Good Example Of The Impact Of Napoleon On Modern Warfare Argumentative Essay

Type of paper: Argumentative Essay

Topic: War, French Revolution, Military, Napoleon, Violence, Warfare, Army, Armed Forces

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/01/07


The Revolutions in Military Affairs (RMA) has functioned in the historiography of modern warfare as a theoretical paradigm that enables scholars to analyze and debate about hw lessons learned from past revolutions can be drawn out in modern campaigns in order to establish causal relations between two epochs. The concept of RMA in discourses about modern warfare has become an increasingly contested as literature on revolutionary military history has proliferated. Indeed, scholars have reached a general consensus that the French Revolution itself emerged as a paragon of a modern revolutionary concept. Although a portion of the scholarship on military revolutions proffers an ahistorical understanding of military revolutions, the majority of the literature depicts war as a social phenomenon that underwent epochal transformations in the cultural, social, and political forces. Napoleon Bonaparte, a seminal figure in the trajectory of European politics and military development, revolutionized military affairs, in ways that have directly and profoundly impacted modern warfare. Napoleon constructed his military machine through an amalgam of factors that undergirded the organization, logistics, and tactics of a more modern concept of warfare. While Napoleon shifted the paradigm of revolutionary warfare in terms of tactics and tacit rules of war conduction—ergo appearing fundamentally similar to warfare that has taken place during the twenty-first century, he did so in a different manner than in revolutionary military moments that occurred during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Two centuries later, warfare conducted during the Napoleonic era is thus fundamentally similar to war waged in the modern era.
Scholars have debated over the lack of common understanding of what constituted an RMA, yet the majority and reached a consensus that it must involve some form of discontinuity in the linear history of warfare. They also continue to debate over the cause of these discontinuities and when they take place in order to configure a dominant paradigm of revolutionary military activities. During this epoch, Napoleon effectively transformed warfare from a small-scale enterprise that was limited to an extent and fought by conscripts who lacked efficient training as well as mercenaries into a globalized and fully industrialized endeavor that scholars have termed as "total war." Changes in military tactics, technology, and organization coalesced with shifting social and political dynamics in warfare and produced the concept of a Revolution in Military Affairs. The leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte and the French Revolution synergistically undergirded this RMA. The organizations skills, military genius, and epochal dynamism enabled this seminal military event, revolutionary rather than evolutionary in nature, to materialize. This understanding of the concept of an RMA points to the changing dynamics of underlying processes in a short period of time rather than over a protracted amount of time. The evolution of warfare culminated in the outbreak of World War I during the early twentieth century, which military scholars have located as the first modern war, as it involved the underlying processes of technological advancements and industrialization in order to effectively wage total war. To fully conceptualize the impact of Napoleon on modern warfare, the fundamental changes in organization, strategy, and logistics implemented by Napoleon in the aftermath of the French Revolution must be examined
It is unequivocal that the French Revolution and the fundamental social and political changes it wrought were inextricably linked with Napoleon's ascent to power as a result of the radical dismantled of the Old Regime, which opened up an avenue for a commoner like Napoleon to rise through the ranks. The French Revolution had democratized French politics and society and fomented an environment in which politics and mass warfare diffused throughout European and then throughout the world. A simmering sense of nationalism escalated, which profoundly impacted warfare, as the army and army campaigns were fundamentally changed as a result. Large armies and mass appeal fueled conflicts that occurred and a much larger scale. Both men and women participated in the wartime machinery, whether it be in battle or in the munitions factory manufacturing weapons, supplies, or uniforms n order to fully mobilize the nation's resources towards the war effort. Military historians often point to the Napoleon Wars as a the first major milestone in the history of the military as the first total war that was reorganized and restructured along more modern concepts of warfare. The rise of nationalism, comprehensive and swift economic mobilization of French society, the construction of a "nation in arms", and the institution of universal conscription all combined together to constitute an RMA. Thus, the RMA germinated out of superior doctrine and organization rather than from radical technological advances.
During the French Revolution, the Republic was threatened both within and without. The most radical phase in the war did not materialize until the Fall of 1793 in what has become known in public discourses as the Reign of Terror during which the French government used violence in order to eradicate any and all internal threats. There was internal dissension due to the fact that the majority of the people in the provinces disliked the king being deposed and killed, which thereby exacerbated rupture within the French populace. A counter-revolution, known as the Vendee peasant revolt, manifested itself due to mandatory conscription enforced by the French government as well as the execution of the king. The levee en mass, which translates to “rising up in mass,” forced all able-bodied men to join the army in order for the French to combat any and all external threats. All capable men thus had to join the revolutionary army regardless of whether or not they supported the cause. Forced conscription sparked the counterrevolution that resulted in a total war that included women. Indeed, the French government tried to mobilize all aspects of French society and the economy. Economic production profoundly chanted, and women and children were mobilized and forced to work. Urgency for war takes on new height 1793-1794. In February 1793,300,000 men were conscripted into the army; by August 1793 645,000 men were conscripted; and ultimately, by September 1793, 1.169 million men joined the revolutionary army. Although an unpopular policy, levee en mass was the primary reason that the French army does much better, as it turned the tide of the Revolution during in the late part of 1793. An internal civil war erupted simultaneously with the external civil war against the Austrians, Prussians and eventually the British. Napoleon implemented levee en mass during his imperial rule, which fomented a heightened sense of nationalism
Napoleon catalyzed a paradigm shift in private armies serving the monarchy with the intent to nationalize the army as an instrument serving the people/nation . The Jourdan Law of 1798 led to the creation of the new officer corps while also institutionalizing conscription adapted from levee en mass. Officers were promoted based on their talents instead of their birth rights or social status. During Napoleonic era the establishment of doctrine from the 1791 drill book was instrumental in adapting to new exigencies and circumstances on the battlefield. All childless men and men between the ages of twenty and twenty five were obligated to serve in the military. Exemptions were restricted to clergy members, public officials, students, and industrial workers needed for a total war effort on the Home Front. This law further antagonized the disgruntled peasants because it overtly discriminated against the impoverished peasant population vis-à-vis the practice referred to as “replacement,” which benefitted middling and elite classes because they were allowed to pay another individual to take their place in the army. It is thus unequivocal that Napoleon conducted the first total war in global history vis-à-vis mass national warfare.
One of the most apparent changes during Napoleon's reign was the exponential increase in the immensity of the French army as a result of levee en mass as official policy, which many other European countries emulated thereafter. Napoleon oriented the majority of French resources in an unprecedented manner towards the French army. French conscripts flocked to join the army, numbering almost 1.5 soldiers. Known as the levee-en-masse, this unprecedented participation in the military rendered France superior over all of her European neighbors because of the never ending access to more manpower. The sheer immensity of the French army cultivated a high level of expectation for the organization and employment of the French army. The implementation of the Corps system emerged as of Napoleons most enduring and lauded achievements even though its etiology as an official organizing principle took place prior to the French Revolution. However, Napoleon had effectively grafted the Corps system by decentralizing maneuvers as well as centralized control. By separating the troops and moving each group separately, yet close enough so that they remained close enough in range if support was necessary, Bonaparte exponentially increased the speed of movement of his troops while simultaneously lessening the speed of use in battle. As a result, a less of a burden was placed on support mechanisms. In addition, Napoleon had developed an effective yet efficient way to communicate with all of the separate elements of his military through a staff system. Thus, these new corps consisted of infantry, cavalry, and artillery and were organized as "combined-arms units." The machinery of this organization and structure of the military, the corps were able to deftly maneuver either in concern or as individual units. Indeed, Napoleon's system required soldiers to increase their professionalism and experience, which facilitated the decentralized offensive maneuver while simultaneously increasing battlefield speed. The efficiency and effectiveness of Napoleon's tactical-maneuver techniques as well as his system of military organization still form to core of modern military epistemologies today.
Napoleonic warfare was vital to the evolution of the modern operational level of war and modern combat. He understood how to apply operational art, strategy, and military tactics. This paradigm shift improved the organizational structure of the revolutionary army. Moreover, Napoleon’s superb use of offensive strategy did not aim at defeating the enemy but at destroying it. Napoleon's favored maneuvering technique is referred in military discourses as the "manoeuvre sur les derr res." It its most idyllic form, this maneuver called for one corps who had already made contact with the enemy, engage in battle on the enemy's front line while the primary part of the military would approach the enemy from the rear. Napoleon was not the progenitor of this tactical scheme, he nonetheless perfected, popularized it, and dramatized how successful it could be if deployed by a larger military force as a result of his celerity in comparison to the enemy as well as his improvisational as well as charismatic leadership style and eloquence. The coalescing of firepower, speed and protection resulted in an explosive and lethal tactical scheme.
Napoleon’s logistical methods were also key in his victories, yet the immensity of Napoleon's army also created new challenges that needed logistical support. Napoleon deplored the notion that his army should remain sedentary for too long. An important part of one’s logistic strategy is how to sustain the health of one’s troops while simultaneously advancing in on enemy territory. To do this in his warfare campaigns, Napoleon utilized a variety of methods such as living off the land, utilization of rapid movements, and procuring defeated enemy’s depots. Napoleon recalls in history diary: "To knowhow to draw supplies of all kinds from the country you occupy makes up a large part of the art of war." Thus, despite prevailing challenges, the French army men refined their foraging skills during their campaigns. Despite these well laid plans Napoleon’s logistical support eventually dissipated, which forced him rely upon the maximization of resources plundered from local supplies.
This extensive outline of warfare tactics and military organization and logistics under Napoleon provided a blue print for the warfare that occurred after the outbreak of World War I. A linear affair, World War I broke out in 1914 and at its core doctrine emphasized "flank attack, envelopment, annihilation." Observers had even dubbed World War I as the industrial manifestation of the Napoleonic War paradigm, although the underlying processes at play during WWI signaled a paradigm shift. A new way of approaching warfare materialized, as technological improvements in military weaponry and methods as well as industrial mobilization transformed the fundamental pillars and nature of war. Trenches, barbed wire, and machine guns became central tropes and material goods used as tools of annihilation.
Some scholars, however, argue that Napoleon is irrelevant to modern warfare because another paradigm shift materialized as a result of technological advances that have rendered Napoleonic strategy obsolete. The RMA that occurred during World War differed only minimally from the Napoleonic Wars at the outset of the nineteenth century. Yet, the underlying forces signaled a paradigm shift that embraced Napoleonic contributions to modern warfare yet harnessed technological advancements that again shift the nature of war during the twentieth century. Napoleon Bonaparte changed the fundamental nature of military combat and warfare, as his contributions in terms of military organization, structure, and logistics reconfigured military warfare and revolution along more modern sentiments. Military conflicts and revolutions that took place on a global scale reflected strands of Napoleon’s military operations. Although some scholars have contended that the trajectory of military revolutions did not occur on a continuum, thereby rendering the process ahistorical, others cite historical arguments to draw causal relations between Napoleon and modern warfare. The extant literature is deficient and incomplete, yet it addresses important issues. Through the organization, structure, and logistics of Napoleon's war machine, it is evident that he made invaluable contributions towards modern warfare. Nonetheless, the characterization of the French Revolution as an RMA and World Wars I and II as one and the same opens a dialogue over the issue of whether a radical shift in war conduct can occur in the absence of technological innovation. Even if new technologies were at the soldiers' disposal, no causal correlation has been established that points to these new technologies as more important than other factors such as organizing principles, military culture, and social structures.
Modern warfare has emphasized the significance and currency of gathering intelligence regarding their foes. Countries have invested in new technologies to make sure that information can be gathered as a critical part in the conduction of warfare within the context of modernity. Intelligence vis-à-vis technological advancements can give one side a huge advantage over their foes because it facilitates their ability to predict the military strategy the other side would wage. Indeed, modern militaries underscore the need to garner any advantage they could obtain. Informants are often used to assess the location of the enemy and the resources the enemy has at its disposal in order to gauge their preparedness and military capabilities relative to their enemy or enemies. Moreover, Napoleon shifted how people understood the army from serving the interests of the ruling class to one that functioned as a manifestation of nationalism. The rise of the national army comprised of national citizens who served the welfare of the nation rather than personal self-interests began during the Napoleonic era. The war in Iraq unequivocally conveys the enduring legacy of Napoleon on modern warfare. Although Napoleon evinced advanced organizational skills, he never established total control. Parallels have nonetheless been drawn between Napoleon’s military ventures in Spain at the outset of the nineteenth century and the current conflict the U.S. is embroiled in Iraq and Afghanistan. Scholars have posited that George W. Bush and the other pro-military politicians are motivate by the same factors that undergirded Napoleon’s bellicosity: hubris, imperial extension, and unchecked nationalism. Armies today continue to operate within Napoleon’s war paradigm and staff model, as the corps structure despite the changing nature of technology. Technological innovations and revolution translates into the organization of a general staff that transcends traditional divisions in order to procure better intelligence as a means to make more strategic and tactical decisions. In the context of Iraq today, the Coalition army there has seen that deploying an army corps does not necessarily produce decisive results. Nonetheless, modern armies still focus on destroying the armies of their foes.
It can thus be concluded that the brand of warfare that took place in the Napoleonic era appears fundamentally similar to modern warfare practiced today despite the gap in time and the rapid industrialization and modernization of warfare and warfare strategy. Indeed, modern warfare must contend with how quickly technology has and continues to evolve to make wartime weaponry far more destruction and efficient, meaning these newer weapons could kill a large quantity of people instantly due to the development of nuclear weapons among other advancements made in guns and rifles. Fundamental similarities include: the use of offensive military strategies in order to gain an advantage; establishing structured formations such as the phalanx; the importance of empirical knowledge in order to understand this newly vanquished colonial subject who would soon become subsumed into society at large. Napoleon has achieved mythic status because he profoundly impacted the nature of warfare as modernity lurked. An effective strategist and tactical genius, Napoleon’s cogent schematics in order to cater to epochal and geographical contingencies always resulted in his triumph or yielded beneficial results. His accomplishments owed in large part to his ingenious and creative manner in which he strategized. Napoleon deployed novel and unique fighting methods, and, when combined with his natural resourcefulness, profoundly impacted how wars conducted thereafter were waged. His logistical and tactical organization of the military mirrors the current concept of war in the western world. Moreover, Napoleon wanted to show the world that war was not merely a physically-demanding activity men participated in to prove their manhood. Rather, war involved cogitation that required creative and outside-the-box thinking. Soldiers today currently serving on their tours of duties attest to the fact that Napoleon’s legacy and memory have admitted that the ingenious military tactics and theory worked overwhelmingly in a successful matter. Strategy has emerged as and remained the most significant and critical component of modern warfare, which remains one of Napoleon’s greatest legacy and rendered his military paradigm relevant to modern contexts.


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