Thursday, October 18, 2012

"We're 21-2-3!"

"We're 10 and 1!" That was Bill Murray's statistic for America's war record in the movie "Stripes".

"Kicking ass for 200 years!". Should that be our bumper sticker? We wish.

Now we've fought, what? How many actual wars? Are we gonna count the ethnic cleansing wars against the aboriginals (that would include our brief colonial aspirations)? I guess we should.

And does the Cold War count as a war? The War Against Terror? I don't think so. All those pansy UN "interventions", like Bosnia and Somalia, or ginned up photo-ops like Grenada? No. Nope.

So when we total up all the wars the USA has been in up to 2012, I get 26 wars. And in terms of wins, since we have to (yes, have to) include French assistance, you can't really put the Revolutionary War in the "win" category, but then, throw in our bullying around the world, but mainly in Central America, and we'll pretend that rounds things up to a whole number. So we got 26 wars, of which we lost two (War of 1812, Vietnam), tied three (Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan). So, we're 21-2-3.

Hey, did you notice something? It's the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812! Doesn't get much press does it? Well, we lost, and that's why. Why bring up embarassments that we'd all just as soon forget. Why bring up the time when Canada kicked our ass?


We don't want to talk about it. I think we should, though. Or at least some aspects of that war. You want a synopsis? War in Europe against Napoleon. The Brits need able seamen, and are not above kidnapping American sailors to serve involuntarily on British warships (Impressment). Not much the American navy can do, considering the Brits are the naval superpower of the time. So President Madison, under pressure from chickenhawks in Congress, declares war against Great Britain. The Brits are all like, "Seriously? We are fighting a real war here, you know". And so, little pipsqueak America tells John Bull to put up his dukes, as he's slugging it out with the French, and John Bull kind of mushes America's face with a backhand, and we fall on our ass into the mud, arms and legs akimbo. And of course, to our embarrassment, the Impressment issue has been resolved prior to the declaration of war.

Now, some will suggest that this was all to further American encroachment into the Northwest Territories (now the Midwest) west of the Appalachians, and the Southwest Territories (now Alabama and Mississippi), and to quench our lust for Ontario and Quebec. Oh, cynical creatures! To think to debase and besmirch our national character thusly!

(And, well, duh, yeah, dude, for the Continental Empire of Liberty? Duh! Yeah!)

Two things stand out. The 2nd Amendment. Read it? It's one of the few laws that includes a justification clause at the beginning:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Well, friends, if ever there was a war that puts the ridiculous delusional myth of the citizen soldier to rest, it's the War of 1812. Keep in mind, even today, you've got fucking idiots who, because they are carrying firearms, think that they can defend themselves from foreign invaders and criminal elements. They think that the mere possession of some kind of weapon upon their person or within their home makes them invulnerable - immune to not only the laws of God and Man, but to the physical parameters of the universe itself.

All I can hope for these supposedly bad-assed motherfuckers is that they may some day find out that that particular job opening has been filled. And the result of their miscalculation? Rusty blenders, some painful gender benders with a wedgie suspender, a crumbled body bag labeled 'Return to Sender'.

But I digress, the public mood of the time was distrust in a standing army as a temptation towards tyranny.  It was felt that the citizen's militia was more than adequate to defend the nation. And the goofy thing about the war of 1812, is that they had so much lead time to prepare. Most political leaders, chafing at the bit to move Westward, saw war with Britain as inevitable. President Thomas Jefferson, in 1807, suggested to Governor William Hull of the Michigan Territory that he begin planning an invasion of Canada! And yet our military forces were a joke. In the Jeffersonian imagination, the United States enjoyed the protection of a vigilant citizen's militia. But even in Jefferson's time, the militia was considered something of joke, with the annual states' muster more a circus carnival of drunken debauchery than an actual military training exercise.

With the start of the war, it was soon realized that a terrible mistake had been made, with Britain's much smaller professional army regularly besting and routing American amateurs. Though there were a few victories at sea, on the whole America's land war was distinctly unfortunate - one disaster after the next. Adding to the pathetic arming and equipping of the militia was the incompetence of the commanding officers - almost every one either a political appointee or successful local business leader.  The inept officers struggling with their own bumbling inadequacies, found it even more difficult to deal with citizen soldiers, who expected respect for their rights as Americans. Mutinies were common, as were outright recalcitrance and mass cowardice under fire. Contemptuous British forces referred to most battles as "nothing much more than scaring the militia". 

As a military historian G.W Cullum wrote in his Campaigns of 1812 - 1815:
Our so-called army, except Barney's seamen and Peter's regulars, was a heterogeneous mass without order or discipline, and had scarcely one officer with the least knowledge of actual warfare".
In short, it was a long comedy of folly and error, and it is little wonder we choose to ignore. The only unfortunate incident was the Battle of New Orleans. Jackass Andy Jackson went up against quite possibly the most incompetent general in the British army. As a result of the victory of American forces, the lessons that could have been learned were undermined. This victory, through judicious fluffing up in the press and in Congress, allowed not only the Jeffersonians to save face, but also prevented expansion of the US Army. This would haunt us later in the Mexican War, when militia units proved to be more of a danger to themselves and the regular army  - and the lowest, scummiest, worst form of scoundrels in the treatment of Mexican citizens.

So much for the glorious militia. And yet even today, we have boneheads that think it could work.

"Wolverines! Wolverines! Wolverines!"

The other shameful aspect of the War of 1812 (and the Revolutionary War before it) was the wholyy disgusting and disrespectful treatment of American veterans. The United States has long had a tradition of the most despicable set of behaviors towards our veterans, but one would be hard-pressed to find worst treatment. Just as in the Revolutionary War, veterans would fight a penurious and criminally dishonest Congress for promised pensions nearly forty years later. Public sentiment was much worse, labeling them "mercenaries and parasites".

What a laudable, great-hearted, wise and generous people our forefathers were! 


  1. I don't see how you can't count the wars against the native americans. I post this all the time, that America has been at war for nearly every year of its existence, so 'kicking ass for 200 years'! should be 'kicking ass forever!'

    you know what the worst part of this is? No one really seems horrified by the fact that we have been waging war basically since out inception and that we have started nearly every one of them. that's sad.

  2. Not that our all pro military did so well in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe the profit-making contractors are the problem.

    And weren't the winners in Vietnam, more or less citizens? Maybe not all volunteers, but I'm not sure that the state militias were not all volunteers in 1812 either.

    Face it, war is essentially a crap shoot, and no amount of cheering, or statistical prognostication is going to guarantee winning. Even worse, sometimes, winning is losing.

    1. Hey Barry,

      My understanding is that the winners in Vietnam were professional soldiers going all the way back to French colonial times. Pity they were not as competent in peace time as they were in victory.

      The volunteer movement hit its "zenith" in the Mexican War (another glorious moment in US history, I say with biting sarcasm). The volunteers in the Mexico campaign were pretty much responsible for every brutality committed down there. Not that you don't have that problem with regular troops, but, this was pretty bad - rape, murder, theft. It's a wonder the Mexican people didn't rise up and kick our ass. Fortunate indeed that where we are evenly matched, we so often face incompetents. In this case, Santa Ana.