Stupidest war contest

Every war sees more than its share of stupidity. Some more than others.

Zach – Today on Minimum Wage Historian, our topic has an over abundance of material and will be hard to limit it to a post someone can read before they lose all interest. Our topic is: which war is the stupidest. With me is my ever present co-host, Anna Komemne.

Anna – Glad to be here as always. Our panelists today are Hua Mulan, female soldier of ancient China, Lord Cornwallis, British General that fought the American Revolutionaries, Julius Caesar who kicked barbarian and Roman butt all over Europe and the Mediterranean, Countess Matilda of Tuscany, Italian woman soldier and body guard to the Pope, and last and…well, last, is Napoleon Bonaparte.

Zach – Thanks for coming. As promised, lots of Mountain Dew Throwback and Hotpockets for you.

Ceasar – I’m afraid I do not want a Hotpocket at the moment. I wish to try what is called a “7-11 chili dog.” I do not know what it is, but Gaspar was eating one and now I must try one.

Anna – No.

Caesar – But I insist!

Anna – No.

Caesar – Alright.

Zach – Okay, each of us will name what they consider the stupidest war ever. Let’s start with…Mulan. Ladies first.

Mulan – It took a while but I finally found one. The Paraguayan War, also called, the War of the Triple Alliance. I’ll try to be brief. Basically, in 1864 Paraguay had a dictator named Francisco Solano Lopez. He was a petty dictator that thought he was a regular Napoleon. (Napoleon laughs) He ran the country like his own personal fief with complete control of everything going on. There was no private, only public. Very Feudal if I must say. He sealed off the country to make sure no foreign influences came in. He had plans for his neighbor Uruguay, but so did Brazil. They both wanted to tell Uruguay what to do. Brazil got tired of waiting and invaded Uruguay with help from Argentina. So Paraguay declared war on Brazil and Argentina. Uruguay, now with a puppet government, sided with Brazil and Argentina and you had three countries gaining up on Paraguay who more than welcomed it. Lopez thought he could take all three easily. He had an army of 600,000 troops and the other countries only could gather a few thousand each. Brazil basically had untrained militia and a few National Guard, but the did have a better navy than Paraguay.

They really wanted to pretend it was a grand, romantic and epic war. Really, it was bloody, savage and barbaric.

Mulan – Paraguay made some great progress at first, invading its neighbors with its larger army, but then the three other countries did some major recruiting and pushed Paraguay back. Overwhelmed, the Triple Alliance invaded Paraguay and took it over. They installed a puppet government and Dictator Lopez took to the hills and waged a guerrilla war that lasted years and killed an estimated 60% of Paraguay’s population and 90% of the male population. It was the most destructive and deadliest war of modern times. And what was it for exactly?

Zach – Dang, you found a good one, Mulan. That was pretty stupid. Who’s next?

Cornwallis – I say, good boy, I will go next. My little gem of a imbecilic war is the Crimean War. It is considered the first “modern war” in that it used telegraphs, railways and on the spot journalism. I do say that I prefer not to have reporters looking over my shoulder constantly. It makes it hard to read in peace. The war started over Russia’s struggle against the Ottoman Empire. Russia wanted to remake the Byzantine Empire and form all Eastern Orthodox Christians in one empire, which unfortunately for the Ottomans, left little room for them. France, England, and the Ottomans didn’t want a super power Russia, so they declared war on Russian and war began. Now, the stupidity arises from…I am shamed to say, the officer corps of each army. At this time there had been peace in Europe for nearly forty years since the fall of Napoleon.
Napoleon – What?
Cornwallis – No one on either side had seen a shot fired in anger in four decades. The officers, once the pride of the British army, had become lazy, ignorant and prideful. They disdained such manly, military arts such as map reading, logistics, or how to wage successful wars…areas of learning that one would think would be necessary to, well, wage a successful war. At the Battle of Balaclava, where the Highlanders gained fame as “the Thin Red Line,” the Light Cavalry Brigade earned immortality by doing something incredibly stupid.

Sure look gallant, right? They didn’t look nearly so cool a few seconds later. It’s just hard to look like a romantic stud when you’re lying on the ground bleeding to death.

Many poets try to pass it off as gallant and heroic, but it was a waste of life and resources that any general worth his salt should have resigned over. The Light Brigade, with very unclear orders, charged right into the middle of the Russian army where they had their strongest forces and all their big guns pointing. It failed to say the least. Out of 700 men, less than 200 survived. The war was blunder after blunder and would have been over with much sooner if one side had had the decency to be half way competent.

Anna – That’s a good one. Pointless cause, pointless officers. I think I’ll go next. My vote for stupidest war was the 4th Crusade. A group of French knights apparently grew bored and decided to launch a Crusade to retake the Holy Land. So they went to Venice and purchased a fleet. The Venetians named their price and told them that the fleet would be ready in a year or so. To pay for the fleet, the knights made everyone that came pay a certain amount. The problem was, they didn’t have nearly the turnout they expected and by the time the fleet was finished, the knights didn’t have nearly enough money. Somewhat angry at the knights for going back on their word, the Venetians, ever on the look out for opportunity, offered the witless crusaders a chance to pay off their massive debt. If they’d do a few favors for the Venetians on the way to the Holy Land, they’d consider the debt paid. Releived, the Crusaders quickly agreed. Unfortunately the Venetian favors involved attacked Zarna, a Christian City that the Venetians wanted. So, the Crusaders attacked the city, burned it to the ground and promptly got excommunicated by the Pope. The Venetians told their French Crusaders to just ignore it and keep going. So, off to the Holy Land right? Wrong. Seeing another, bigger chance to make money, they turned the Crusaders against Venice’s trading rival, the Byzantine Empire. They went and attacked Constantinople, the largest Christian city in the world. So, instead of fighting infidels in the Holy Land, they slaughtered thousands of innocent Christians, burned Constantinople and looted and destroyed nearly a thousand years of collected art, buildings and relics.

This Crusade was indefensible. It was evil and I don’t use that word lightly.

It was the largest display of greed and hypocrisy ever and permanently crippled the ancient Roman Empire. I’m still angry with them!

Zach – You take that one personally, don’t you?

Anna – Darn straight I do!

Zach – Okay, next?

Matilda – I’ll go. My vote is the Athenian invasion of Syracuse. During the Peloponnesian war when Athens was at war with Sparta, a powerful enemy, mind you, the Athenians decide to suddenly send the bulk of their army across the Mediterranean to invade Syracuse, the capital of Sicily. Yes, Athens was a Democracy and they debated and voted and the majority voted to do something incredibly stupid. Those for the invasion said “Let’s go invade Syracuse. We’ll win us a powerful island and the people there will greet us as liberators!” Those against the invasion said “Hey! If we go there, we can’t send all our cavalry and we’ll be a long way from resupply or reinforcements. We’ll be cut off and slaughtered.

Look over on the right. See how close Athens and Sparta are? Why would they pack up their army and go alllll the way over there?

Guess what? They were cut off and slaughtered (or enslaved) to a man and Athens lost the majority of their army. Guess what happened next? Sparta won the war and took over Athens and a Greek dark ages ensued.

Lesson learned: When fighting THIS guy, don’t turn your back to him.


Zach – Next?
Caesar – I will go. I chose the Bay of Pigs. This was a CIA plan for Cuban exiles who didn’t like the idea of having their freedom taken away, to invade Cuba, stir up a revolt and overthrow the Cuban dictator, Castro. My invasion of England went far better. Well, everything I did went far better. The problems were, the CIA plan was utter garbage and didn’t take into account local support for Castro or the size of his military. Two things one would normally look at. Another was that they let Cuba find out that they were coming. Again, when you want a surprise attack, make sure it’s a surprise. And lastly, Kennedy…what’s the saying? Ah, yes. He chickened out and refused the Cuban fighters air support and without air support they were helpless on the beaches.

Well, my fellow Americans, I was born with a medical deficiency. I lack the majority of my vertebra. In layman’s terms I’m …..

As a result, the Cuban exiles were all killed or captured. Some were ransomed back at the cost of private citizens. And Castro grew in strength and popularity in Cuba, thus accomplishing the exact opposite of what they had desired.

Zach – Sounds like that was a well thought out plan right there.

Napoleon – My turn!  My vote is WWI.  If you want to know why, just look here.  WWI

Anna – That’s cheating!

Napoleon – If you are not cheating you are not trying.

Well, I guess its my turn. My vote for stupidest war is the latest Iraq War. First, let me talk of the reasons. We suspected weapons of mass destruction. Okay, but that is no justification for war. If we suspected, isn’t that what we have spies for? To find that kind of thing out? Maybe bribe a few Iraqi officials? I don’t know? Intelligence work? Instead we send the entire U.S. Army into Iraq and invade the country to search these weapons out. The sad thing was, we knew they had chemical weapons. Saddam had used them against Iran and the Kurds. No secret. Yet in the past 10 years, including our other war with him, he hadn’t used it. Go figure. Okay, never mind the lack of any real justification for the war. Let’s look at how it was carried out. President Bush asked how many men it would take to take down Iraq. His generals said a certain amount. But then General Shinseki said it would take at least twice that amount to secure the country from insurgencies. Bush didn’t like his answer so ridiculed him publicly and was marginalized and ignored. I’ll get back to that later. Then, during the war, we bypassed huge stockpiles of weapons without guarding or destroying them. When we finally returned to them, they were gone. Guess where they went. Then, after we toppled the government, we decided we needed to establish a new government by Iraqis and have an Iraqi manned security force. So naturally we fire every government employee and military personal in the country. So, you have a group of very angry men that knew how to organize and men that were trained how to fight that suddenly had nothing better to do that fight the people that put them in the unemployment line. And then we’re surprised that there’s an insurgency and that we didn’t have enough men to keep it under control. Wow, didn’t see that coming at all.

Yup, that’s Zach there. Enjoying Sunny Iraq and wondering why he was there.

Anna – We all had great candidates. But it’s not for us to decide. You the viewer must choose for yourself. Make a comment and let us know which you think won “The Stupidest War Ever Award!”

The Vicious Victorians

Merci! Thank you for coming today, I, your host, Joan D’Arc, will guide you through today’s topic of the Vicious Victorians!

Maybe they weren’t all bad. At least they had great style.


Today’s show is a summary of a presentation Zach gave at a steampunk convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. No, I have no idea what steampunk is.

Staff – This is steampunk, Joan.
Joan – I still don’t get it.


Well, First off, we must consider that many people have an idealized version of what the Victorian age was like. It wasn’t all just fancy dresses, impeccable manners and riding goggles. There was a dark side to the Victorians that Zach explained in his presentation. First, it was a time of peace in Europe, but expansionist colonialism everywhere else in the world. Britain led the way as the world’s #1 super power. It was the Pax Britanica, the British peace.

The sun never set on the British Empire, the world’s largest empire ever. It spanned the globe to every inhabited continent. Not bad for stinking English. My beloved French would have done a better job, I assure you.


Behind the coy smiles, charm and polished manners was an under layer of violence. Domestic violence, violent crime and warfare against native populations that dared think they should have a say in their own country.

This pictures sums up the politics of colonialism during the Victorian age.


But, let’s get to the good stuff. Let’s look at the tools of this Victorian violence.

Here is the British Webley. The handgun of the British empire. A very nice piece. The handgun that won an empire I suppose.


The Webely deserves another look.


This lovely piece here is called a “Volcanic Pistol.” I love the attention to decoration the Victorians had. Say what you will, they were good with art.


This is one of the earliest examples of a semi-automatic firearm. The Bergmann M1896. A very unique looking and rare gun.


A set of brass knuckles, knife and if that wasn’t enough, a gun as well. You can beat, stab and shoot someone all with one handy instrument.


And here’s what it looks like opened up in attack mode.


Here’s a pretty mean “pepper box” style gun. Before they invented semi-automatic, they tried to get a multi-shot gun. Their solution was multiple pre-loaded barrels. It is rather intimidating, oui?


Here is a Le-mat revolver. A revolver with one particularly interesting addition. It has two barrels, one for the cylinder and another is a single shot shotgun for some added firepower. Very dangerous.


A harmonica pistol. One barrel but several pre-loaded chambers.


Here is a Galand pocket revolver for gentlemen. Notice the Victorian decoration.


And here is the Galand as it’s opened for loading.


The American Bowie knife. Did not think this was Victorian? Remember, the Wild West was during the Victorian era. The quintessential Victorian horror novel, Dracula, featured a Texan armed with a giant Bowie knife.


A Mershon & Hollingsworth self cocking revolver. It uses a piece of clockwork to re-cock the pistol after every shot.


Here’s another early semi-automatic pistol, a Borchardt C93. A rather…odd looking firearm.


Let us not forget one of the most popular rifles of the time, the Winchester 1895.


A Sharps rifle mounted with a primitive scope.


The Victorians had many, many more weapons they used to kill each other and the local inhabitants. It was a time of invention and experimentation and to be honest, some of the experiments weren’t quite successful. But some were quite interesting and paved the way future firearm technology. This was just a recap. No, I don’t know why Zach’s not here to do his own recap.

What?

Oh, apparently he’s busy watching something called “anime.” I will never understand your 21st century.