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Next Week: The Battle of Leipzig

A decisive defeat for the empire.

10:35 AM, Oct 27, 2010 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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I was reminded, reading Fred Bauer's interesting post, that on the day after Obamacare passed, I'd compared President Obama's legislative success to Napoleon's catastrophic victory at Borodino.

Here's what I wrote on March 22nd:

Napoleon invaded Russia in June of 1812. On September 7 of that year, the Grande Armée under Napoleon’s command attacked the Russian army near the village of Borodino. Napoleon won the battle, the greatest of the Russian campaign, but at a terrible cost--about a third of his soldiers were killed or wounded. The Russian army was not destroyed, and while Napoleon occupied an abandoned Moscow a week later, the French army was never the same. It soon had to begin its disastrous winter retreat from Russia, and Napoleon finally did meet his Waterloo almost three years later.

Last night’s victory was the culmination of Obama’s health care effort, which has been his version of  Napoleon’s Russia campaign. He won a short-term victory, but one that will turn out to mark an inflection point on the road to defeat, and the beginning of the end of the Democratic party’s dominance over American politics. Last night was Obama’s Borodino. Obama’s Waterloo will be November 6, 2012. 

I suppose the question now is, if Obamacare was Borodino, and the 2012 presidential election is Waterloo, what does that make Nov. 2, 2010? I defer to Napoleonic experts, but perhaps the answer is the Battle of Leipzig, also known as the Battle of the Nations, fought in October 1813. It involved over 600,000 troops, was the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I, and was a decisive defeat for Napoleon, leading to his retreat into France and his abdication the next year--followed by his comeback and his final defeat at Waterloo.

So Napoleon's "victory" of Borodino paved the way for his defeat at Leipzig. But his defeat at Waterloo did not inevitably follow--as the Duke of Wellington famously remarked, the victory there was a near-run thing. Therefore, a comment: There will be no time for conservative complacency after next week's "Leipzig." And a question: Who will be the GOP's Wellington?

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