Last month (June 18) marked the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812. In this “second round” of the Revolutionary War, a weak, aggrieved yet ornery United States confronted its former colonial master, the eminently powerful but also riled Great Britain.
The diplomatic vocabularies of several current international conflicts echo, albeit distantly, 1812’s route to war. Economic sanctions and (backfiring) embargoes aggravated U.S.-British relations. Britain’s apparent lack of respect for U.S. sovereignty angered Americans. The forced “impressment” of U.S. sailors into Royal Navy service, usually backed by the threatened broadside of a RN warship, was a Yankee cause celebre.
The British, however, had legitimate gripes. The U.S., asserting neutrality, sought trade with Britain’s most bitter enemy, Napoleon. The British argued that American goods strengthened the Scourge of Europe. Oh-so-self-righteous Yankee ship owners must cease supplying Bonaparte’s France. The British also suspected the U.S. coveted Canadian territory — with good reason.
In 1812, Great Britain presented U.S. war planners with a very challenging strategic problem, one with contemporary irony given America’s 21st century military might: How do you wage successful war against a global superpower?
A nice little article by Austin Bay.
To be honest, though, the US wasn’t fighting Great Britain. We were fighting those relatively few forces Great Britain could spare from their war with the French.
Had we had to face the full might of the Royal Navy, it’s likely we’d have lost utterly, possibly to the point of losing our independence.