By Henry Cuningham
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812, and I was curious about the British perspective.
So I asked my colleague Greg Phillips what the British call that war.
"We don't call it anything," he replied.
He was serious.
"I had never even heard of it until I came here," Phillips said. "Apart from Columbus and 1492, I don't remember the U.S. ever being mentioned in my history classes."
I have observed that - except for the American Revolution - Americans are mostly oblivious to the British empire and its enormous impact on the world. Based on Phillips' response, British education seems to follow similar patterns.
The War of 1812 may be part of U.S. history relegated to "flyover territory" between megaevents with more fondly remembered outcomes.
However, as the U.S. military faces budget cuts that could range from deep and manageable to deep and devastating, I think it would be valuable to remember lessons learned from that war.
Some random observations:
The value of preparedness is forever being relearned. We weren't ready in 1812, and we paid for it. A couple of 82nd Airborne Division brigade combat teams probably would have outnumbered the entire U.S. military establishment of the early 19th century.
War hawks, those clamoring for confrontation, do not necessarily have military backgrounds: Henry Clay, for example. In modern times, you can easily come up with your own examples.
War hawks and military budget cuts are a volatile combination.
Yes, America's homeland can be attacked. When it is - say Pearl Harbor or 9/11 - the date defines a generation. In 1814, British troops burned Washington, D.C.
Wars are easier to get into than get out of.
The regulars and the militia have different military cultures.
At Fort Bragg, Forces Command and U.S. Army Reserve Command are trying to bridge the gap between the Regular Army and citizen soldiers.
The War of 1812 had a bigger effect than we realize. The words to our national anthem were penned during the British attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore. The president on the $20 bill, Andrew Jackson, made his name at the Battle of New Orleans.
Countries have permanent interests, not permanent friends. Nowadays, it's hard to imagine shooting at British and Canadians.
Henry Cuningham can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3585.