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25 Sep, 2009 15:28

Ten wars that never happened

Ten wars that never happened

A pig, that nearly started a war, and a war declared for self-advertisement. Ever heard about them?

Papal revenge and Medici payback

Rivalry between Italy’s regional rulers in the late 15th century culminated in a war between Rome’s Pope Sixtus IV and the Medici family, however, quick diplomatic efforts managed to prevent what could have turned into a massive war across the entire country.

Pope Sixtus IV was fed-up with the financially powerful Medici family in Florence, it had created the massive Medici Bank, wielding vast influence across the city and neighboring towns. With all of their money, they essentially dictated politics through bribes, threats or strategic marriages. It didn’t take long for the Pope to say “enough is enough”, and with the help of his powerful ally, King Ferrante of Naples, they attacked the Medici family while at a service in the Cathedral of Florence. Lorenzo De Medici, the most influential man in Florence, was stabbed but escaped, however his brother Giuliano wasn’t so lucky.

The Pope seized all the Medici assets, dissolved the entire government and established his new rule in Florence, but the people weren’t buying it. Pope Sixtus, in order to get his point across, called his friends King Ferdinand of Naples and the Duke of Calabria and invaded Florence. Lorenzo re-emerged, rallied his friends in Milan and Bologna, and with that, the war began to expand. Both sides, realizing that they were essentially creating what could become a war across the entire country, found themselves facing what would inevitably be a disastrous result. Lorenzo De Medici then took it upon himself to bring a peaceful resolution to the conflict. He traveled to Naples and began diplomatic measures to pursue a course of peace. Both sides introduced constitutional legislation to resolve the crisis. Medici, utilizing his tools as a cunning politician, managed to regain his power and began to reacquire his wealth by creating a massive trade agreement with the Ottoman Empire.

1478-1479 was a bloody year for Florence. However what could have become a national war was luckily avoided. With the most powerful cities in Italy taking sides and grasping swords, what might have been the collapse of the country, was swiftly quelled with the help of the De Medici family.

Bonaparte: aimed at Great Britain, but warred Russia

Napoleon Bonaparte is heralded by history books as one of the greatest strategic war commanders of his time. Originally from the Mediterranean island of Corsica, he moved to France at the age of 14 to attend a military academy. He swiftly moved through the ranks and, after proving himself as a formidable military strategist, he managed to secure himself as Napoleon I, Leader of the French.

His military campaigns were widespread, and the sheer number of successes is only comparable to that of the Roman Empire.

Although his military career was impressive, the one country that proved to be a difficult one to defeat was Great Britain, located roughly 30 miles north of France across the English Channel. During the years 1803-1805, Britain had successfully held tight to a naval blockade against the French in the Channel that prevented their trade from coming north, and ultimately kept a vice-like grip on France’s naval capabilities. Its channel fleet was prevented from striking a successful campaign against England. Conversely, the island nation was quite capable of striking at French interests at home and abroad.

1804 into 1805 was the time when Napoleon decided France was ready for full-fledged action against England. The plan was for his and the Spanish fleets in the Mediterranean and Cadiz to join forces and break through the British blockade and conquer the island for good.

Napoleon assembled the majority of his forces at the northern sea port of Boulogne and Brittany and made his preparations for battle. However, as he began to pen his strategies, word came that the Russian and Austrian armies were preparing an assault on France. Without hesitation, Napoleon turned his eyes away from England and moved to engage the incoming forces, which he defeated swiftly at Austerlitz.

So, as close as Napoleon came to launching a full-scale attack on Great Britain, at the last moment, he was forced to turn his attention elsewhere.

The Pig War

It’s not often the death of a single pig can nearly start a war between a couple of world powers. This is certainly an odd story.

In 1859, an American farmer shot dead a pig as it roamed along the Washington State border with Canada. The pig happened to belong to a herd owned by the British outfit, Hudson Bay Company. During these years, as Americans and immigrants were still struggling to settle the country, the action of killing livestock on the frontier was deemed a serious offense. The farmer at fault did offer to pay some form of restitution, however, the Hudson Bay Co. demanded the exorbitant sum of $100, which translates to nearly $3,000 U.S. dollars in modern day terms. The farmer called that extortion, and as he refused to pay, both countries sent in troops with guns locked and loaded.

Current Washington State Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen, when asked to comment on this matter, said in 2009, “This was a territorial dispute between a world power and a rising world power.’

The U.S. sent in Army Commander Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott to make the attempt of negotiating a stand down. Somehow, whatever he said worked. The two sides peacefully coexisted on the nearby San Juan Islands for 12 years while an arbitration commission discussed the dispute. The eventual ruling sided with the U.S, resulting in a lasting peace being brought to the 49th parallel between America, Great Britain and what’s now Canada.

Nearly a war between England and America’s North

During the years of 1861-1865 America’s North and South were embroiled in a brutal civil war that found brother fighting brother.

In 1861, soldiers from America’s North illegally boarded a British ship, ruffling the feathers of England’s government. The seizure could have prompted London to dispatch warships to the U.S. coast, however which side would the English support if this were the case? Queen Victoria at the time is said to be have been reservedly sympathetic to the North however this illegal boarding of one of her vessels posed a tricky situation.

British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston penned a letter of outrage to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, but had to pass it along to Queen Victoria for her approval first. It essentially demanded the ship be released, stating that the seizure was a violation of international law, and if Washington didn’t comply within 7 days, this would be considered an act of aggression and war would be inevitable.

Queen Victoria, recognizing that war with America was against both sides’ best interests gave the letter to her husband and consort Prince Albert, who was notably a man of peace. Although he was dying of typhoid and barely able to grasp a pen, he re-worded the letter to suggest that the act of seizing the ship was inappropriate and should not happen in the future. Prince Albert managed to settle the incident peacefully and with honor to both countries. Days later Prince Albert succumbed to his illness, leaving a widow and 9 children.

Otto Von Bismarck – Peacemaker

Otto Von Bismarck was born April 1st 1815. He’s considered the founder of the German Empire. For nearly three decades, he shaped the policies and fortunes of Germany. He served as the Prussian Prime Minister from 1862-1873, and as Germany’s first Chancellor from 1871-1890.

Bismarck united Germany at a time when the country’s industrial revolution was peaking, the economy was showing robust signs of health as thousands of people from agricultural communities came to the cities to get a piece of the economic pie.

His foreign policy began to change in the early 1870-s as other European powers began to grow tired of German expansion. Bismarck therefore appointed himself as a European peace maker. In the attempt to unite Europe as a measure for security and prosperity, in 1873 he negotiated the Three Emperor’s League with Russia and Austria-Hungary. The idea was to isolate France and prevent any European conflict that would be costly to Germany.

As good as Bismarck was at forming alliances that protected the German empire, tensions ultimately grew amid those countries that he worked so hard to coexist with, Russia and Austria-Hungary. Their economies weren’t as powerful as that of Germany and with a general lack of economic generosity on Bismarck’s part, in particular with Russia, he found himself having to ally more with Austria-Hungary. In 1879 he negotiated the Dual Alliance with the both nations which laid the ground for mutual defense if indeed Russia ever attacked. Similarly for further protection, Bismarck tried to play to Paris by encouraging overseas French expansion.

One nagging concern for Bismarck was that of England. Queen Victoria refused to commit to alliances with nations on the European continent, Bismarck saw this as a threat to European stability. In order to try and avoid conflict, he drafted the Mediterranean Agreements in 1887, the principle being to maintain the status quo without any threats from Russia. Britain then agreed to join with Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary. Consequently Bismarck managed to negotiate a treaty of nonaggression with Russia.

With all of the major powers in Europe being brought into a familial type of network, it in theory prevented any one country from becoming a sole aggressor, and ultimately a defensive coalition was formed.

So while there was potential for a military clash with Russia and growing tensions with Great Britain, Bismarck’s foreign policy initiatives and various peace agreements could be seen as preventing what might have been at-least 2 possible wars.

1938 War of the worlds

On October 30th 1938, residents of New York and New Jersey found themselves caught amid a wave of panic.

As thousands of them took their traditional spots in front of the radio on a Sunday evening to listen to what was typically a comedian and puppet show, the program was shelved as Orson Welles decided to do an adaptation of HG Wells’ book, The War of the Worlds. With a small handful of in-studio actors and staged reports, Orson announced in what was later described as horrifying detail, that Martians had arrived and were attacking major cities. The result could not have been more disastrous. Thousands of residents ran wildly into the streets screaming ‘We’re under attack!’ Others packed what they could, jumped into their cars and tried to flee the city, which only made matters worse, as traffic jams gridlocked the roads. For some people who realized there was no escape in sight, they locked their doors and swiftly killed themselves.

So, call this a war that never happened and some Trenton, New Jersey and New York residents may disagree with you.

U.S. occupies USSR – hypothetically

The Cold War came into effect after World War II as a continuing state of political conflict, economic competition and military tension remained between Russia, its satellite states and predominantly the US. Despite the fact that America and the USSR never met on a conventional battlefield, they maintained a sense of war by building up their military arsenals, forming strategic coalitions, and engaging in espionage and propaganda.

In October of 1951, the American magazine named Collier’s printed an edition which spelled out a hypothetical story about the U.S. occupation of the Soviet Union. The front cover featured an American soldier wearing a UN/US helmet and standing in front of a map of the USSR that was stamped with the word, OCCUPIED.

According to the article, a third World War would begin after an assassination attempt on Yugoslavia’s leader Marshal Tito. Though he was communist, he was a renegade in refusing to align his country with Soviet demands. The story went on to explain that, following the botched assassination, people in Yugoslavia would hit the streets and revolt, prompting an invasion by the Soviet-loyal armies of the Warsaw Pact. Of course, with America considering itself to be the world’s policeman, it would intervene and drop an atomic bomb on Moscow.

Why would Collier’s magazine devote a 60,000 word article to a hypothetical war? In the story’s preface, there’s an explanation:

”To warn the evil masters of the Russian people that their conspiracy to enslave humanity is the dark, downhill road to World War III; to sound a powerful call for reason and understanding between the peoples of East and West – before it’s too late; to demonstrate that if the war we do not want is forced upon us, we will win.”

However unlikely it is that this article might have had any effect on US politicians or its audience, it did spell out a horrific ending to what could have been an outcome of the Cold War arms race. So with no conventional war ever happening between the world’s two superpowers, according to Collier’s magazine, it did.

Laos, the war for the media

The Vietnam War during the late 60s and early 70s dominated the Western media. However, the one war that happened but never happened, according to the news outlets, was that of the bombing of nearby Laos, just west of Vietnam.

Laos is a tiny landlocked country in Southeast Asia. It’s bordered by Burma, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. It was dragged into the Vietnam war as eastern parts of the country were invaded and occupied by the North Vietnamese Army, who used it as a staging ground and supply route. As a result, the US initiated devastating bombing campaigns upon Laos.

During the upcoming years of war, which the Western media said was only against Vietnam, more bombs were dropped over Laos than on the whole of Europe in World War II. Despite the fact that Laos was buzzing with journalists eager to report the devastation and the brutality of the campaigns, their voices were muzzled and their stories never revealed until years later.

The Cuban Missile Crisis

As the Cold War continued between the US and USSR for the latter half of the 20th Century, the arms race escalated and strategic alliances were formed. Although both players in this conflict knew that the firing of one nuclear warhead would prompt a massive intercontinental war resulting in mutually assured destruction, neither side was willing to back down.

American President John F. Kennedy said he was concerned about the spread of communism, that it suppressed the general democratic freedoms that should be afforded to all people. Obviously, this was a tool of propaganda meant to condition the American public. What it all came down to was the two biggest super powers vying for a chunk, if not the chunk, of world resources and domination.

When the Caribbean island of Cuba openly sided itself with the Soviet Union, Washington saw this as extremely disturbing. With the USSR having a strategic ally only 90 miles off America’s coast of Florida, this game of nuclear chess suddenly became far too close to home.

In October 1962, Cuban leader Fidel Castro allowed Moscow to build at-least nine ballistic missile sites on his island, with a total of forty possibly to come. These silos contained missiles that had a range of 2400 miles, making a nuclear strike on Washington and New York a strategically easy task.

President John F. Kennedy called various emergency councils into effect and deliberated what the options for retaliation were. They varied from:
1) Do nothing
2) Use diplomatic pressure to get the USSR to remove the missile.
3) An air strike on the missiles
4) A full military invasion
5) The naval blockade of Cuba, essentially a type of quarantine.

Washington’s Joint Chiefs of Staff ultimately decided that some form of action had to be taken. President Kennedy had made a recent political mistake of saying that, if Cuba acquired nuclear weapons, the US would have to invade. Now he was faced with a tough decision. Could an invasion of Cuba draw Washington into a full-fledged nuclear conflict with Moscow?

By mid-October, American surveillance flights had taken photographs of four functional ballistic missile sites on Cuba. According to Washington, it was time to act. However, Kennedy knew that an invasion was not an option, as it could trigger a hefty response from Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev. Instead, Kennedy decided to implement a blockade that ultimately put army, navy and air force units in Florida to keep a close watch on Cuba. Additionally, Kennedy placed various economic embargoes on Cuba. Although a ‘blockade’ is considered an act of war, Kennedy changed his phrasing of the word to ‘quarantine’, and was skeptical that Moscow would respond to such.

At this point a virtual stalemate was reached between the USSR and US. Khrushchev sent a telegram to Kennedy saying he considered the quarantine an act of war and that a military response was inevitable. Meanwhile, Kennedy’s Joint Chiefs began preparations for an invasion of Cuba and a possible atomic strike against Moscow.

It was at this time that secret, urgent diplomatic endeavors were undertaken with both Moscow and Washington exchanging telegrams that focused on resolving this conflict peacefully. After several communiqués that turned out to be hand written telegrams between Kennedy and Khrushchev, both sides agreed to stand down, based on the promise that if the US removed its stash of missiles from an unknown base in Turkey, the Soviet Union would do the same in Cuba.

Although both Kennedy and Khrushchev had apparently been prepared to launch a full-scale nuclear assault, when it finally came down to pressing the launch button, both sides thankfully wised up.

Andorra wages war on Latvia

In May of 2005, the Andorran government declared war on Latvia, saying it was angered that Latvia had turned into a nasty offshore tax haven. According to the news outlet Spanishmedia, the Andorran Ministry of Defense was quoted as saying:

‘We decided to declare war on Latvia because we do not understand the culture of this country and cannot feel safe about it. By the autumn we’ll finalize the plan of war and route of intervention."

The reaction of Europe, rather unexpected by Andorra, was very cool. The European Union Parliament scheduled a session to discuss the war declaration, but that session wouldn’t happen for another 8 months.

Strangely enough, Albania expressed a desire to support Andorra, but then swiftly changed its mind.

Germany and Poland closed their airspace to Andorran fleets, though Andorra has no air fleets of its own. France and Spain, which border Andorra, ignored the entire thing. Latvian authorities had no comment.

Anonymous sources said later that the entire war declaration was a PR stunt designed to get media attention for Andorra, in order to try and boost the tourism industry. It failed.