Your RDA of Irony

Splendid Little Wars

February 15, 1898:  Hot Time in Havana

American Eagle Bird BathOn this day in 1898, God did William Randolph Hearst a big favor and blew up the boiler of the battleship Maine. The battleship blew up with it. (They just don’t make boilers like that, anymore.) Of course, the Spanish looked guilty; that is the disadvantage of being brunet.

Now Hearst had an excuse to incite a war against Spain. Of course, he would have found some pretext, perhaps depicting Miguel Cervantes and Francisco Goya torturing “The Katzenjammer Kids” on the comic pages. But the mysterious sinking of the USS Maine was very convenient. When Hearst blew up, so did the Congress. (They still do make Congresses like that!) So off to war we went.

Spain was no match for the United States. We quickly “liberated” Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam and the Philippines. We could have taken Spain itself. This was–in words of our Secretary of State John Hay–“a splendid little war.”

Furthermore, we created a fashion. Everyone else wanted ‘a splendid little war’ too. In 1899, the British decided to annex the Boers’ Republics in Southern Africa–and any adjacent gold and diamond mines. However, “Marching to Pretoria” proved easier to sing than accomplish. The Boers resisted–and used their gold and diamonds to buy machine guns. That splendid little war took three years and 22,000 British lives.

In 1904, Russia was posturing in the Far East, threatening the “Monkey Men”, the Tsar’s somewhat insensitive term for the Japanese. It promised to be a splendid, little war–except that the Japanese won. The Monkey Men evidently were more highly evolved than the Russians.

And in 1914 Austria-Hungary decided to teach Serbia a lesson. That didn’t end up splendid or little, either.

Apparently, “splendid little wars” only occur with Spain or perhaps Grenada. Definitely not with Iraq or Afghanistan.

  1. Bob Kincaid says:

    For the best commentary of that day on that “splendid little war,” please see Mr. Samuel Clemens’ “The War Prayer,” written after he learned of the attrocities commited by U.S. troops in the Phillipines.

  2. Hello, Eugene!

    I want you to know that your posts are a wonderful tonic for what ails me. I read each one when I have the luxury of a little bit of uninterrupted time so that I can savor each one.

    While I’m not familiar with the phrase “Splendid Little War,” I do find it rather catchy.
    The only war phrase I’m familiar with is, “The Recent Unpleasantries.” Our friend, Alex Raskin, who is a fourth (?) generation Savannahian told us that’s how people in the south refer to the Civil War. I have adapted that phrase when referring to the deaths in my family last summer. It certainly makes death more palatable whenever it comes up in conversation.

    I always learn so much from your posts. I especially enjoyed learning there are disadvantages to being a brunet, because I didn’t know there were any. As a brunet, the only thing I’ve heard is that blondes supposedly have more fun. Would you happen to know if that’s true?


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