Dalai Lama and Napoleon’s Insight to Creating Peace by Force

Can we really create peace with force?

The French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who largely brought about peace after the French Revolution before he conquered most of Europe in the early 1800s, may have had his doubts:

The sword is always defeated by the mind
“Do you know…what amazes me in the world?

The inability of force to maintain anything at all. There are only two powers in the world: The sword and the mind. In the long run, the sword is always defeated by the mind.”
Napoleon Bonaparte
(1769-1821), French Emperor

The source or context of the quote is unknown so we probably won’t fully understand his meaning, but Napoleon’s insight that military power is not as powerful as the mind (or human spirit if you take the alternative French translation from the word “esprit”), is a powerful insight to the use of force to control people throughout the ages.

In 2012 I was fortunate to hear the Dalai Lama address an audience of the relatives of the British who were in Tibet before the Chinese invasion of 1950. It was an impassioned speech, similar to the one he gave when we were filming our documentary Road to Peace, when he declared the British were a “witness of past Tibet”. 


During an interview with NBC about the continued struggle for Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama restated the words from the summer of 2012:


“The struggle, which we are carrying out, is a struggle between power of truth and the power of gun. For short term, the power of gun is much stronger, but in the long run, the power of truth is more stronger than power of gun. That is my fundamental belief. I am not admiring the United States’ military power, including nuclear weapons. I really admire the United States’ moral principle, democracy, freedom and liberty. I admire these things, which are the source of the American power and not weapon.”

Truth is stronger than the power of a gun

So it’s worth remembering that the power of a nation, an individual or even a company is held within it’s values and actions. Our human values or truth, honesty and compassion, as well as understanding and tolerance for other people’s values, define us more than our might, and are the real foundations to building a peaceful world in which we can all thrive.


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