Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Total vs. Limited Wars

Expand Messages
  • Jim Yaworsky
    We are the products of the late 20th Century - a century that has experienced several Total Wars. WW2 in particular was a fight to the finish with the Allies
    Message 1 of 6 , Feb 21, 1999
    • 0 Attachment
      We are the products of the late 20th Century - a century that has experienced several Total Wars. WW2 in particular was a fight to the finish with the Allies consciously committing themselves to an "unconditional surrender" demand against the Axis powers. There is considerable academic debate as to whether this policy, especially as applied against the Germans, resulted in some unnecessary bloodshed and destruction, and created a power vacuum in central Europe that put us all through the nastiness of the Cold War - although it is certainly hard to see how any sort of deal could have been cut with a Nazi Germany led by Adolf et al.

      "Total Wars" are characterized by totally unrestrained military action, the aim being to beat your enemy down to the ground. Interestingly enough, while some aspects of the Napoleonic Wars would fit this definition, such as the decision by the Allied Powers in 1814 and then again during the 100 days to insist on Napoleon being removed as ruler of France, there were numerous examples of a lack of what we would understand as "total war" in the Allies operations. For example, there was great care taken by Wellington, in his invasion of France, to treat the French population in a restrained manner and stick to the genteel "rules of war" that had prevailed during the 18th Century: pay for food, don't rape everything in skirts, etc. The "enemy" was General Bonaparte, not the French people. Perhaps the only army operating - or trying to operate - on a "total war: civilian population is a legitimate target" basis were the Prussians, who were anxious to get some "payback" in for French depredations in Germany in the preceding years.
      The classic "total war" of the Napoleonic period would be the Spanish resistance to the French, and there are examples too numerous to mention where the French and Spanish committed the most sickening atrocities against each other. What brings the difference between a "total" (no rules) and a "limited" (has rules of conduct) war in to very clear egion were contemplating "burning out" the Canadian population along the Thames river, to create a buffer zone, much like some British strategists wanted to create an Indian buffer-state out of Michigan and parts of Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana.

      But by and large, the Anglo/Canadian and main U.S. forces were still "playing the game" by the "rules" for most of the War.

      I would suggest that our expectations of "victory" are (inevitably) tinged by our late-20th century outlook.

      Can there be any doubt that if the U.S. population had taken up the conquest of Canada as a national crusade, that they eventually would have succeeded? Or that the British had it in their power to attack and capture (and burn and destroy) practically any American city or town or village within a day's march of the sea?

      The massive fortifications built by the U.S. after the war to defend their east coast testify to knowledge by the Americans that they had been vulnerable in this regard. Official British plans for the defence of Canada in the 19th Century (and even in 1812) placed primary importance on the defence of Quebec City and Halifax. The Rideau Canal was built as a supply line away from the vulnerable St. Lawrence border route, Kingston was given some fortifications, but the basic game-plan remained the same. The plans for major fortifications back from the Niagara River (in the Short(?) Hills just south of what is now St. Catherines) were never implemented. The British realized that The Canadas would be very hard indeed to defend from determined U.S. attack and rather than station large and expensive garrisons in expensive fortifications, they chose to defend just a few key places in strength and rely on the Royal Navy to ship over reinforcements in time. Whether those reinforcements would ever be available and arrive in time (in 1813, they were - just) would depend on the overall geopolitical situation... events in India etc. might be more important than attempting to hold on to Canada, etc.

      The War of 1812 was an unwanted side-show to the British and they were happy enough to end it when they did. At various points of the war, some strategists, administrators, and politicians might have flirted with ideas of trying to adjust the U.S.-Canadian border by annexing northern Maine, or parts of the largely uninhabited frontier areas of the midwest and upper Mississippi. In the end, it was far more important to stop this irritating sideshow.
      This decision had more to do with factors in Europe and Britain than the situation "on the ground" in North America. Such factors as the fact taxes were too high in a war-weary U.K. and the british army was necessary back in Britain to pose a credible factor in the British/Austrian/French "alliance" to stop the Russian/Prussian powerblock which was trying to grab large hunks of Poland and Germany. The Brits hadn't fought the French for 20+ years to stop them from dominating Europe, just to have Alexander, Tsar of Russia, step in to Napoleon's shoes.
      And of course, there is also the factor that very few people in Britain cared enough about what was going on in North America to get very excited about prospects of "re-conquering" large tracts of bush, etc.
      I am reminded of the Michigan/Ohio "border-war" over Toledo in the 1830's(?) when a fairly narrow strip of land on the north bank of the Maumee river was awarded to Ohio instead of to Michigan. The Federal government gave Michigan some land to compensate it for giving up its claim - the ENTIRE NORTHERN PENINSULA of what is now Michigan (i.e. the lands between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan)!!! Literally many thousands of square miles of bush were considered to be necessary compensation for a few hundred square miles of partly-developed land. This gives some idea of attitudes prevailing at the time, because I believe Michigan still thought it had gotten screwed! Why would British negotiators looking at very large-scale maps of wilderness get very excited about what they were doing?

      The Americans had many war aims, one of which was the conquest of Canada. The advocates for attacking Canada no doubt believed - and assured the rest of the American establishment - that it would be an easy task. Hey! - they gave it a shot a few times, and it turned out to not be. It turned out to be more effort than the American government in late 1814 was willing to put out.

      One side can start a war (although ultimately the other side always has the choice of surrendering instead of fighting so in a sense it always "takes two to tango") but it definitely and always takes both sides to formulate a peace in a "limited war".

      The Americans in 1814 could see no point in continuing the war either. The predictions and expectations of both sides had started very divergent from each other (which is, of course, what started the War in the first place: only idiots or people left with no other option start a war they KNOW they are going to lose) but as events confirmed or negated those predictions and modified expectations to a more realistic level, the two sides found themselves prepared to negotiate a peace treaty.

      This is a totally normal process and I don't recall a clause in the Treaty of Ghent wherein either of the parties was formally required to take on blame for starting the war or acknowledge that they had been bested...

      Unlike a "total" war, which ends in complete victory for one side and complete defeat for the other (although the cost of victory can be so high as to make it almost indistinguishable from defeat...), it was (and is - witness the Gulf War of 8 years ago, or the Falklands of the '80's) perfectly normal for a "limited war" to end with each side somewhat happy with what went on - or at least, as in the case of the Falklands, even the loser accepting a "limited" military result without insisting on a fight to the death.

      Should the Brits have "nuked" Buenos Aires if Argentina had not unconditionally surrendered? Insisted that the Argentinian navy and air force surrender their hardware at Port Stanley like the Allies made the Germans surrender the High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow at the end of WW1? I don't think anyone would assert that the Brits wimped out & let the Argentinians off the hook too easy, would they?

      As each side was fighting for its own unique reasons, it is even possible for both sides to consider they "won", with varying levels of 'objective' validity to those claims. Just check out Iraqi versions of the Gulf War: they stood up for Arab pride against the might of the arch-devils!

      But to say the word "objective" validity, as opposed to "subjective" validity, is to perhaps touch the very heart of this little debate we've been having.
      Ultimately, for the participants in a war and their immediate heirs (which all of us are, to a varying degree), it is virtually impossible to have anything but a "subjective" opinion. War is just too intense and searing of an experience for any nation to be viewed in a completely objective manner by its citizens.

      Mayhaps when we eventually contact the Vulcans, Mr. Spock will have a look over the evidence, and give us an objective critique of who won the War of 1812!
    • Scott & Nancy McDonald
      We must remember that unlike all of USA s declared wars since, the War of 1812 was unique in that CONGRESS declared the war on its own initative. In other
      Message 2 of 6 , Feb 21, 1999
      • 0 Attachment
        We must remember that unlike all of USA's declared wars since, the War of
        1812 was unique in that CONGRESS declared the war on its own initative. In
        other words there was no undiplomatic executive action on the part of the
        President acting as commander in cheif of the armed forces to stop the
        suposed grounds for the war (ie: Impressment). It was a Legislative faction
        "The War Hawks" that forced through the declaration of war which was
        contreversial and highlighted sectional diffrences of opinion. Generaly it
        was the southern and western States that wanted war for reasons that had
        nothing to do with impressment. (Which BTW had been going on for over 20
        years with the French having impressed more sailors than the British and
        which offences were never enumerated by the Americans). A real constitunal
        crisis was avoided when the President, bowing to political pressure,
        decided to prosecute the war even though he knew that the armed forces were
        not up to the task. What if he had said to congress "go fight it
        yourselves!" Would the supreme court have forced him? Hmmmmm. It was a
        couple of years after the war started that the goverment formulated its war
        aims which were, to use a modern term "spun" to appease the public and put
        a good face on an intolerable situation. Fortunately for America the early
        losses in the war weeded out incompotence and some (few) real hero's
        emerged with a few victories to offset the humiliations and give some
        leverage at the negotiating table and put an end to a war which IMHO nobody
        won.
        Was it a Limited War or a Total War? These are modern terms and it was in
        diferent aspects both. If your skin was red and you lived in Ohio or
        Indiana it was a Total war. If you were a resident of Baltimore it may have
        been percived as a limited war. If you were dead it didn't matter.

        Just my opinion now, but as always, subject to change :)
        Cheers
        Scott McDonald


        >From: Jim Yaworsky <yawors1@...>
        >
        >We are the products of the late 20th Century - a century that has
        >experienced several Total Wars. WW2 in particular was a fight to the
        >finish with the Allies consciously committing themselves to an
        >"unconditional surrender" demand against the Axis powers. There is
        >considerable academic debate as to whether this policy, especially as
        >applied against the Germans, resulted in some unnecessary bloodshed and
        >destruction, and created a power vacuum in central Europe that put us all
        >through the nastiness of the Cold War - although it is certainly hard to
        >see how any sort of deal could have been cut with a Nazi Germany led by
        >Adolf et al.
        >
        >"Total Wars" are characterized by totally unrestrained military action,
        >the aim being to beat your enemy down to the ground. Interestingly
        >enough, while some aspects of the Napoleonic Wars would fit this
        >definition, such as the decision by the Allied Powers in 1814 and then
        >again during the 100 days to insist on Napoleon being removed as ruler of
        >France, there were numerous examples of a lack of what we would understand
        >as "total war" in the Allies operations. For example, there was great
        >care taken by Wellington, in his invasion of France, to treat the French
        >population in a restrained manner and stick to the genteel "rules of war"
        >that had prevailed during the 18th Century: pay for food, don't rape
        >everything in skirts, etc. The "enemy" was General Bonaparte, not the
        >French people. Perhaps the only army operating - or trying to operate -
        >on a "total war: civilian population is a legitimate target" basis were
        >the Prussians, who were anxious to get some "payback" in for French
        >depredations in Germany in the preceding years.
        >The classic "total war" of the Napoleonic period would be the Spanish
        >resistance to the French, and there are examples too numerous to mention
        >where the French and Spanish committed the most sickening atrocities
        >against each other. What brings the difference between a "total" (no
        >rules) and a "limited" (has rules of conduct) war in to very clear egion
        >were contemplating "burning out" the Canadian population along the Thames
        >river, to create a buffer zone, much like some British strategists wanted
        >to create an Indian buffer-state out of Michigan and parts of Ohio,
        >Illinois, and Indiana.
        >
        >But by and large, the Anglo/Canadian and main U.S. forces were still
        >"playing the game" by the "rules" for most of the War.
        >
        >I would suggest that our expectations of "victory" are (inevitably) tinged
        >by our late-20th century outlook.
        >
        >Can there be any doubt that if the U.S. population had taken up the
        >conquest of Canada as a national crusade, that they eventually would have
        >succeeded? Or that the British had it in their power to attack and
        >capture (and burn and destroy) practically any American city or town or
        >village within a day's march of the sea?
        >
        >The massive fortifications built by the U.S. after the war to defend their
        >east coast testify to knowledge by the Americans that they had been
        >vulnerable in this regard. Official British plans for the defence of
        >Canada in the 19th Century (and even in 1812) placed primary importance on
        >the defence of Quebec City and Halifax. The Rideau Canal was built as a
        >supply line away from the vulnerable St. Lawrence border route, Kingston
        >was given some fortifications, but the basic game-plan remained the same.
        >The plans for major fortifications back from the Niagara River (in the
        >Short(?) Hills just south of what is now St. Catherines) were never
        >implemented. The British realized that The Canadas would be very hard
        >indeed to defend from determined U.S. attack and rather than station large
        >and expensive garrisons in expensive fortifications, they chose to defend
        >just a few key places in strength and rely on the Royal Navy to ship over
        >reinforcements in time. Whether those reinforcements would ever be
        >available and arrive in time (in 1813, they were - just) would depend on
        >the overall geopolitical situation... events in India etc. might be more
        >important than attempting to hold on to Canada, etc.
        >
        >The War of 1812 was an unwanted side-show to the British and they were
        >happy enough to end it when they did. At various points of the war, some
        >strategists, administrators, and politicians might have flirted with ideas
        >of trying to adjust the U.S.-Canadian border by annexing northern Maine,
        >or parts of the largely uninhabited frontier areas of the midwest and
        >upper Mississippi. In the end, it was far more important to stop this
        >irritating sideshow.
        >This decision had more to do with factors in Europe and Britain than the
        >situation "on the ground" in North America. Such factors as the fact taxes
        >were too high in a war-weary U.K. and the british army was necessary back
        >in Britain to pose a credible factor in the British/Austrian/French
        >"alliance" to stop the Russian/Prussian powerblock which was trying to
        >grab large hunks of Poland and Germany. The Brits hadn't fought the French
        >for 20+ years to stop them from dominating Europe, just to have Alexander,
        >Tsar of Russia, step in to Napoleon's shoes.
        >And of course, there is also the factor that very few people in Britain
        >cared enough about what was going on in North America to get very excited
        >about prospects of "re-conquering" large tracts of bush, etc.
        >I am reminded of the Michigan/Ohio "border-war" over Toledo in the
        >1830's(?) when a fairly narrow strip of land on the north bank of the
        >Maumee river was awarded to Ohio instead of to Michigan. The Federal
        >government gave Michigan some land to compensate it for giving up its
        >claim - the ENTIRE NORTHERN PENINSULA of what is now Michigan (i.e. the
        >lands between Lake Superior and Lake Michigan)!!! Literally many thousands
        >of square miles of bush were considered to be necessary compensation for a
        >few hundred square miles of partly-developed land. This gives some idea
        >of attitudes prevailing at the time, because I believe Michigan still
        >thought it had gotten screwed! Why would British negotiators looking at
        >very large-scale maps of wilderness get very excited about what they were
        >doing?
        >
        >The Americans had many war aims, one of which was the conquest of Canada.
        >The advocates for attacking Canada no doubt believed - and assured the
        >rest of the American establishment - that it would be an easy task. Hey!
        >- they gave it a shot a few times, and it turned out to not be. It turned
        >out to be more effort than the American government in late 1814 was
        >willing to put out.
        >
        >One side can start a war (although ultimately the other side always has
        >the choice of surrendering instead of fighting so in a sense it always
        >"takes two to tango") but it definitely and always takes both sides to
        >formulate a peace in a "limited war".
        >
        >The Americans in 1814 could see no point in continuing the war either.
        >The predictions and expectations of both sides had started very divergent
        >from each other (which is, of course, what started the War in the first
        >place: only idiots or people left with no other option start a war they
        >KNOW they are going to lose) but as events confirmed or negated those
        >predictions and modified expectations to a more realistic level, the two
        >sides found themselves prepared to negotiate a peace treaty.
        >
        >This is a totally normal process and I don't recall a clause in the Treaty
        >of Ghent wherein either of the parties was formally required to take on
        >blame for starting the war or acknowledge that they had been bested...
        >
        >Unlike a "total" war, which ends in complete victory for one side and
        >complete defeat for the other (although the cost of victory can be so high
        >as to make it almost indistinguishable from defeat...), it was (and is -
        >witness the Gulf War of 8 years ago, or the Falklands of the '80's)
        >perfectly normal for a "limited war" to end with each side somewhat happy
        >with what went on - or at least, as in the case of the Falklands, even the
        >loser accepting a "limited" military result without insisting on a fight
        >to the death.
        >
        >Should the Brits have "nuked" Buenos Aires if Argentina had not
        >unconditionally surrendered? Insisted that the Argentinian navy and air
        >force surrender their hardware at Port Stanley like the Allies made the
        >Germans surrender the High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow at the end of WW1? I
        >don't think anyone would assert that the Brits wimped out & let the
        >Argentinians off the hook too easy, would they?
        >
        >As each side was fighting for its own unique reasons, it is even possible
        >for both sides to consider they "won", with varying levels of 'objective'
        >validity to those claims. Just check out Iraqi versions of the Gulf War:
        >they stood up for Arab pride against the might of the arch-devils!
        >
        >But to say the word "objective" validity, as opposed to "subjective"
        >validity, is to perhaps touch the very heart of this little debate we've
        >been having.
        >Ultimately, for the participants in a war and their immediate heirs (which
        >all of us are, to a varying degree), it is virtually impossible to have
        >anything but a "subjective" opinion. War is just too intense and searing
        >of an experience for any nation to be viewed in a completely objective
        >manner by its citizens.
        >
        >Mayhaps when we eventually contact the Vulcans, Mr. Spock will have a look
        >over the evidence, and give us an objective critique of who won the War of
        >1812!
        >
        >
        >------------------------------------------------------------------------
        >We now have over 85,000 e-mail communities. Check out our new web site!
        >http://www.onelist.com
        >------------------------------------------------------------------------
        >The War of 1812: In Europe, thousands fought over the fate of hundreds of
        >square miles: in North America, hundreds determined the fate of THOUSANDS
        >of square miles...


        Scott McDonald
        Member/ 93rd Sutherland Highland Regiment of Foot L.H.U.
        http://members.aol.com/ninety3rd
        <mailto: raintree@...>
      • Scott & Nancy McDonald
        Jim- Well ... no books come to mind but if you are up to it you can follow this link
        Message 3 of 6 , Feb 21, 1999
        • 0 Attachment
          Jim-
          Well ... no books come to mind but if you are up to it you can follow this link
          http://moa.umdl.umich.edu/cgi-bin/moa/sgml/moa-idx?notisid=ACF2679-1626SOUT-18
          to a page on the Making of America Web Site which is an article from the
          Southern Literary Messenger Vol. 12, Issue 1, January 1846, pages 44-59
          which is an unsigned review of Volume 1 of "Historical Scetch of the Second
          War between the United States of America and Great Britian Declared by Act
          of Congress, the 18th of June 1812, Concluded by Peace of the 15th February
          1815" by Charles J. Ingersoll. (I guess Ingersoll liked long titles) This
          is a book review written in 1846 which is critical of Ingersoll for not
          getting some of his facts right but agrees with Ingersoll on some of his
          conclusions relating to causes and conduct of the war. It digresses in
          parts and is hard to get into but if you want to skip the boring parts read
          pages 46, 49-53,and 57-59 for insights into a decidedly American
          perspective on the war.

          BTW the Making of America web site is a fantastic resource for 19th century
          research. Just use their search engine to research thousands of 19th cent.
          books and periodicals. Go to http://www.umdl.umich.edu/moa for main page.
          Have Fun!

          Cheers
          Scott McDonald

          Scott McDonald
          Member/ 93rd Sutherland Highland Regiment of Foot L.H.U.
          http://members.aol.com/ninety3rd
          <mailto: raintree@...>
        • mmathews@xxxx.xxxxxx.xxxx.xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
          (snip) ... (snip) May I respectfully ask your source on this? I m surprised that given the Royal Navy s domination of the sea lanes that the French could put
          Message 4 of 6 , Feb 22, 1999
          • 0 Attachment
            (snip)
            >nothing to do with impressment. (Which BTW had been going on for over 20
            >years with the French having impressed more sailors than the British and
            >which offences were never enumerated by the Americans). A real constitunal
            (snip)

            May I respectfully ask your source on this? I'm surprised that given the
            Royal Navy's domination of the sea lanes that the French could put enough
            ships out to seriously challenge the RN's numbers. Perhaps during the
            non-war naval war of the 1790s they racked up some impressments? Just
            curious.

            Thanks,
            Michael

            Michael Mathews -- ITV Specialist
            Winona State University
            Voice: (507) 285-7585 Fax: (507) 280-5568
            ------------------------------
            "Loyalty to pertified opinion never broke a chain
            or freed a human soul" -- Mark Twain
          • IX Regt.
            Well Scott, I believed you, but that was probably because I wanted to! It would have been nice to have been able to scotch that story, which incidentally is
            Message 5 of 6 , Feb 22, 1999
            • 0 Attachment
              Well Scott, I believed you, but that was probably because I wanted to!
              It would have been nice to have been able to scotch that story, which
              incidentally is the most commonly quoted reason for your fracas over
              this side of the pond.

              Cheers

              P**
              IX Regiment
              Windsor, UK.

              >From: Scott & Nancy McDonald <raintree@...>
              >
              >Mike-
              >Well...oops...got caught! You are right, the RN did snag more sailors than
              >the frogs. I guess that little overstatment dosen't really change my point
              >which is that during the 1790's the Federalists who were in power at that
              >time were percived as being more pro British than the later Jeffersonians
              >who were pro French. Federalists didn't wan't to jepordise trade and
              >tolerated impressment from Britian and France just to keep trade going with
              >whoever. In 1800 with the election of Mr. Jefferson the Impressment
              >problem, if it was indeed a problem worth fighting over, should have been
              >adressed with a military response. Jefferson hated the idea of war so did
              >nothing, the only response was to embargo trade with Britian which was
              >disasterous because it did not hurt Britian, did harm New England and
              >impressment went on. Madison must have known impressment was moot because
              >the war went on when Britian's Orders in Council were repealed. There were
              >other reasons for continuing the war, Westward expansion, Indian problems
              >caused by British agents, national pride etc.
              >
              >I humbly apologise and promise to check facts next time I post. As I said
              >my opinions are always subject to change :)
              >Scott
              >
              >
              >>From: mmathews@... (Michael Mathews)
              >>
              >>(snip)
              >>>nothing to do with impressment. (Which BTW had been going on for over 20
              >>>years with the French having impressed more sailors than the British and
              >>>which offences were never enumerated by the Americans). A real constitunal
              >>(snip)
              >>
              >>May I respectfully ask your source on this? I'm surprised that given the
              >>Royal Navy's domination of the sea lanes that the French could put enough
              >>ships out to seriously challenge the RN's numbers. Perhaps during the
              >>non-war naval war of the 1790s they racked up some impressments? Just
              >>curious.
              >>
              >>Thanks,
              >>Michael
              >>
              >>Michael Mathews -- ITV Specialist
              >>Winona State University
              >>Voice: (507) 285-7585 Fax: (507) 280-5568
              >>------------------------------
              >>"Loyalty to pertified opinion never broke a chain
              >> or freed a human soul" -- Mark Twain
              >>
              >>
              >>
              >>------------------------------------------------------------------------
              >>To unsubscribe from this mailing list, or to change your subscription
              >>to digest, go to the ONElist web site, at http://www.onelist.com and
              >>select the Member Center link from the menu bar on the left.
              >>------------------------------------------------------------------------
              >>The War of 1812: In Europe, thousands fought over the fate of hundreds of
              >>square miles: in North America, hundreds determined the fate of THOUSANDS
              >>of square miles...
              >
              >
              >Scott & Nancy McDonald
              >Raintree Inn Bed & Breakfast
              >In historic New Harmony on the Wabash, Indiana
              ><http://www.raintree-inn.com>
              ><mailto: raintree@...>
              >
              >
              >
              >------------------------------------------------------------------------
              >Have you seen our new web site? http://www.onelist.com
              >------------------------------------------------------------------------
              >The War of 1812: In Europe, thousands fought over the fate of hundreds of square
              >miles: in North America, hundreds determined the fate of THOUSANDS of square
              >miles...

              --
              IX Regt.
            • Andrew S. Finch
              Jim I m not sure we have meet but I for one would just like to say how much I enjoy your thoughts on the war You re the first person I know who has accepted a
              Message 6 of 6 , Feb 28, 1999
              • 0 Attachment
                Jim I'm not sure we have meet but I for one would just like to say how much
                I enjoy your thoughts on the war
                You're the first person I know who has accepted a world view of the war and
                your perception of the differences in 21st and 19th century think is
                something we should all keep in mind as we portray our rolls
                Please keep in mind to visit the cav if we are at any sites you are present
                at

                -----Original Message-----
                From: Jim Yaworsky [mailto:yawors1@...]
                Sent: Sunday, February 21, 1999 1:29 PM
                To: 'warof1812@onelist.com'
                Subject: [WarOf1812] Total vs. Limited Wars

                From: Jim Yaworsky <yawors1@...>

                We are the products of the late 20th Century - a century that has
                experienced several Total Wars. WW2 in particular was a fight to the finish
                with the Allies consciously committing themselves to an "unconditional
                surrender" demand against the Axis powers. There is considerable academic
                debate as to whether this policy, especially as applied against the Germans,
                resulted in some unnecessary bloodshed and destruction, and created a power
                vacuum in central Europe that put us all through the nastiness of the Cold
                War - although it is certainly hard to see how any sort of deal could have
                been cut with a Nazi Germany led by Adolf et al.

                "Total Wars" are characterized by totally unrestrained military action, the
                aim being to beat your enemy down to the ground. Interestingly enough,
                while some aspects of the Napoleonic Wars would fit this definition, such as
                the decision by the Allied Powers in 1814 and then again during the 100 days
                to insist on Napoleon being removed as ruler of France, there were numerous
                examples of a lack of what we would understand as "total war" in the Allies
                operations. For example, there was great care taken by Wellington, in his
                invasion of France, to treat the French population in a restrained manner
                and stick to the genteel "rules of war" that had prevailed during the 18th
                Century: pay for food, don't rape everything in skirts, etc. The "enemy"
                was General Bonaparte, not the French people. Perhaps the only army
                operating - or trying to operate - on a "total war: civilian population is a
                legitimate target" basis were the Prussians, who were anxious to get some
                "payback" in for French depredations in Germany in the preceding years.
                The classic "total war" of the Napoleonic period would be the Spanish
                resistance to the French, and there are examples too numerous to mention
                where the French and Spanish committed the most sickening atrocities against
                each other. What brings the difference between a "total" (no rules) and a
                "limited" (has rules of conduct) war in to very clear egion were
                contemplating "burning out" the Canadian population along the Thames river,
                to create a buffer zone, much like some British strategists wanted to create
                an Indian buffer-state out of Michigan and parts of Ohio, Illinois, and
                Indiana.

                But by and large, the Anglo/Canadian and main U.S. forces were still
                "playing the game" by the "rules" for most of the War.

                I would suggest that our expectations of "victory" are (inevitably) tinged
                by our late-20th century outlook.

                Can there be any doubt that if the U.S. population had taken up the conquest
                of Canada as a national crusade, that they eventually would have succeeded?
                Or that the British had it in their power to attack and capture (and burn
                and destroy) practically any American city or town or village within a day's
                march of the sea?

                The massive fortifications built by the U.S. after the war to defend their
                east coast testify to knowledge by the Americans that they had been
                vulnerable in this regard. Official British plans for the defence of Canada
                in the 19th Century (and even in 1812) placed primary importance on the
                defence of Quebec City and Halifax. The Rideau Canal was built as a supply
                line away from the vulnerable St. Lawrence border route, Kingston was given
                some fortifications, but the basic game-plan remained the same. The plans
                for major fortifications back from the Niagara River (in the Short(?) Hills
                just south of what is now St. Catherines) were never implemented. The
                British realized that The Canadas would be very hard indeed to defend from
                determined U.S. attack and rather than station large and expensive garrisons
                in expensive fortifications, they chose to defend just a few key places in
                strength and rely on the Royal Navy to ship over reinforcements in time.
                Whether those reinforcements would ever be available and arrive in time (in
                1813, they were - just) would depend on the overall geopolitical
                situation... events in India etc. might be more important than attempting
                to hold on to Canada, etc.

                The War of 1812 was an unwanted side-show to the British and they were happy
                enough to end it when they did. At various points of the war, some
                strategists, administrators, and politicians might have flirted with ideas
                of trying to adjust the U.S.-Canadian border by annexing northern Maine, or
                parts of the largely uninhabited frontier areas of the midwest and upper
                Mississippi. In the end, it was far more important to stop this irritating
                sideshow.
                This decision had more to do with factors in Europe and Britain than the
                situation "on the ground" in North America. Such factors as the fact taxes
                were too high in a war-weary U.K. and the british army was necessary back in
                Britain to pose a credible factor in the British/Austrian/French "alliance"
                to stop the Russian/Prussian powerblock which was trying to grab large hunks
                of Poland and Germany. The Brits hadn't fought the French for 20+ years to
                stop them from dominating Europe, just to have Alexander, Tsar of Russia,
                step in to Napoleon's shoes.
                And of course, there is also the factor that very few people in Britain
                cared enough about what was going on in North America to get very excited
                about prospects of "re-conquering" large tracts of bush, etc.
                I am reminded of the Michigan/Ohio "border-war" over Toledo in the 1830's(?)
                when a fairly narrow strip of land on the north bank of the Maumee river was
                awarded to Ohio instead of to Michigan. The Federal government gave
                Michigan some land to compensate it for giving up its claim - the ENTIRE
                NORTHERN PENINSULA of what is now Michigan (i.e. the lands between Lake
                Superior and Lake Michigan)!!! Literally many thousands of square miles of
                bush were considered to be necessary compensation for a few hundred square
                miles of partly-developed land. This gives some idea of attitudes
                prevailing at the time, because I believe Michigan still thought it had
                gotten screwed! Why would British negotiators looking at very large-scale
                maps of wilderness get very excited about what they were doing?

                The Americans had many war aims, one of which was the conquest of Canada.
                The advocates for attacking Canada no doubt believed - and assured the rest
                of the American establishment - that it would be an easy task. Hey! - they
                gave it a shot a few times, and it turned out to not be. It turned out to
                be more effort than the American government in late 1814 was willing to put
                out.

                One side can start a war (although ultimately the other side always has the
                choice of surrendering instead of fighting so in a sense it always "takes
                two to tango") but it definitely and always takes both sides to formulate a
                peace in a "limited war".

                The Americans in 1814 could see no point in continuing the war either. The
                predictions and expectations of both sides had started very divergent from
                each other (which is, of course, what started the War in the first place:
                only idiots or people left with no other option start a war they KNOW they
                are going to lose) but as events confirmed or negated those predictions and
                modified expectations to a more realistic level, the two sides found
                themselves prepared to negotiate a peace treaty.

                This is a totally normal process and I don't recall a clause in the Treaty
                of Ghent wherein either of the parties was formally required to take on
                blame for starting the war or acknowledge that they had been bested...

                Unlike a "total" war, which ends in complete victory for one side and
                complete defeat for the other (although the cost of victory can be so high
                as to make it almost indistinguishable from defeat...), it was (and is -
                witness the Gulf War of 8 years ago, or the Falklands of the '80's)
                perfectly normal for a "limited war" to end with each side somewhat happy
                with what went on - or at least, as in the case of the Falklands, even the
                loser accepting a "limited" military result without insisting on a fight to
                the death.

                Should the Brits have "nuked" Buenos Aires if Argentina had not
                unconditionally surrendered? Insisted that the Argentinian navy and air
                force surrender their hardware at Port Stanley like the Allies made the
                Germans surrender the High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow at the end of WW1? I
                don't think anyone would assert that the Brits wimped out & let the
                Argentinians off the hook too easy, would they?

                As each side was fighting for its own unique reasons, it is even possible
                for both sides to consider they "won", with varying levels of 'objective'
                validity to those claims. Just check out Iraqi versions of the Gulf War:
                they stood up for Arab pride against the might of the arch-devils!

                But to say the word "objective" validity, as opposed to "subjective"
                validity, is to perhaps touch the very heart of this little debate we've
                been having.
                Ultimately, for the participants in a war and their immediate heirs (which
                all of us are, to a varying degree), it is virtually impossible to have
                anything but a "subjective" opinion. War is just too intense and searing of
                an experience for any nation to be viewed in a completely objective manner
                by its citizens.

                Mayhaps when we eventually contact the Vulcans, Mr. Spock will have a look
                over the evidence, and give us an objective critique of who won the War of
                1812!


                ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                We now have over 85,000 e-mail communities. Check out our new web site!
                http://www.onelist.com
                ------------------------------------------------------------------------
                The War of 1812: In Europe, thousands fought over the fate of hundreds of
                square miles: in North America, hundreds determined the fate of THOUSANDS of
                square miles...
              Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.