Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Casus Belli

For no particular reason I find myself considering events that may or may not trigger wars, particularly, though not exclusively, those that involve boats.

I would include, of course, the sinking of the Battleship Maine in 1898 that so well served the purpose of William Randolph ("you furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war") Hearst.  We know now that the imputation of the sinking to the Spaniards was wholly spurious--about as spurious as Hitler blaming the Commies for the Reichstag Fire.

On the same plane I could of course include the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 that trigered a major escalation in Viet Nam--apparently not quite as fictional as the Maine, but still far more theatre than reality.   

I hope it's not inappropriate to throw in the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861: Here we have a bona fide conflict between genuine belligerents although it certainly did serve the political purpose of the new President Abraham Lincoln to mousetrap the Confederates into making the first move.

If the topic is attacks involving ships, I suppose I have to include Pearl Harbor in 1941, though obviously orders of magnitude bigger than the othersAnd just for the record, I'm not at all persuaded that it was a putup job: cockups happen and the evidence of cockup here is conclusive, I think.  But I do feel the pain of those who think otherwise.  For a failure of those magnitude, you just naturally want to find a culprit and it's not surprising that an awful lot of people spend time looking for one.

Although it doesn't involve boats, I suppose the same only moreso re 9/11 in 2001.  I can understand the impulse to look for a culprit but the evidence of inside conspiracy here seems even weaker.

On the other hand, I'd like to remember at least one event that did not trigger a war: the attack on the Gunboat Panay by the Japanese in the Yangtze River outside Nanjing in 1937.   I'm sure it is almost completely forgotten today, but it's remarkable how much diplomatic pushing and shoving ensued in the months that followed.  I suppose the main reason we didn't go to war over that one was that the nation was still deeply settled in its plague o' both your houses isolationist mode.  It would take another and far greater surprise to change the state of play on that one. 

No comments: