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Is the World On the Brink of Major War?

20 Aug

What on earth is the world coming to?  We now live in a time of war, and rumors of war, and the rumors just keep coming!  A recent article in the magazine Foreign Policy actually postulates what may occur if China and Japan were to fight a naval war over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.  Back when we lived through the Cold War, in a bipolar world, (that means that there were two main superpowers in the world), and most conflicts in the world revolved around the Soviet-American rivalry, the basic calculus was simple:  The two superpowers would keep their allies and satellites in check, and, barring some extraordinarily crazy sparking event, the chances of an actual war between the superpowers would likely not happen due to the threat of mutually assured nuclear destruction.  That also meant that if America’s ally Israel got the upper hand over Soviet-allied Egypt and Syria in the latest Middle Eastern War, the Americans would rein in the Israelis before they could march on Cairo or Damascus and trigger possible Soviet intervention.  Similarly, it was fairly certain that the Soviets would convince Syria to not use its stockpile of chemical weapons on Israel for similar fear of an American intervention.  In many ways, the Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union kept a lid on many possible conflicts that could have sparked a bigger war.

Well, the Soviet Union is gone now, and we are faced with a multi-polar world.  Make no mistake, the U.S. is still the only legitimate superpower around.  The U.S. can project power literally anywhere in the world with a high degree of certainty of tactical victory.  For example, on a month’s notice in 2001, American and allied forces launched an invasion/liberation of Afghanistan (literally on the other side of the planet from the U.S.), following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  But other, regional powers are flexing their muscles and making threatening noises, and this will continue to be a reality as those regional powers (such as China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel, Japan, Russia, India, and others), come into conflict with their neighbors.  Notice that several of the nations named above are neighbors with each other, or at least inhabit the same neighborhood.

In August of 2012, a look at the current wars, border conflicts, and potential international problems that are currently being discussed, and reported on in the news:

Israel is openly debating whether or not to attack Iran.  The Iranians, for their part, continue to develop their controversial nuclear program, while simultaneously we hear their leaders call for the destruction of Israel.

–The United States continues to place increased military forces in the regions surrounding Iran, just in case there is an Israeli-Iranian War.  If such a war breaks out, the U.S. will almost certainly be drawn in.

–The ongoing Syrian Civil War is getting bloodier, and the Assad regime may be getting more desperate.  Speculation has arisen over the possibility of Assad using his stockpile of chemical weapons on either the rebels or on the nations that support them, namely Turkey and Jordan.  Of course, Assad could also just use them on Israel, hoping to gain traction with his own people or with other Arab nations.  All of the above-named anti-Assad nations are friends of the U.S., which has made no bones about intervening if Assad were to use his weapons of mass destruction.

Israel is openly preparing for a possible intervention of their own in Syria if they believe that Assad is going to transfer his chemical weapons to his Hezbollah allies in Lebanon.

Egypt is engaged in a low-level but growing battle to re-assert authority in the Sinai, where Islamic militants are launching more frequent and more deadly attacks on Egyptian, Israeli, and American forces. (The Americans are in the Sinai as part of the Multinational Force & Observers, which has helped keep the peace between Egypt and Israel since the Camp David Accords).

-China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and other Southeast Asian nations are engaged in name-calling and posturing over the contested Spratly Islands.  China has increasingly asserted authority on the islands, even to the point of setting up a small city on one of them.  The military forces of several nations are in the area.  The main reason for this conflict is the belief that the area is rich in oil and natural gas. The United States is a close ally of the Philippines, and is increasingly establishing strong military and diplomatic ties with Vietnam, and any military conflict over these islands would almost certainly the U.S. against the Chinese.

–Similarly, China and Japan are currently engaged in serious name-calling and worse over their contested islands, which the Chinese call the Diaoyu Islands, and the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands.  Some respected publications like Foreign Policy are posting articles speculating on the outcome of a possible Sino-Japanese Naval war in 2012.  Of course, the United States is a close ally of Japan, and any military conflict would almost certainly bring the U.S. on the Japanese side.

–American military forces are still heavily engaged against Taliban forces in Afghanistan, while other U.S. assets continue to deploy against al-Qaida and other Islamist forces throughout the world.

–In Yemen, American trainers continue to aid the Yemeni government while occasional U.S. drone attacks take out al-Qaida operatives.  Several terrorist attacks against American targets have originated out of Yemen in recent years.

— U.S. drone attacks against al-Qaida and other Islamist targets in Pakistan continue unabated.  One estimate places the number of dead from these attacks since 2004 at over 3,000.

–U.S.-funded allies, actively aided by American air and naval forces (and of course, more drone attacks), provide the military muscle in the Somali government’s war against the Islamist and al-Qaida allied Shabab rebels.  These allies include Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, and Ethiopia.

–Following the successful campaign by NATO and other allied nations (Qatar among them), to aid rebels in overthrowing Muammar Gadhafi’s tyrannical regime, several thousand Taureg mercenaries previously employed by Gadhafi went home to northern Mali (with the nice weapons Gadhafi gave them), and commenced to defeat the Malian army and establish a de facto Taureg homeland in northern Mali.  These Taureg (that is the name of their ethnic group) have been infiltrated by the North African branch of al-Qaida and other Islamist groups.  Several other West African nations are contemplating sending a military force to Mali to defeat them.  The United States and other Western nations would likely end up supporting such an intervention with funds, material, and possibly troops.  Oh, and probably drones, as well.

There are a few more international issues that are on the back burner as well, but this list gives a pretty good idea of the precarious situation the world is in right now.  And that is not even mentioning the perpetual worries over Korea!  And, as the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States prepare for their presidential nominating conventions, not a single one of these issues is a major item of discussion for the two presidential candidates.  In fact, a quick look at major news stories in America during the middle of August show a fascination with GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s fitness regimen and his six-pack abs.  The major political story on August 20 involves a Republican Senate candidate’s idiotic remarks about rape and conception.  Hardly any mention was made in the news about the recent coalition deaths in Afghanistan, and certainly no debate over the ongoing war there. 

The world is a deadlier place in 2012 than it seemed in 1992, just after the end of the Cold War.  We are on the brink of not just one possible regional war, but several, all with calamitous effects on the world economy, and on world security.

 

 

 

Mitt Romney Chooses Economic Conservative Paul Ryan as his Running Mate

11 Aug

Paul Ryan, Congressman from Wisconsin, is the latest GOP running mate who is probably an unknown to the majority of the Amerian voting populace.  To policy wonks, Tea Party faithful, and those who follow conservative economic politics, Ryan is well-known and, if you are an economic conservative, quite popular.  However, to the majority of Americans, who right now are probably more attuned to the Olympics, summer camping, and the new NFL season, news of Paul Ryan’s pick is more likely akin to prior news of Sarah Palin or Dan Quayle as running mates.  In other words, a big “Who is that?”

Paul Ryan and his Family (note the Green Bay Packers sweatshirt!)

Paul Ryan and his Family (note the Green Bay Packers sweatshirt!)

So, who IS Paul RyanPaul Ryan is a young (born in 1970) handsome family man (one wife, three kids), who lives in a town where his parents and grandparents are all buried (Janesville, Wisconsin), and he is an avid Green Bay Packers fan. Paul Ryan is also Catholic, which may be a helpful aspect for the Morman Romney.   In Paul Ryan’s Political Career, he has risen quickly through the ranks of the GOP through his work on the budget and his “Roadmap to Prosperity,” an economic blueprint that bears the intellectual handprint of the dean of Conservative economists, Milton Friedman.

In the days and weeks leading up to Mitt Romney’s VP announcement, speculation arose around such Republican luminaries as Condoleeza Rice and Marco Rubio, among others.  Either of those two would have provided Romney with an instant inroad to traditionally Democratic constituencies (African-Americans and Hispanics), but instead he chose a white midwesterner with no foreign policy exprience.  If the world experiences a major crisis in the weeks leading up to the American presidential election, the choice of a domestic economic expert rather than someone experienced in foreign policy, could come back to bite Romney.  It is quite likely that the war in Syria could easily get worse and engulf the U.S. into some sort of military intervention, and/or, an Israeli attack on Iran (which this writer thinks is very likely to occur before the U.S. elections), could highlight the lack of foreign policy experience on the Romney-Paul ticket.

One thing is for certain:  The U.S. Presidential election will be interesting.

 

A Modern Game of Thrones in North Korea

05 Aug
North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju

North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol Ju

Among modern tyrannical dictators, there is a strong tendency toward attempting to establish a “Game of Thrones” type of generational legitimacy.  Anyone familiar with the popular fantasy books and HBO TV show knows that the Kings and other Lords in the fictional land of Westeros work and fight very hard to place their children on the thrones of their respective kingdoms and fiefdoms.  Usually this involves much death, intrigue, war, and general misery for the common people, most of whom could care less about the “Game of Thrones” played by their rulers.  In the real world of international politics, one needs only look a bit at history and current events to see interesting patterns developing in the attempts of dictators to pass on their rule to their progeny, especially in North Korea.

It was recently reported that Kim Jong-Un, North Korea’s third leader of the Kim Dynasty, has taken a wife.  This actually should be considered good news for those worried about renewed war on the Korean Peninsula.  Kim Jong-Un’s new wife, named Ri Sol-Ju, is reported to be ‘pretty and charming’ by an insider with knowledge of the Kim family.  Most likely, within the next year or two, word will come out of North Korea that Ri Sol-Ju is expecting a child with her husband, the Supreme Leader.  Such a pregnancy and, presumably a live birth of a son, will continue the Kim Dynasty for another generation.  Assuming North Korea as a nation survives.  One thing about North Korea and the politics of the Stalinist hermit kingdom, is that no one on outside of North Korea really knows if there will be another Korean War.  Every time a leadership change occurs in the North, or in the time leading up to such a change, tensions mount as the North makes militaristic and belligerent noises and actions.  In 2010, as Kim Jong-Un’s father weakened, the North attacked a South Korean island.  It is now known that Kim Jong-Un was on the island with his father just prior to that attack, and that this may have been a demonstration of his ability to command.

While few outside of North Korea would see the continuation of this dynasty of dictators as a positive, all would likely agree that a new Korean War would be in no one’s best interests.  The marriage of Kim Jong-Un assures that he will attempt to pass on his power and rule to his future children.  This means that he will (hopefully), not engage in any reckless actions that may spark a war that any reasonable person with knowledge of military affairs could surmise would end with North Korea’s end.  Of course, no one outside of North Korea really knows if Kim Jong-Un himself is really aware that North Korea’s conventional military forces cannot truly compete with the South Korean and American military might that any North Korean attack would face.  Any reasonable observer would have guessed that Saddam Hussein, who also groomed his sons to succeed him, would have avoided any reckless military adventures that could undo his family’s rule of Iraq.  As we all know, Saddam and all of his sons are now dead, and his county is now ruled by people that Saddam would have loved to kill.

Other modern dictators attempted to pass on their rule to a second generation.  Libya’s late and largely unlamented tyrant, Muammar Gaddafi, intended to pass on power to his sons.  A bloody civil war later, and we see that they are all now dead or imprisoned.  Egypt’s strongman Hosni Mubarak, while not as dictatorial as the Kims or Gadaffis, nonetheless intended to pass on power to his eldest son.  The Egyptian Revolution changed that, and Egypt is now holding democratic elections. And in Syria, where the Assad Dynasty is currently in its second generation, a bloody civil war has Bashar Assad on the edge of following the footsteps of Saddam, Gaddafi, and Mubarak.  No one expects North Korea’s people to suddenly rise up and kick out the Kims.  The dynamic is much different and the grip the North Korean communists have on their rule is much too tight.  But in this modern Game of Thrones, some kings live, and some kings die.  But one thing remains steady:  If there is a man on the figurative throne of a dictatorship, if  that ruler can pass on his power to his sons, he will do so.

Prince Joffrey on his Throne in Game of Thrones: Would he fit in as a modern dictator?

Prince Joffrey on his Throne in Game of Thrones: Would he fit in as a modern dictator?

 

Does Terror Attack in Bulgaria Give Israel Cause for War With Iran?

18 Jul
Israeli Tourist Bus Bombed in Bulgaria

Israeli Tourist Bus Bombed in Bulgaria

Several Israeli tourists died in a terrorist attack on a tourist bus in Bulgaria that Israeli authorities say lead back to an Iranian plot to kill Israeli citizens.  At least six Israeli tourists died in the explosion, at least 30 other civilians sustained wounds.  The bus, which was leaving the airport at Burgas with 154 passengers, most of them Israelis, was headed for a resort popular with Israeli vacationers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu placed the blame for the attack squarely on Iran, citing other recent attempted terror attacks that he also blamed on Iran.   

“In the past months we saw Iranian attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Kenya and Cyprus,” Netanyahu said, added, “This is an Iranian terror offensive that is spreading throughout the world.”  Netanyahu also added that Israel would respond with force. 

Recent tensions between Israel, Iran, and the United States, have caused much speculation as to whether an attack on Iran, which is developing a nuclear program, will occur soon.  Iran has blamed Israel for assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists and for cyber-attacks on nuclear facilities.  Iran and Israel have a very harsh history of hostile relations, with Iran conducting terror attacks on Israelis in the past, arming Israeli enemies such as Hezbollah and Hamas, and for supporting the Assad regime in SyriaIsrael claims that Iran’s nascent nuclear program’s end goal is to develop nuclear weapons that would be used on Israel

Given all this recent tension, why would Iran strike at Israeli targets now?  One theory is that a war with Israel would detract pro-democracy activists in Iran and strengthen the current regime.  Another theory is that the United States and other Western allies would be able to convince Israel to not attack now.  Or, this is a ploy by factions within Iran (i.e. the Revolutionary Guards) to discredit other factions of the regime. 

Whatever the reasons for the Iranian attack, it is clear that if Israel truly wanted a Cassus Belli (a cause for war), they now have it.

 

When Did the Vietnam War Begin?

26 May
The Vietnam War-Battle of Hue

The Vietnam War-Battle of Hue

President Barack Obama issued a proclamation on May 24, 2012  encouraging American citizens to remember the courage and sacrifice of U.S. service men and women who served in the Vietnam War. Obama declared May 28, 2012, through Nov. 11, 2025, a 13-year span, as the “Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.” Fifty years ago, in 1962, President Kennedy sent American forces into South Vietnam to aid the Saigon government against Communist insurgency supported and directed by the communist government of North Vietnam. Over the next several years, American forces would arrive in greater numbers, and the role of the U.S. forces would change from a support role to heavy combat against Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. The war ended 13 years later, when North Vietnamese forces took the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon in April of 1975. Over 50,000 American troops lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
Historians and citizens still debate when the Vietnam War for Americans truly began. While President Obama, (and hence, the U.S. Government), is claiming that the American portion of the war officially began May 30, 1962, which is when the first Vietnam Service Ribbon was issued (this date is questionable. Further research is needed). Other dates which could logically be considered for inclusion as “The Start of America’s Vietnam War”:

 

–February 12, 1955: The first U. S. advisors sent to train South Vietnamese troops arrived in country.

–June 8, 1956 : The first American military death in Vietnam occurred on June 8, 1956? (Air Force Tech Sgt. Richard B Fitzgibbon, Jr. was murdered in Vietnam by another American servicemember. Fitzgibbon is officially recognized by the Department of Defense as the first American to die in what would become known as the Vietnam War.)

–July 8, 1959: U.S. Army Master Sgt. Chester Ovnand and Major Dale Buis, members of the  U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group assisting the South Vietnamese 7th Infantry Division, died in an assault on the base at Bien Hoa, which is just north of Saigon. They died in an attack by Viet Cong guerrillas.

–August 2,1964: The Tonkin Gulf Incident in on August 2,1964, in which the USS Maddox engaged in combat with three North Vietnamese torpedo boats?

–March 8, 1965: The first “official” U.S. combat troops arrive at Da Nang, South Vietnam.

As with many aspects of the divisive Vietnam War, nothing is simple or clear; including the date in which the war (for Americans) actually began.

 

The Crimean War

21 Apr

The bloody Crimean War (1853-1856) was one of the first modern wars in which railroads were used tactically, the telegraph connected political and military leades “back home” with battlefield commanders, nursing and medical practices on the battlefield were improved (due to pioneers like Florence Nightengale), and modern war reporting brought the day-to-day horrors of combat to the reading public back home. Read more about this important historical conflict at http://www.historyguy.com/crimean_war.htm

The Bloody Aftermath of the Charge of the Light Brigade

The Bloody Aftermath of the Charge of the Light Brigade

 

http://www.historyguy.com/crimean_war.htm

 

Tuareg Rebellions

05 Apr

New page online reflecting the ongoing situation in Mali, with the recent Tuareg Rebellion and military coup. See more of the history of Tuareg Rebellions at
http://www.historyguy.com/tuareg_rebellions.htm

Tuareg Warriors in 1916

Tuareg Warriors in 1916

Also, the Serial Wars and Conflicts page has been revamped.  Check it out at: http://www.historyguy.com/serial_wars_and_conflicts.html

 

The Facts on Joseph Kony and the LRA

10 Mar

Joseph Kony Lord's Resistance Army

LRA leader Joseph Kony (in white shirt)

 

The insurgency of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony against the government of Uganda began in 1987 in the aftermath of the failed Holy Spirit Movement Rebellion of Alice Auma (also known as Alice Lakwena). After the Holy Spirit Movement lost a major battle against the Ugandan government at th ebattle of Jinja, Alice Auma fled to Kenya while Joseph Kony emerged as the leader of the remaining rebel forces. With Kony’s assumption of power came a shift in the rebels’ strategy and a new name: the Lord’s Resistance Army. Kony declared himself to be a prophet, emerging as a “Spirit Guide,” and inspired his rebel troops to fight the Ugandan government.

Joseph Kony

Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA, and target of the #Kony2012 campaign

In March, 2012, a YouTube video highlighting the crimes of Joseph Kony went viral, with users posting the #Kony2012 hashtag on twitter and other social media to draw attention to Kony’s crimes as the head of the LRA. The Kony 2012 video is a film and campaign by Invisible Children whose goal it is to make Joseph Kony famous, or rather, infamous, in order to raise internatioal support for his arrest and to set a precedent for international justice. Critics of Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 campaign point to several factual errors or ommissions in the video. The video states that Kony currently has an army of some 30,000 child warriors, and that is not true. After the Ugandan Army drove the LRA out of northern Uganda in 2006, Kony’s army has dwindled. Experts now believe that Joseph Kony has only a few hundred fighters still with him. Also, Kony and the LRA have not haunted northern Uganda since being driven out by the Ugandan Army in a 2006 military offensive. Invisible Children argues in favor of international military intervention in bringing Kony to justice. and is raising funds that go for direct support of the Ugandan military. While Kony’s forces have engaged in heinous war crimes for decades, it should be pointed out that the Ugandan military is also accused of criminal behavior, including rape and murder. More information and facts about Joseph Kony and the LRA are at http://www. historyguy.com.

 

Wikigeddon Is Upon Us. Oh My!—What The SOPA/PIPA Controversy May Mean

17 Jan

 

Stop SOPA and PIPA

Stop SOPA and PIPA Logo

Wikigeddon Is Upon Us.  Oh My!—What The SOPA/PIPA Controversy May Mean

By Roger Lee, the History Guy

As the world prepares for Wikigeddon, also known as the “Blackout” of Wikipedia and Reddit, and other, less significant websites over proposed anti-piracy legislation, the question comes up, just what is SOPA and PIPA going to do to the internet if passed by Congress and signed by President Obama?

Depending on what sources you look at, these bills will either wipe out freedom on the internet, including Wikipedia, YouTube, Reddit, and many other popular sites, or, it will merely prevent off-shore websites from selling fraudulent goods by allowing courts to order domain servers to shut down those offending sites.

For proponents of SOPA and PIPA, as well as for their opponents, there appears to be no middle ground.  But what would they do if passed into law?  Not being a lawyer, I daresay I don’t really know, and most of the pundits on the internet do not know either, but they prefer not to admit that uncomfortable truth.  What I DO know about our legal and political system, is that regardless of whatever the law’s proponents say now, only the court system will actually be able to tell us what the consequences may be, and that will only happen after someone, or some internet entity, has suffered actual damages  as a result of SOPA/PIPA enforcement. 

As I sat down to weigh the pros and cons of this blackout set for January 18, I came to the conclusion that from a purely selfish point of view, the Wikipedia blackout could benefit my own website, Historyguy.com, because Wikipedia is one of Historyguy.com’s main competitors for website visitors.  Many of the historyguy.com pages are at or near the top of the Google Search Results Pages, and often, if not for Wikipedia, my pages would get the better ranking.  For example, a Google search for “Gulf War,” puts Wikipedia’s entry as the first search result, and the Historyguy.com page on the Gulf War as the second result.  If, as the naysayers predict, SOPA passes, and sites like Wikipedia are in peril, then logically, the Historyguy.com site, which is 95% original content (the rest being public domain items like the 1707 Act of Union Between England and Scotland), would benefit. 

Despite this supposition, the fact that the internet has grown and developed to the point where it now shapes daily life, lifestyles, news, politics, industry, and so much more, is largely due to the freedom of individuals to experiment, dream, and develop new ideas without fear that the government will shut them down due to a piece of legislation allegedly designed to halt online piracy, theft, and fraud.  Those problems are real, and need to be addressed by legislation designed with a more narrow and specific focus.  Congress should scrap SOPA and PIPA, return to the drawing board, and create new proposals that do not put the fear of authoritarian government crackdowns on those who publish, create, develop new ideas on the internet.  Stop SOPA!

 

 

 

War With Iran? Look at Wars of 1812 and 1912 First

02 Jan

Looking at a possible Iran War in 2012 with a look back at 1812 and 1912

By Roger Lee, The History Guy

New Year’s Day, 2012, opened with Iran’s announcement that Iranian nuclear scientists had produced Iran’s first nuclear fuel rod and that the Iranian navy had test-fired a new medium-range surface-to-air missile.  All this while Iran conducted war games in the Strait of Hormuz designed to test its ability to close those straits to international oil shipping.  All this while the U.S. and the other Western powers continue to declare that they will not allow a disruption to the oil shipping, and Israel watches nervously and prepares for war

Iranian war games in the Strait of Hormuz

Iranian war games in the Strait of Hormuz

As the world seems to quickly slide toward war, n look back at events 200 and 100 years ago seems in order.  2012 marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812, in which the U.S. took on the much more powerful British Empire and managed to survive to talk about it.  In 1912, the world was on the brink of a devastating World War, which was still two and a half years away, but events in 1912 set the stage for a war that everyone thought would be quick and sharp, but proved to be out of everyone’s control as soon as it began.

In 1812, the world was in the throes of an earlier version of world war, with Britain, Russia, Spain, and other nations in a death-match with Napoleon’s French-dominated empire.  The United States did not have a dog in that fight, so to speak, but had long-standing problems with the British.  Ever since the American Revolution, the Americans felt that Britain did not respect the U.S. as a true sovereign nation.  British agents aided the Native Americans who resisted American encroachment along the frontier, and British ships regularly disrespected American shipping on the high seas, leading to violent naval confrontations and the forcible boarding of U.S. ships to “impress,” or illegally (in the U.S. view) draft  sailors into the British navy. The United States basically felt they had to put up or shut up in terms of their problems with Britain.  Also, some expansionist elements in the government and elsewhere eyed the prospect of invading and “liberating” Canada from the British. 

Thus, a somewhat naïve and woefully unprepared America declared war on the most powerful nation on earth and commenced to invade British Canada.  Long story short, the U.S. got it’s rear-end kicked out of Canada and throughout most of the eastern seaboard by the British.  Not until the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, could the U.S. claim any meaningful victory on land.

How does this situation relate to the current tension with Iran?  In this case, in 2012, the smaller nation feeling no respect is Iran, and the most powerful nation in the world is obviously the U.S.  Some analysts, and some Iranian spokesmen themselves, say that if Iran is pushed around too much (sanctions, U.S. drone flights, covert warfare, assassinations, etc.), it may retaliate by closing the Strait of Hormuz to international shipping, which would be a cassus belli for the Western Powers.  Of course, the fact that Iran is clearly pursuing nuclear weapons makes Israel and the West quite nervous, and if Israel truly believes that Iran is close to getting The Bomb, then war is likely inevitable.  One thing about the War of 1812 that applies to this situation is that when the U.S. chose war with Britain (and with Canada), the assumption was that the war would be quick, and that Britain was too distracted by its other wars to put much effort into another war.  Iran may be thinking the same thing, to everyone’s detriment. 

The situation in 1912 was a bit different. The former major power in the eastern Mediterranean region, the Ottoman Empire (also known as Turkey), was fading fast, and the vultures were beginning to gather to pick at the soon to be expired Ottoman carcass.  Italy attacked Ottoman Libya in 1911, and in October, 1912, the Ottomans sued for peace and gave up their last piece of territory in North Africa.  The day following the conclusion of the Italian-Ottoman War, the Balkan alliance of Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, and Bulgaria launched an attack on the Ottoman possessions in Europe.  The Ottomans lost that war, but that First Balkan War, and a Second Balkan War that broke out right after the first one, helped set the stage for World War One, which erupted in the summer of 1914.  In the wars of 1912, we see several smaller nations take on the ancient bogeyman from their past; no longer strong, but feeble and weak.  And the little guys won.  In the modern era, the little guys can be seen as Saddam’s Iraq, Khaddafy’s Libya, Assad’s Syria,  Iran, and North Korea.  They all have a bad history with the Western powers.  They all, at one point or another, had challenged the West, and survived those initial conflicts.  But they took that feeling of victory and invulnerability too far, challenged the West one too many times, or refused to bow down when faced with invasion and war.  Saddam is now dead. Khaddafy is dead.  Assad is under siege, and North Korea is still the great unknown.  Iran is the linchpin.  If they truly see themselves as the relatively small but tough challenger to U.S, and Western influence in the Muslim world, then they may push the envelope enough to cause a military response from either Israel or the U.S.

Unintended Consequences of War:   The British Burn Washington

Unintended Consequences of War: The British Burn Washington

In the 1912 analogy, the smaller nations were victorious initially, but when the big dogs got into the fight beginning in 1914, Serbia, and Montenegro were almost destroyed.  Bulgaria lost even more land.  The war did not go as any of them anticipated, which is usually the way of war.  The same held true in the War of 1812.  The U.S. expected a fairly easy war against the British in Canada, and instead, the Americans saw their own nation invaded and Washington, D.C burned down by the invaders.  In both examples from 100 and 200 years ago, the little guys faced down against the big guys, and once war started, it went in directions no one wanted or anticipated.   If a war with Iran is in store for 2012, the decision-makers on all sides need to keep that historical fact in mind before it is too late.