An interview with Juan Cole
By David Barsamian
"Juan Cole, a widely respected expert on the Middle East, teaches history at the University of Michigan. He is a guest on major news programs. He is the author of many books including Sacred Space and Holy War. His latest is Napoleon's Egypt. I talked with him at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
BARSAMIAN: Joseph Conrad in Heart of Darkness writes, "They were conquerors and for that you want only brute force. They grabbed what they could for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a grand scale, and men going at it blind." Talk about Conrad's observations about conquest and the notion of an idea and Napoleon's Egypt.
COLE: Napoleon's Egypt may have been the first non-European country to have been conquered in the name of liberty because the French and American Revolutions had invented this rhetoric. It occurred to Bonaparte—he had done this in Italy—that elections and a certain amount of personal freedom could be installed by foreign military conquest. So you have this mixture of generals ruling, but then holding elections and trying to endow everything with some sense of popular sovereignty......."