03 September 2014

War of Jenkin's Ear

In 1739, England went to war with Spain. One of the causes cited by the English was alleged abuse of English merchantmen by Spain. A specific example was the display of a severed ear, allegedly cut from a merchant captain, Robert Jenkins. Europe was ready to explode into wars, and this one did not exactly end, it simple merged into another European war. Wikipedia has a rather good discussion of this war and its successors.

I first heard of this war in a college history class, so you may have missed. The war began with British politicians reacting to the alleged atrocities, and setting out to punish Spain. In a sense, they got there. Spain was the big looser in the war and its successors. On the other hand, the wars lasted until the 19th century, with France going through revolution, terror and the Bonaparte empire, most of Europe eventually invaded by one side or another, and two wars that eventually established USA independence. The 18th century was bathed in bloodshed.

1739, England and Spain. 2014, USA and allies versus ISIS/ISIL. There is every reason for any reasonable person to be outraged at the murderous atrocities ISIS has visited on Iraq, Syria, and two Americans. Like the war of 1739, outrage abounds. And yet, we need we humans, a more specific target. Tyrants, stupidly, provide those targets. We won't fight for Iraqi women, but we will avenge two journalists. Which leads to a question: should we?

Let's look back again. The war that began in 1739 effectively ended in 1848! It is impossible to even estimate how much art, science, and love was lost in that period. In the end, Spain and France's imperial dreams were shattered. If that is what England and its eventual allies wanted, I suppose they won. What price victory?

I am not arrogant enough to ask, let alone tell you the answer to the sometimes question: What Would Jesus Do? That is not our department. None of us are Jesus. What would Jesus have us do? That is a question I think we each can attempt. I simply do not know the answer.

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