Wars are a pandemic that have scourged the world since the beginning of time. Having been a professional soldier for most of my life, I can testify to the ravages and futility of wars; and yet these are, and will remain ceaseless. Let me reiterate that, all wars are fought on the [ostensible] purpose of creating peace. Yet, in the course of my studies, which are by no means exhaustive, which is why my conclusions are always tentative; no war has ever resulted in peace.

Furthermore, wars are [in truth] invariably fought for [directly or indirectly] economic gains, whether in cash or kind. “Cash or Kind” is an obvious statement, implying wealth, whether in natural resources, goods and services etc. “Directly or indirectly” perhaps need an explanation, which might be best explained by the following example(s).

The infamous love story of Helen of Troy is based on “Iliad”, a famous verse by Homer, a Greek. Helen, married Menelaus of Sparta, but fell in love with Paris, Prince of Troy, and ran away with Paris. Whereupon, Agamemnon, brother of Menelaus, gathered all Greek heroes and kings to take Troy. In the cause of love unrequited?

The mythical city of Troy, ruled by a benevolent King Priam, was enormously wealthy; enough to compensate for the insult offered to Greeks by a Trojan? Perhaps not. But, Troy [supposedly] lay at the crossroads of the seas leading to the Aegean. Consequently, all commerce from multi-directions, to and fro, paid homage to Troy. Command of Troy was, therefore, [an indirect] permanent source of enormous wealth.

That would certainly compensate any insult, real or imagined.

The fact that Troy fell to subterfuge, was testimony to the requirement of innovative intrepidity, in the profession of arms, lest the reader get carried away by the romance and, lose sight of the significance of the soldiery that won the war for the Greeks.

Another infamous, equally sordid and tragic story, but based more on truth than myth, is that of Julius Caesar, arguably Rome’s best known General and Emperor, and Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. While the basic facts of their affection are supported by historians, the fact is that Caesar and Cleopatra had never set eyes on each other until Caesar set sail with his army for Egypt.

And, the reason for his posthaste departure was the fact that Rome was close to starving due to shortage of grain and Romans were on the verge of revolt. Egypt was the granary for the entire Roman Empire. Ptolemy [a name given to all rulers of Egypt in that era] XII, Cleopatra’s father, a Roman and friend of Caesar, died and his son, Ptolemy XIII succeeded him. Cleopatra also laid claim to the throne. This internecine war and the disputed control of sea lanes was preventing the transportation of grain to Rome.

Caesar set forth to restore it or the Empire could fall. Romance could certainly have influenced which side Caesar supported and enthroned, but the need was economic relief.

The American Revolution dragged on for almost eight years. How did this “ragtag force of farmers with pitchforks”, as they were often referred to, last so long against the enormous might of the British Empire; which was at its zenith. The British military was, at that time, unarguably, the mightiest and best trained force of the world and was repeatedly proving this every time it met American forces in pitched battle. So, how did the Americans last so long, and win?

Their final victory was due to diverse causes, including training and support from other European countries and, not least of all, was the timely arrival of the French to bottle up the forces of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. However, their lasting this long is an amazing feat. Suffering defeat after defeat in every pitched battle, American military leadership decided to take to Guerrilla Warfare, targeting British supply routes. Not only was this a great equalizer, but also a morale raiser in the face of all these defeats. Most importantly, it made the war uneconomical for the British.

The American Civil War is also a fascinating study. Robert E Lee, a Union soldier, and reputedly the best field commander in the army with thirty six years of service when the Civil War commenced, was Lincoln’s first choice for leading his forces but, Lee turned down the offer and, being a Virginian, chose to join the Confederacy.

However, as is frequently the case, Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, wary of Lee’s popularity, kept him out of field positions for four [too] long years. Only at Shenandoah could Lee create an opportunity to show his brilliance. He was, finally, given the command in 1865, when defeat was closing in. Could he have changed history, if given command earlier?

No one can say. However, if there was cause for the final defeat of the confederacy, it was the naval blockade that prevented the Confederacy from selling cotton and raising funds. They were literally starved into submission. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *