When a nation decides to send its young men and women to risk their lives in war, those who wear the uniform know there's more than national pride at stake. The good of their country -- and perhaps even the entire world -- is on the line. Their cause is just, and their leaders are rightfully certain of victory, no matter the cost.
Or instead of all that, they can fight over a bucket, a pig or an adorable puppy.
The list of stupid wars is back, and this one includes a number of cheap tricks and ridiculous endings to the least necessary wars of all time -- one of which still haunts the world to this day. Try to guess which one.
1. The Pastry War
After his Mexico City pastry shop was destroyed by a lawless mob in 1828, a French chef named Remontel asked the Mexican government to pay damages, a request it promptly ignored. So he asked the French government for help instead, but everyone (except probably Remontel) quickly forgot about the request.
Ten years later, the incident somehow caught the attention of King Louis-Phillipe, who demanded the Mexicans pay Remontel, including a whopping 90% interest rate. When they refused, the French blockaded Mexico and occupied the city of Veracruz.
The saddest truth behind The Pastry War was that no one really cared about the pastry or the shop (except probably Remontel). They only wanted the money. Mexican Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna came out of retirement to fight the French, but even he couldn't help. The French stayed until Mexico agreed to pay.
However, it didn't cough up the dough after France pulled out, leading to another French invasion in 1861. But then the French Empire fell, and everyone finally forgot about it for good.
(Except probably Remontel.)
2. The War of Jenkins' Ear
In 1731, a British trader named Robert Jenkins was stopped by Spanish authorities and accused of smuggling. The Spaniards seized his entire cargo. For good measure and no reason, they also cut off his ear. Eight years later, the British were looking for an excuse to force Spain out of the Caribbean and South America, so they launched a war that saw 25,000 dead or wounded and nearly 5,000 ships lost to avenge that ear.
War didn't quite break out quite so much as disease did, which was responsible for the high body count. The British lost almost every offensive due to tropical diseases; Spain fared just as badly in its counterattacks. To top it all off, everyone forgot about Jenkins' ear when the War of Austrian Succession broke out, and the English began fighting the Spanish and the French for who would rule Germans in Austria.
You know, European stuff.
3. The Opium Wars
The first rule of making money is to find a need and fill it. In the late 1830s, Britain needed Chinese tea, silks and other products. The only problem was the Chinese didn't really need any British goods, so there was a bit of a trade imbalance. To fix that, the British created a need in China, then promptly filled it. With opium.
This didn't thrill the Chinese at all.
China began to use its military to enforce drug laws, stop British smugglers, keep Chinese people from getting addicted to opium and prevent its currency from folding. The British cried foul and began to use the Royal Navy to enforce "free trade" principles on China. This meant accepting 7,000 annual tons of opium at gunpoint, as well as opening five ports to British ships and giving up Hong Kong.
It was the worst trade deal in the history of trade deals, maybe ever. No wonder China is the way it is.
4. The Kettle War
The name "Kettle War" doesn't so much describe the war as how it ends, but the whole thing is stupid.
For more than a century, the northern Netherlands had been an independent republic, and the southern Netherlands were dominated by the Holy Roman Empire. One day in 1784, the emperor suddenly decided he wanted ports in the south open to trade via the River Scheldt, which was cut off by the north and had been for that same hundred years.
Instead of asking nicely, the Holy Roman Emperor sent a group of ships to the river's opening, including the latest triumph in shipbuilding technology, the flagship Le Louis. The powerful flotilla was met by a single Dutch ship, the Dolfijn, which fired one shot straight at Le Louis. It didn't hurt anyone, but did hit a soup kettle -- which caused the flagship to surrender immediately.
The Netherlands were saved. The northern Netherlands, anyway.
The emperor, on the other hand, was understandably upset. After losing his cool ship, other countries in Europe noticed what was happening, and the Holy Roman Empire had to abandon its designs for the southern Netherlands.
At least no one died.
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