War! What is It Good For? the Most Pointless Wars of All Time

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War is of course the most horrific undertaking human beings ever enter into with one another. It is the breakdown of society, the forfeit of common dignity, respect, and compassion. But in war we also find tales of tremendous gallantry, stories of individual bravery and sacrifice and hear of commitment and courage on the scale of platoon, company, army, even of whole nations (the Battle of Britain comes to mind). As terrible as war really is, there is of course something strangely compelling about it. We humans are drawn to tales of combat; energized by the clash of swords and the rumble of the falling bombs. Many wars have shaped history, created leaders, and molded whole nations.
But not these five. These five wars here? They were pointless and stupid. They can’t all be World War II, I know, but man… talk about some useless bloodshed (or not… see number 5!).

5 “Aroostook Bloodless War”

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The “Aroostook Bloodless War” was just what it sounds like: a “war” in which not a drop of blood was shed. And yes, that’s a good thing, humanity-wise, but it does make for an unimpressive bit of battling. Here’s the really short story of it: the year is 1839, the Brits are still pissed about the whole United States-existing-thing, and America is angry over some northern border disputes and logging rights. Both sides started getting hot under their respective collars, started raising armies and doing some marching, and then remembered that getting shot is no fun, and signed a treaty or two. For some reason, this situation ended up being called a war.

4 World War I

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Thankfully there are no WWI vets around to criticize us on this one, but we bet we’ll still hear from some professors. But look, here’s the thing: The Great War was all but pointless. Sure, we learned a lot about great new ways to kill the crap out of each other, but ultimately the two empires that were already near crumbling just did it faster, the Czarist dynasty that was near collapse went ahead and collapsed, and the various states adjusting to a modern world held onto some colonies, lost others, gained and then lost border lands, renegotiated some treaties, and ultimately punted, kicking the can down the road (if I may mix metaphors) for a whole lot more people to get the hell kicked out of them in WWII (which was not pointless).

3 Vietnam

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This may be a bit too soon so we’ll tread lightly, but one of the most pointless wars kind of rhymes with the words Eat At Toms. Not a single American goal was accomplished, and a certain domino theory was pretty much proven dead wrong at the cost of some 60,000 American dead.

2 The Falklands War

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The year is 1982, and someone has forgotten to tell the UK and Argentina that, hey, guys, it’s 1982! We don’t need to go to war over a little island with a few farmers on it! Having not gotten that message, England sends a huge amount of firepower down toward these little islands off Argentina’s coast because Argentina had decided it was no longer happy with the small contingent of Brits living there. The result was an embarrassing loss for the Argentines and a decisive victory for the British, but why? They retained an essentially useless, rather barren plot of land many thousands of miles from their home isles, and kind of looked like jerks in the process.

1 The War of Jenkin’s Ear

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The War of Jenkin’s Ear – with a name like that, you know our lead off war is going to be one hellofa pointless war! And it was, despite the fact that hostilities ostensibly beginning with the eponymous incident existed between the combatants, Britain and Spain, from 1739 all the way to 1748. It all started when Spain finally gave Britain a reason to attack it, something they had been wanting for quite some time. A kerfuffle broke out while a Spanish boarding party was on a British ship and a gent named Jenkins got much of one ear severed. Now, the Brits and Spanish had been alternately battling each other and then getting back into trading deals for many of the preceding years, with much of this trade being in slaves (because they were asshats). This little incident happened to come during a cooler period, if you will, relationship-wise and it was just enough for the Brits to whip themselves into a frenzy, get back into war mode, and eventually get wrapped up in the much larger continental War of the Austrian Succession. Jesus.

War, what is it good for, you ask? Sometimes it’s necessary, if never good, is our answer. Punic and Peloponnesian, sure. But not any of these damn wars. Whoowee… these wars? Pointless. And don’t get us started on the Crusades. Stupid, stupid wars.

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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