Why Are the Tyrants Always Short Guys? — Marion Evans


Or why only the French can stop Putin.
I am only 5’7” tall, 5’8” on warmer days or when I feel magnanimous. One day, soon after my wife and I started dating, she was in one of her it-is-better-to-be-honest-than-tactful moods, and she casually observed that I was the shortest boyfriend she had ever had. Since my height was a pre-existing condition, I was eminently prepared to face down this abject rebellion and I immediately shot back that I was “tall inside.” The trick worked and we have been married for over 10 years. This is what short guys do. We act and talk tall in the hope that other people will not notice or care. We also adopt some defensive measures, such as avoiding parties where everyone is standing up in close quarters. Dinner parties are so much more civilized anyway.
Another thing we enjoy more than the average American is overseas travel. This is so not only because cattle…uh, coach class on airlines feels roomier to us, but also, more importantly, because people in most other countries are shorter than Americans. Standing tall in the Tokyo subway a decade ago, I marveled at my unrestricted panoramic view of bobbing Japanese heads on their way to work. And then, there is France. The French are not as short as the Japanese, but they are short enough. A persistent theory claims that Napoleon culled the tall gene by recruiting the tallest for his endless battles at the four corners of Europe.
Which brings us nicely to the Napoleon-Hitler-Putin axis of history. Do you see a pattern here? Napoleon was short (5’6”), Hitler was short (5’8”), Putin is shorter (5’5”). Why is it always a short guy? Napoleon and Hitler set Europe aflame. If you think Putin is not as bad, it is only because you lack imagination. Or maybe you are blind. He participated in the destruction of a city inside Russia, Grozny in Chechnya (2000), and invaded two countries, Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2014). He also bears some responsibility for the devastation of Syria (2011-2014). And, by the way, he does not particularly dislike Syrians. He had no reason to feel any envy or anger towards them. Just think what he would do to Americans if he could. Use your imagination. Assume the worst. And be pleasantly surprised if you are wrong. That is better than being naïve and hoping for the best.
Now, Putin may not completely live up to his Hitlerian potential. An accident may happen. One day, a pet tiger may not take kindly to the smug humanoid fondling his luxurious coat to impress the cameras. Or he may fall off his horse or suffer hypothermia while bathing in a Siberian lake and be thus incapacitated. Or Pussy Riot may organize a simultaneous revolt across all of Russia’s nine time zones. That would be unfortunate, but here is a simple truth that is not always heeded: it can be reckless and dangerous to toy with unpredictable great forces such as wild animals, mother nature, angry women, and… well, the United States of America. But enough fantasy. Back to reality.
The reality is not only that Putin is short but that Russia is also “short.” I am not the kind of guy who can afford to pick a fight in a bar. And Russia today is not the kind of country that can afford to pick a fight with a superpower. Maybe the Russians are hoping that we will not notice. Maybe they are diverting our attention from their 12,600 miles of land borders, which are largely indefensible save through the threat of nuclear weapons. Maybe they are acting tall, or telling us that they are “tall inside.” Maybe that is why they are trying to rally more populous countries like China and India against us. It is no accident that Putin thanked both of these countries for their understanding just yesterday while he signed the annexation of Crimea. Ok, but problem! China probably wants Siberia and India is our friend.
Russia’s numbers speak for themselves. It has a population of 145 million people, expected to fall to 126 million by 2050 (UN estimates). It has the GDP of Italy (are you afraid of Italy?) and is very dependent on its energy resources. If oil fell to, say, $50 per barrel and stayed there for a few months, Putin would be more reasonable about Crimea. At $40, the Chinese would clear their throat about Siberia. And at $30, the Japanese would cough twice about the Kuril Islands. Remember that Putin’s last invasion (of Georgia) occurred in 2008, shortly after oil hit a record $150 per barrel. Keep that oil price down. Or better, drive it down to $50.
There has been a lot of criticism of President Obama regarding his response to the theft of Crimea. You see, the problem is that Obama is not short enough. Not only is he physically tall — not to say downright greedy — at 6’1.” He is also trying to keep things “tall”, dignified, on a higher plane. He thinks he is matching wits with Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney.
What we need is a Putin-like leader on our side … and this is where the French come in. If you have ever been in a Parisian taxi, you know that you do not want to get into an argument with a Frenchman. It is true that they “took August off” during every month of World War II, but that is because they were deeply divided. Unlike the Germans or Soviet Russians, the French do not need a higher reason to antagonize you. No delusions about ideological struggle, or about master race or rebirth of empire. If you attack them or even just annoy them, they will lash back. What is more, as noted in a recent Ricochet article, in the sorry history of sub-5’9” mass murderers, Napoleon entered Moscow in 1812 (though mainly due to Russian withdrawal) and Hitler did not in 1942. Note that the Russians promptly returned the visit by occupying Paris in 1814.
The incumbent Francois Hollande is short enough (5’8”) to stop Vladimir Putin. But if not him, his predecessor and likely successor, Nicolas Sarkozy (5’7”), certainly has the goods. The super smart, short-tempered, streetfighting, supermodel-marrying Sarkozy has been working on a comeback and could well breeze into office in 2017. He is tan. He is rested. He is pro-Europe. He is pro-America. And he is short.

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  1. Misthiocracy Member

    Napoleon was of average height for the time.

    I’m 5’9″, and I’ve never considered myself to be short, so I’m hesitant to call Hitler short.

    Putin may be 5’5″, but I wouldn’t want to meet him in a judo ring.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher

    Never frighten a little man. He’ll kill you.

    – Robert Heinlein

    • #2
  3. Misthiocracy Member

     “But Marge, that little guy hasn’t done anything yet! Look at him! He’s gonna do something, and you know it’s gonna be good!”

    – Homer Simpson

    • #3
  4. George Savage Contributor
    George Savage

    I am 5’6″ tall.  Nuff said.

    • #4
  5. user_552186 Inactive

    I remember Lileks once said in a podcast that it’s better to be short than to look down at people. Maybe short guys can more easily form a connection with the “little people.”

    • #5
  6. AIG Inactive

    Height is relative. Napoleon or Sarkozy never thought of themselves as “short”, because relative to their countrymen, they are not. Russia, however, might be a different story. All the murderous KGB agents seem to be rather small. How tall was Yezhov? ;) 

    The French might be the only real hope of Europe standing up to the Russians, but it is unlikely. Sarkozy after all approved the sale of two helicopter-carriers to Russia even after their invasion of Georgia. More than animosity, Sarkozy, Putin and Berlusconi had a healthy friendship. It wasn’t just France that started military cooperation with Russia (the Mistrals plus Nexter sold technology for armored vehicles to Russia). Italian arms companies also sold technology on armored vehicles to Russia. 

    W. Europe capitulated in 2008 to Russia. It will do so again.

    • #6
  7. Indaba Member

    Misthiocracy – Of course you don’t think you are short!
    You have Napoleon complex, didn’t you know?
    5’9″ is short in my books, for a man, but that is my height. It is rare I meet a woman taller than me but then I came on Ricochet – and there is 6’2″inheels and more!
    I work in finance and I do notice that the majority of private equity men are 5’9″ and under. They are tough, energetic, aggressive and goers. Maybe not Putin aggressive, but they are out hunting down business. So height is an interesting phenomena

    • #7
  8. user_1938 Inactive

    The resolve of French politicians, as depicted at the time of the Muslim riots:


    The caption reads, “That does it! I’m declaring a curfew!”

    As I recall, Julius Caesar was 5’6″ or 5’7″ and considered tall for a Roman. Now that you mention it, he did become more tyrannical as he shrank with age.

    • #8
  9. user_139157 Inactive

    Putin is 5’5″!?!?!  My tyrannical instincts must be tempered by my height of 6’2″, perhaps it’s lack of oxygen?  Obama should exercise some diplomacy by hoisting him on his shoulders the next time they meet.

    • #9
  10. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans

    Sarkozy also hosted Gaddafi in Paris and tried to sell him weapons. A few years later, he was the most resolute in going after Gaddafi.

    • #10
  11. user_2967 Inactive

    So size matters after all?

    • #11
  12. The Mugwump Inactive
    The Mugwump

    There are tall short people and short tall people.  I would submit that our president is a short tall person while Vladimir Putin is obviously a tall short person.  Somewhere I heard it:  “It ain’t the size of the dog that counts, but the size of the fight in the dog that matters.” 

    My late, great father was 5′ 3 and 3/4’s.  He was told to stand straight when he took his physical.  His military record states that he was 5’4″ and he was given an officer’s commission in 1951.  Second Lieutenant William H. Paules was sent to Korea where he commanded a U.S. engineer company and an attached battalion of 2,000 Korean laborers.  He built roads, bridges and dams in Korea without any expectation that his labor would yield fruit.  My dad saw his firs Kia sometime in the early nineties.  I had to explain to him that it was Korean built.  My dad was typically taciturn for a man of his generation.  I heard him grunt when I offered my explanation, but I saw the fire in his eyes.  My father was a very tall short man.  RIP.

    • #12
  13. user_90635 Member

    When did 5’8″ become “short”? It was an average height for adult males back in the 1970’s. (I recall being pretty much exactly in the middle for height in my platoon back in basic training in 1975).

    • #13
  14. Zafar Member

    I want to point out that Indira Gandhi was a short woman.

    • #14
  15. Scott Reusser Member
    Scott Reusser

    I’m 6’5″ and too moderate to support the gov’t shutdown. So the theory holds.

    • #15
  16. Kozak Member

    I suspect Putin is also making up for another anatomical short coming in a Freudian sense……

    • #16
  17. Eeyore Member

    At such a time as Things Go South, the person in whose company I would hope to be is 5’5″ and 65 years old. Recently, a large young man parked in this gentleman’s driveway to drink beer. When this person asked the young man to please pick up his beer cans and leave, the young man said “What I’m going to do is beat the hell out of you, old man!” By the time he had exited his car, the large young man found himself with one broken arm and one dislocated shoulder, and writhing on the ground until the police arrived. What he didn’t know was the short old man had been a long-time Army Ranger. As ~The Mugwump would say, a tall short man.

    Perhaps many short people discover that developing alpha behaviors is a good survival strategy.

    • #17
  18. user_428379 Thatcher

    Putin is short?  I didn’t know.  Figures.  I guess I don’t watch enough TV.

    • #18
  19. user_428379 Thatcher

    I want to point out that Indira Gandhi was a short woman.

     So was Mahatma Gandhi (well he wasn’t a woman).  Passive aggressive?  Or aggressively passive?

    • #19
  20. user_280840 Inactive

    May I point to two historical examples?

    Charlemagne and Maximinus Thrax are both said to have been 8 feet tall.

    Now, obviously that’s an exaggeration, but it contains a grain of truth, obviously those two men (especially Maxinus Thrax who, for what it’s worth, the Historia Augusta has at 8 and a half feet tall and who may have had acromegaly) were enormous men for their times.

    • #20
  21. Skyler Coolidge

    This is what short guys do. We act and talk tall in the hope that other people will not notice or care. We also adopt some defensive measures, such as avoiding parties where everyone is standing up in close quarters.”

    Jeez louise.  Speak for yourself.  

    • #21
  22. Zafar Member

    Al Sparks:

    Zafar: I want to point out that Indira Gandhi was a short woman.

    So was Mahatma Gandhi (well he wasn’t a woman). Passive aggressive? Or aggressively passive?

     Absolutely!  Did the British quit India or not? They did they did they did! Feeling guilty no less!!!

    • #22
  23. user_631831 Inactive

    Thank you Skyler – my thoughts exactly.

    • #23
  24. Salamandyr Inactive

    I’ve always seen 5’7″ as the dividing line between short and tall.  I don’t think Putin is the way he is because he’s short.  I think he’s the way he is because that’s the way he is trained to be.  This is what he sees as strength.

    • #24
  25. Metalheaddoc Member

    I declare a micro-aggression!! I am appalled by the rampant dimension-ism on this comment thread. How dare you judge a man on his height! What about his width and depth? What about a man’s volumentric displacement? Aren’t we supposed to judge a man based on his BMI nowadays anyway?

    • #25
  26. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans

    I declare a micro-aggression!! I am appalled by the rampant dimension-ism on this comment thread. How dare you judge a man on his height! What about his width and depth? What about a man’s volumentric displacement? Aren’t we supposed to judge a man based on his BMI nowadays anyway?

     Good point. May have to write a sequel.

    • #26
  27. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    • #27
  28. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans

    Work with me. I needed something to build up to “Russia is acting tall while hoping no one will notice”.

    • #28
  29. Misthiocracy Member

    Anybody here ever watch Life’s Too Short, starring Warwick Davis?

    I’m a fan.

    • #29
  30. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist

    Marion Evans:
    Work with me. I needed something to build up to “Russia is acting tall while hoping no one will notice”.

     And you did it masterfully! Great post! Fun to read.

    • #30
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