Friday, December 30, 2005

THE PREQUEL IN THE PACIFIC

This title sounds to me like the name of an Ali fight. It is not. The prequel is a prequel to World War II in the Pacific, although in World War II the Russians were smart enough to avoid war with Japan until after the Americans and allies had mostly beaten the Japanese. Anyway, today we are talking about the Russo-Japanese War.

There are a few interesting things about this war. First, it is the last war in the era of naming wars after the combatants. The Dano-Prussian War, the Austro-Prussian War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Spanish-American War, the Russo-Japanese War. These were all from the 1860s to 1905. Before that there were wars like the Thirty Years War, the Seven Years War, and the Hundred Years War. There were also wars like War of Spanish Succession and the War of Austrian Succession. Thus, the Russo-Japanese War ended an era.

The war also got Teddy Roosevelt a Nobel Peace Prize. That is really something, since Roosevelt was not a particularly peaceful man. He reveled in the Spanish-American War. He reveled in swiping Panama from the Columbians. His motto was "walk softly and carry a big stick." That man's getting a Nobel Prize is shocking in and of itself.

Anyway, the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire has been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the treaty that ended the war, namely the Treaty of Portsmouth. The war itself marks the first time in the modern era that an Asian army had defeated a European army. The war was fought entirely in Korea and China, rather than in either Russia or Japan. It also helped expose the Russian monarchy and its political structures as the inefficient, decrepit failure it was. That helped trigger the 1905 revolution in Russia. The Japanese smashed the Russian Baltic fleet when it sailed to Asia to fight the war.

By the way, this whole essay was sparked by the always reliable Christian Science Monitor article on the war.

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