Here’s a USFF (United States Fun Fact) for you: if you were born after 1984, the country has been at war for more than half of your life. And it increases quickly the younger you get.
Caroline (b. 1989) has lived in a country at war for 59 percent of her life, according to analysis by the Washington Post. For me (b.1992,) that number is 62 percent. But Corinne (b. 1995) has spent 70 percent of her life at war.
Not her literally, thank goodness. For the sake of her as my sister and the safety of our country. She doesn’t do well in hot climates. She loves a good fan. She’s not cut out for the military.
She is cut out to be a teacher. And her first graders, plus most of their older siblings and babysitters, have never known a country at peace. Anyone born after 2001 (which, somehow, means they are 17 now) has spent their entire lives in a country at war.
And now there’s all this talk about the next era of world combat. Are we on the brink of World War III? Are we repeating history in the worst possible way? Is this all just overblown? Are we just existing in a real-world version of Godwin’s Law?
The future is scary. The present is scary. Heck, even the past is scary (remember the Hippo Meat Question?) but at least we can learn from it. And if we are going to spend more of our lives at war, possibly even a global-scale war, here are a few suggestions for wars I wouldn’t mind reliving.
The Cod Wars. Iceland and the United Kingdom faced off in a series of cod-flicts about fishing rights between the 1950s and 1970s in a classic David and Goliath tale. Tiny Iceland stood up to the powerful British Navy, then the second largest in the world, to keep British fishermen out of their fishy, fishy coastal waters. Using mostly diplomatic efforts (and a few sea skirmishes between fishing boats,) Iceland managed to extend their exclusive fishing rights from four miles to 200 miles off their coast.
Only one person died across all three conflicts, and that was basically just an accident. TO BE FAIR, the agreement decimated a number of British fishing villages that relied on those waters for their livelihoods. But still better than World War III.
Anglo-Swedish War. Even fewer people died in the Anglo-Swedish war, which was really more like performance art to appease Napoleon than an actual war. Britain and Sweden had been allies against Napoleonic France. But when Sweden lost a war against France, they had to tuck their tails between their legs and sign a treaty that allied them with the lil man himself.
But Napoleon was the definition of a sore winner. He forced Sweden to declare war against its former ally, England. The “war” lasted two years, but there were no battles and the only bloodshed came when a group of Swedish farmers stood up to their government against being conscripted into military service.
The moment that Napoleon was distracted with invading Russia, those sneaky Swedes switched sides, signing a peace treaty with their former allies in Britain.
War of Jenkins’ Ear. If you have to have empires battling for global control and massive casualties, at least make sure the battle is over something significant. Like, for example, Jenkins’ ear.
In 1738, a British ship captain named Robert Jenkins (allegedly) appeared before the House of Commons, amputated ear in hand. He claimed that the Spanish coast guard had pillaged his ship and cut off said ear seven years ago. If you have 100 questions about what shape that ear was in, join the club.
The ear was just the last straw in the mounting power struggle between the Spanish and British in the New (To White People) World. The war, which lasted from 1739-1742, was fought mostly over the border between Spanish Florida and British Georgia. It also involved the British slave trade in the caribbean, so you know, across the board, not a real winner of a cause.
By most metrics, not a war we’d want to relive. But c’mon. It’s called the War of Jenkins’ Ear and involves a literal pickled ear. It stays on the list.
The Emu War. When soldiers returned from World War I (not on the list for obvious reasons,) Australia did its own version of 40-acres-and-a-mule. Except it’s Australia, so it was a-bit-of-scrubby-farmland-and-an-unwanted-emu. As veterans began to settle remote parts of the country, the emu that had previously occupied that turf became a little territorial.
The Australian Army sent its best men in, loaded down with ammunition, to take down a once-protected species. Turns out, emu are really tough. It took an average of 10 bullets to kill even one emu. The military operation was such a fail that they recalled the general who was leading it.
Over time, residents new and old learned to live together, hand-in-talon. Today, the emu population is flourishing and the bird has claimed its rightful place on the Australian coat of arms.
Now, that’s the way war should end — with compromise, diplomacy, and respect for your foe.
Not that I know anything about the end of wars. At age 26, I’ve only seen them begin.