While exiled on St. Helena, Napoleon waged a brilliant campaign of words to reinvent himself, recasting all of his old wars as essentially acts of grand philosophy intending to bring about an idealized community without borders. The war-hungry flesh-ripper was replaced with the Romantic Napoleon, the tragic force doomed to be brought down by the world’s pettiness.
Now, there is some degree of truth in that. Take a look at our friends Frederick and Peter. Both of them started off their kingships with totally unnecessary wars of aggression more or less for the hell of it. Napoleon came to power when France was fighting for its life against the rest of Europe and spent most of his early career just keeping dudes from invading his country. In that context, the sort of limited land-grab wars of the 17th and 18th centuries just didn’t make much sense anymore, and a guy upon whom the wrath of the entire continent was directed might well think towards a new system that would avoid this self-cannibalization.
But then he goes and does stuff like invade Egypt, so who the hell knows…
– Count Dolby von Luckner