Not All Military Successful Actions End in Parades, Part II
The MOST Successful Don't Draw Blood
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Military Actions That Don’t Draw Blood?
When leaders say “diplomacy,” they don’t only mean folks in suits negotiating treaties. They often mean folks in uniforms moving troops around. This was especially true in the 19th century, when Russia and Britain were engaged in the “great game” in central Asia. But also, before the advent of modern sanitation and medicine, just making an enemy mobilize its populous was more deadly than fighting battles.
The first major conflict where bullets killed more people than disease was WWII.
Hard for the modern reader to believe, but The War to End All Wars was notorious for deadly plagues. The very worst of the Great War’s disease outbreaks we know as the Great Influenza, Spanish Flu, or 1918 Flu. From 1918 to 1922, influenza may have killed as many as 100 million people worldwide. These numbers are in dispute, but the death toll was no less than 35 million. The hardest hit demographic was young adults, age 15-35…military age, to demographers. But there were typhoid outbreaks, and dysentery killed thousands, especially in the Middle East and Gallipoli.
Not all “soldiers” wear uniforms.
The Americans, from the time there were Europeans in the Americas, just by being where they were, practiced forms of activity that had ramifications of deadly serious as an invasion. Slaving, certainly, but just having contact with the inhabitants of the New World brought Old World diseases that were devastating to their populations.
Then there was that other thing…
The Europeans and their African and Asian allies/laborers had a distinct advantage over most Old World populations: they could outbreed them. Low native North American Indian male motility is one reason they had several different kinds of war. Their most common was to add to the tribe: male, female, old, young…didn’t matter. They needed laborers—people to do the work needed for survival. And they needed women—preferably those with good child-bearing records—to increase the tribe more. Yes, it mattered. Now, that doesn’t sound very “military,” but that is pretty fuzzy for pre-industrial societies. That’s why settlers digging a well can be as threatening to them as a direct attack: they’re already on a raw edge of survival. Competition over scarce resources like water and game just makes it worse.
And there’s that other thing…
Diplomacy is pretty empty when it’s just two sides talking. Theodore Roosevelt got it right with his “speak softly but carry a big stick.” Diplomatic action with a hint of military action works better even than trade promises…but trade promises, too, can be militarily successful. The SALT II treaty that eliminated large swathes of shorter-range missiles from Europe came about not just with altruistic disarmament, but with hefty trade agreements, as well. Removing large numbers of deadly weapons…very military, yet no parade.
All the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.
James Russell Lowell
The End Of The World…Again
On 25 March:
1807: Parliament abolished the slave trade in the British Empire. Though popular culture likes to hail this as a humanitarian move, it was more a military move. The French under Napoleon and the Barbary States had started trafficking in European slaves, and Britain wanted to cut off this supply of revenue, but it would have been hard if…you get it.
1919: The Versailles signatories (most of them) adopted the League of Nations Covenant in Paris, France. Prominent among those who did not join the League was the United States.
And today is NATIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR DAY, recognizing the US Congress’ first award of America’s highest honor in 1863.