Exile Gaddafi on St Helena?

There was a serious suggestion in yesterday’s Washington Post to exile Gaddafi to St Helena: A St Helena Home for Gaddafi by William C. Goodfellow of the Center for International Policy.

While that may be a fine solution to the Libyan crisis, some of the writer’s statements about Napoleon are wrong. For example, Napoleon’s young Austrian wife was whisked back to her father, the Austrian emperor, before Napoleon’s first exile in Elba. There she was seduced by an Austrian noble who was specifically given that assignment. She did not, as this piece’s author maintains, simply decide to remain behind in France.

More important, it’s outrageous to blame Napoleon for all the deaths that occurred in European wars during his reign. When the French revolution was spinning out of control, Napoleon stepped into the power vacuum, reestablishing stability, creating fiscal solvency, and instituting the first meritocracy in Europe. The other European sovereigns pursued a ceaseless quest to unseat him because he was an upstart who threatened their power which was based on supposedly God-given authority.  If the Bourbon French kings could be so easily replaced, then their own thrones were in jeopardy as well. Certainly, Napoleon had boundless ambition, but he also had the support of the French people, as demonstrated by his return from Elba to retake the French throne, a task he accomplished with a few hundred soldiers who didn’t fire a single shot.

As for Gaddafi’s exile on St Helena, while it might put the island into the international spotlight, I doubt it would do much to encourage the tourist trade the island craves.

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Copyright © 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Margaret Rodenberg