6 Stupidest Reasons Countries Have Gone To War - Dangerously Genocidal

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Saturday, 29 April 2017

6 Stupidest Reasons Countries Have Gone To War

At our roots, in our little heart of hearts, humans are a pretty violent race. For every one person seeking that elusive inner peace, you just need to make a stop at the local bar to see the other nine ready to throw it down. Unfortunately, that last bit of caveman instinct isn’t likely to breed out any time soon – which is probably why history is filled with tales of pointless, whimsical and downright idiotic wars. From a mortally moronic mistake to the honour of a captain’s ear; here are:

6 Stupidest Reasons Countries Have Gone To War



1. The Austrian Schnapps War of 1788

Unless taken in moderation, alcohol can lead to several situations where giant neon “I told you so!” signs are warranted. Usually these drunken forays into delinquency rarely lead to the deaths of thousands – unfortunately the Austrians in 1788 weren’t so lucky. The Hapsburg (Austrian) Army was fighting the Turks, and at the time it was quite the random rabble; there were Germans, French, Czechs, Serbians, Croatians, Polish and, of course, Austrians. It was a lost-in-translation disaster in the making.

On 17th September, so the stories tell, the tired soldiers set up camp and cavalrymen were sent on night patrol to keep an eye out for the enemy. They didn’t find any Turks, but they did come across a Gypsy camp. Kindly hears filled with compassion for the exhausted men, the Gypsies plied them with Schnapps. Lots of Schnapps… but not enough. When a group of infantry soldiers tried to join the party, it was the equivalent of sticking a spur under the saddle for the horsemen. Mix alcohol, lack of sleep and men itching for a fight, and you have the makings of an epic brawl.

One of the brawny morons decided to fire off a round, and the night descended into absolute chaos. Cries of “Turks, Turks!” was yelled into and out of the dark, and the brawlers rushed back to camp – they, of course, thought that the Ottoman army was attacking and they’d just been warned. It was too late – the camp was a disaster. And then the tower of Babel collapsed – German officers started yelling “Halt!” to try and bring order to the mess. It must have been one hell of a party, because the non-German soldiers mistook the cries for ones of “Allah!” Every loyal soldier jumped straight into battle… with each other. Even a corps commander went so far as ordering an artillery strike!

It’s not hard to guess what happened next.

Two days later the Turkish army marched into Karansebes, and found it defenceless. The private little war left 10’000 dead in its wake – truly a monument to the virtues of Schnapps.


2. The War of the Wooden Bucket

This one is in a league all of its own. Maybe it was just the bucket that finally broke the camel’s back, but for some reason a few Modenese soldiers decided that it would be of vital strategic importance to make an incursion to enemy territory… and steal a bucket. An old oak well bucket. There was probably more to the whole thing, but in that very moment the fates decided that the 300-year struggle would be known as the War of the Oaken Bucket.

Some would argue that the Bolognese started the whole thing – they often engaged in border skirmishes and crossed over to attack Modena. Even so, there was no war declared. At least, not until the Modenese sneakily snagged the aforementioned wooden bucket. The Bolognese demanded it back, the Modenese refused, and "Hey, presto!" – one more war for the rest of the world to scratch their heads about in the 21st century.

The Bolognese sent an army of 32’000 men to reclaim their precious little bucket, and they were met with seven-thousand Modenese soldiers. That’s right, 7’000. That group, tiny in comparison and heavily outnumbered, sent the Bolognese scattering in just two hours. Oh, the humiliation; couldn’t even steal their bucket back.

The Modenese rubbed it in, too. The bucket is still kept and displayed in the Torre della Ghirlandina in Modena; it seems they have no intention to let anyone forget that David beat Goliath because of a little damp oak.


3. The British/Ashanti War of the Golden Stool

War is never a good thing, but when one starts because one official had his head so far up his own ass that he felt it appropriate to take a dump on the culture of another race… now that’s an entirely different matter altogether. The aforementioned official was Sir Frederick Mitchell Hodgson, the British Governor to the Ashanti region in West Africa, and he had no problems with his ego.

The Ashanti were annexed into the Empire but they maintained a de facto independence; when they all gathered respectfully and afforded his party traditional honours and “God Save the Queen” he should have been happy and gone on his way. Instead Mr. Sir Governor made a speech to the Ashanti leaders in which he made it quite clear their king was never coming back, they were now officially being ruled by the Queen, and that she would be due a certain amount of money per year. Then Hodgson proceeded to develop the worst case of foot in mouth disease ever – he commanded that the Golden Stool of the Ashanti, a most significant relic to the Ashanti and a symbol of their people and only ever for their king, belonged to the Queen now.

And then he demanded it be brought out for him to sit on.

It was too big an insult to forgive. The Queen Mother of the Ashanti gathered an army, bolstered by volunteers from a very pissed off community. They forced the British to retreat to their local offices, which they barricaded and waited out several attacks of attrition. Although they couldn’t take the fort itself, the Ashanti force did manage to cut off food supplies and relief, and disease took its toll on the trapped people. It was several months before a group could make an attempt at escape, finally meeting up with Major James Willcocks and his forces – who were having rotten luck with Ashanti forces themselves.

The British did, eventually, gain Kumasi back. The Ashanti still governed themselves, but many chiefs – and the queen mother – was exiled to the Seychelles. Kumasi now serves as a memorial to the war she led for her people.

The Golden Stool remained out of British hands, and you’d think they’d have learned their lesson about wanting it. They never stopped looking for it until, shortly after 1920, the stool was accidentally found by a group of labourers. Greedy hands quickly removed the Golden Ornaments and, just like that, the Golden Stool became a powerless chair.

How’s that for irony?


4. The San Juan Island Pig War

Calling this a war is probably overstating things a little, and one of very few times where the military commanders held cooler heads than the local politicians and diplomats. Things were quite tense on the San Juan Islands between Oregon Country and Columbia District, both of whom wanted to claim the islands. There were negotiations, meetings, treaties and arbitration, but nothing could be decided as neither side was willing to budge on their claim of ownership. How long they could have kept up their stalemate is anyone’s guess, but a pig had other plans.

Said pig, owned by Irishman Charles Griffin, had decided that the potatoes of American Lyman Cutler looked particularly delicious, apparently not for the first time – but it would be the last. Cutler was so upset that he outright shot the pig, and then refused to pay the $100 that Griffin demanded in payment. When the British authorities threatened to arrest Cutler for the offense, the American settlers called for troops.

Soon enough the straight and the island was populated by soldiers from both sides. Although both American and British governors kept calling for action from their military, the commanders of both sides – thankfully – kept their wits about them. Firm orders were issued that self-defense was permitted, but no soldier was to engage in the first shot – and no shot were fired. Interestingly enough, both Washington and London officials were shocked to hear how far things had escalated, and finally – after more than a decade of joint (semi-peaceful) occupation – Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany was chosen to arbitrate the issue of the San Juan Islands.

The assembled commission finally decided in favour of the States over a year later, and the Royal Marines withdrew from San Juan. Despite several unhappy officials left in the wake, the stories tell that the soldiers had quite a good time during the occupation – so much so that, according to ranger reports, the biggest threat to the peace was “the large amounts of alcohol available”.

If only all wars could pass by so unnoticeably and well lubricated. If only cool heads always prevailed. If only pigs could fly.


5. Jenkin’s Ear War

At this point, one has to assume that people are deliberately looking for reasons to start wars. Considering the crappy state of affairs between Britain and Spain in the wake of the Anglo-Spanish War, it’s no real wonder that the British was looking for something that would give them the chance they needed to… vent. After the asiento, or contract-right, was revoked by Spain and British ships and cargo in Spanish harbours confiscated, things took a pretty severe downward spiral.

Enter Robert Jenkins, a ‘master mariner’ on a British Brig. A Spanish patrol boat – or, to put it bluntly, a privateer – boarded them and accused captain Jenkins of being a smuggler. He accompanied said accusation with the cutting off of poor old Jenkins’ ear, and told him to "Go, and tell your King that I will do the same, if he dares to do the same.".

Jenkins was called to testify of this “Spanish Depredation upon the British Subjects” before Parliament. The entire thing was considered quite the insult to the honour of Britain, and kicked of yet another war between these two nations.

It’s interesting that the removal of a sailor’s ear was enough reason to go to war, especially since it took them just about eight years to finally hear Captain Jenkins out. Slight to their honour, or just a convenient excuse…?


6. The War of the Fly Swatter

When the cause of a large scale war is referred to as the “Fly Whisk Incident”, you’ve got to know that either something really interesting happened, or someone got a bee – or a fly, as it were – in their bonnet over something really moronic. In this case, the idiocy escalated from Hussein Dey and Ambassador Pierre Deval all the way to Charles X of France. The dey demanded a settlement of a debt, the ambassador refused, and so Hussein did the only ‘logical’ thing – he smacked the foreign upstart with his fly swatter. Cause and effect – one ambassador was swatted, and King Charles launched an invasion.

Hard to believe as it might be, it was that fly swatter that ended 313 years of Ottoman rule in Algeria and culminated in the birth of French Algeria. Despite launching the entire invasion due to the incident being considered a “personal slight” by Charles X – who should really have been worrying about the revolution that would see him deposed – Hussein himself was released after his surrender. In fact, the dey was given his freedom and he retained his family, his harem and all his wealth, and settled in Naples – his rather bold request for permission to live in France being soundly denied by Charles X.

Makes one wonder what would have happened if Pierre had just turned the other cheek instead.




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