic torch in the hands of their own people, it is impossible not to see that there could be no such direct cause of the fire, for Moscow had to burn as every village, factory, or house must burn which is left by its owners and in which strangers are allowed to live and cook their porridge. Moscow was burned by its inhabitants, it is true, but by those who had abandoned it and not by those who remained in it. Moscow when occupied by the enemy did not remain intact like Berlin, Vienna, and other towns, simply because its inhabitants abandoned it and did not welcome the French with bread and salt, nor bring them the keys of the city.
The Russians remained in Moscow for five weeks, and were destroyed as a fighting force:
During that five-week period, Napoleon twice sent messages to Russian command Kutuzov suggesting peace talks, and twice Kutuzov refused.
Kutuzov's strategy was simply to wait it out. Finally, the French tried to flee back in the direction they originally came from, but Kutuzov was prepared.
|Why did Moscow burn? The French and the Russians blamed each other, but Tolstoy says it was unavoidable|
He adopted a strategy of "guerrilla warfare," where small groups of Russian soldiers attacked larger French groups. Tolstoy explains how this works mathematically:
Military science, seeing in history innumerable instances of the fact that the size of any army does not coincide with its strength and that small detachments defeat larger ones, obscurely admits the existence of this unknown factor and tries to discover it - now in a geometric formation, now in the equipment employed, now, and most usually, in the genius of the commanders. But the assignment of these various meanings to the factor does not yield results which accord with the historic facts.
Yet, it is only necessary to abandon the false view (adopted to gratify the "heroes") of the efficacy of the directions issued in wartime by commanders, in order to find this unknown quantity.
That unknown quantity is the spirit of the army, that is to say, the greater or lesser readiness to fight and face danger felt by all the men composing an army, quite independently of whether they are, or are not, fighting under the command of a genius, in two - or three-line formation, with cudgels or with rifles that repeat thirty times a minute. Men who want to fight will always put themselves in the most advantageous conditions for fighting. ... Ten men, battalions, or divisions, fighting fifteen men, battalions, or divisions, conquer - that is, kill or take captive - all the others, while themselves losing four, so that on the one side four and on the other fifteen were lost.
Tolstoy's "spirit of the army" bears a similarity to what I call "energy," and Tolstoy's point is that now the Russians had most of the energy, while the French had less.
The Russian guerrillas were merciless and destroyed the French army piece by piece. Before long, Napoleon abandoned the army and fled back to France to raise more troops. In 1815, Napoleon was defeated by the first Duke of Wellington, British General Arthur Wellesley, in the famous battle of Waterloo.
I am not an expert on tragedy as an art form, but as a Greek, I know that a sense of tragedy is in my bones. Tragedy as an art form was invented in ancient Greece, and three of four great tragic artists of all time were Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides of ancient Greece, with the fourth being Shakespeare.
Many people misunderstand the deepest meanings of tragedy. If a child is killed in a random traffic accident, then it's a terrible event but it's not a tragedy in the classical sense, because of that randomness.
The essence of classical tragedy is that the tragic event is not random. The tragic event is inevitable: it must occur, and the reason it must occur is because of the nature, the personality, the very character of the protagonists. A true tragedy cannot be prevented, even by those who foresee it, because the forces bringing about the tragedy are too powerful for anyone to stop.
Tolstoy's description of Napoleon's invasion on Russia is stunning for the way it describes how the invasion proceeded like a Greek tragedy, with inevitable consequences that were preordained by the character of the protagonists.
However, there's one piece from Tolstoy's tragedy that needs to be addressed: How did the protagonists develop the character that preordained the result? Tolstoy admits almost total despair in trying to answer that question when he writes, "To us it is incomprehensible that millions of Christian men killed and tortured each other."
The missing piece is supplied by Generational Dynamics. The reason that these protagonists, millions of Christian men, killed and tortured each other to produce a preordained result is because the protagonists were in certain generations. The French protagonists were in the fourth generation following the War of Spanish Succession, and the Russian protagonists were in the second genera-tion following the Pugachev Rebellion in the reign of Catherine the Great.
There are just two more footnotes to the story.
The first footnote is to answer the question: How did Tolstoy have such a deep understanding of the emotions and feelings of the French and Russian soldiers? He wrote War and Peace in the 1860s, almost 50 years after the events he was describing. What was there in his personal experience that helped him to understand what happened?
The answer is that Tolstoy fought in another crisis war. He fought in the Russian army in Crimean War in the early 1850s (p. [easteurope#159]). He was part of a Russian "ball of invasion" that was humiliated in the Crimean War, just like the soldiers he described in the Napoleon's invasion of Russia.
The second footnote is a remarkable triple coincidence involving the events of 1812 occurring in two other wars, one earlier and one later.
In 1700, Russia under Peter the Great and Sweden fought the Great Northern War (page [easteurope#146]). Russia would have lost the war, but Sweden was distracted by its crisis war in Western Europe - the War of Spanish Succession (page [westeurope#144]). When Sweden came back to defeat the Russians, the Swedish army was swallowed up by Russia.
Incredibly, the same sort of thing happened in Russia's Great Patriotic War (World War II), when Hitler invaded Russia in 1942. World War II was crisis war for the Germans, but it was a mid-cycle war for the Russians -- World War I had been their crisis war. Just like Napoleon, Hitler was swallowed by Russia.
So there were three wars: the Great Northern War, the Napoleonic War, and the Great Patriotic War. In each case, the war was a mid-cycle war for Russia, but was a crisis war for the other belligerent -- Sweden, France, and Germany, respectively. And in each case, the army that invaded Russia was simply swallowed up by Russia.