Napoleon admired and respected Frederick the Great, the ruler of Prussia from 1740 to 1786, even though Napoleon’s army trampled on the descendants of Fredrick’s but he never disparaged the king. Due to their strong inclination to nationalism, Europeans often harshly criticize generals of other countries but no one seems to raise an objection that Frederick was a great strategist.
Frederick II was defeated in several battles as he made several mistakes in judgement. His first defeat in war was in the Battle of Kolin. He suffered a defeat even though his army had twice as many as the number of troops and had a geographical advantage. His army looked down on the Australian army and sustained a defeat in a reckless attack. Frederick II later admitted that he should not have gone ahead with the attack and that he was fully responsible for the defeat.
If we collect all mistakes Frederick made, many would agree that his reputation is overrated. But that is a mistake. A war is not a battle, where the officer in command makes only right decisions and makes no mistakes. It is a battle of who makes fewer mistakes or who makes a mistake at a crucial moment.
The reason why Frederick often gets criticized for many mistakes he made is because there are so many articles and documents about him. Wouldn’t Alexander the Great have made any mistakes? He might have made more mistakes and had more lapses in judgement than Frederick II. Unfortunately, his battles cannot be studied due to lack of records.
We are exposed to too much information today. And there are so many criticisms. We are living in times when power cannot conceal mistakes. But to determine which is right or wrong, we need analyses from experts as well as a sense of justice. Democracy has developed by handing over power to the public from a selected few. Democracy, however, is not about replacing expertise with public sentiment.
Nurturing conscientious and healthy group of experts in all fields and protecting them from illegal interference is a prerequisite for the development of democracy.