Monday, 11 May 2020

Ask a silly question...

"Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers." - Voltaire

So, the somewhat throwaway question that I asked yesterday was: when was the last time that any nation apart from Israel won a war against a significant foe unaided?

Not being particularly busy at the moment I have pondered some more on the subject and the main conclusion I came to was that as a question it lacks a certain precision. The word 'unaided' almost inevitably opens a 'sorites paradox' type fuzziness. The question explicitly makes clear that the support which Israel definitely received from the US during its wars doesn't qualify as aid, but probably implies that the support that North Vietnam received from the Soviet Union and China does. You pays your money and takes your choice.

The sunny weather having disappeared from Yorkshire, and pouring caustic soda down the drains not having taken as long as I thought it would, I then exercised the little grey cells over tea and biscuits and had some further thoughts:

  • The whole of the period between 1792 and 1815 counts as one war. If you treat it as separate wars you get into all sorts of debates as to when one stops and another starts. It doesn't matter anyway as there is a later candidate.
  • The Mexican-American War might qualify; I don't don't know enough about it to decide whether the Mexicans count as a significant foe for the US at that point. It doesn't matter anyway as there is a later candidate.
  • The Spanish-American War doesn't count because the US were supporting, and fought alongside, local liberation fighters. The fact that they shafted their allies as soon as the war was over is irrelevant for this purpose.
Which leaves the best, heavily-caveated, answer that I can come up with to my own rather vague question as - the Russo-Japanese War. Feel free to disagree and/or tell me to get a life.


  1. How about the Zulu war ? or don't we count colonial ?

    1. Only if it’s the other way round ūüėČ like Ethiopia beating Italy in the 1890s.

      Maybe the Boer War qualifies as the kumquat rule doesn’t apply. As long as we’re not counting other colonists from the Empire as ‘aid’.