Tag Archives: War of 1812

Video: The War of 1812

A short film on the history of the War of 1812 produced by the U.S. Civil Service Commission and the US Navy. See the video on YouTube.

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My Cincinnati Enquirer Column on the Peace of Christmas Eve

Two hundred years ago this Christmas Eve, America and Britain received a special gift. Only nobody in either country knew about it.

Read the article at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

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My commentary in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Two hundred years ago this Christmas Eve, America and Britain received a special gift. Only nobody in either country knew about it.

Read my commentary at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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South Sudan and the War of 1812

This child in Sudan is receiving food aid from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). Many more children in the world are in need of food safety nets. (NRC Sudan)

At a Senate hearing in March, actor and Sudan activist George Clooney was asked about how to keep Americans, especially youth, engaged with the conflict and hunger in South Sudan. Can people here in the U.S. feel a sustained connection to a country many thousands of miles away?

Imagine for a moment a country that has recently gained its independence. War, territorial and boundary disputes, and the inability of the young government to cope with emergencies are the tragic realities.

Cities and towns have come under assault from their northern neighbor, forcing civilians to flee their homes in terror. Farmers have been forced away from their land by armies, thus ruining food production.

What you just read would describe South Sudan today. The description could also fit the United States during the War of 1812.

For when the United States was a young nation, like South Sudan now, it experienced war on its soil. This year is the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, which President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron talked about at their White House meeting in March. During that war the British burned the White House to the ground. After the War of 1812 had ended, little by little the two sides moved away from conflict and toward partnership.

The Rush-Bagot Agreement of 1817 disarmed the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, which during the war were the scene of naval battles and fierce bombardments on coastal towns. A naval arms race was averted. This allowed the U.S. border with the British colony of Canada to develop in peace rather than diverting resources into costly warships which might have provoked a new war.

One of the most tense standoffs between Britain and the U.S. in the decades after the War of 1812 was over who owned the Oregon Territory of the Northwest. In 1846 veteran diplomat Albert Gallatin, one of the peace commissioners during the War of 1812, published an essay urging calm between the two rivals. His words for peace were what any standoff needs to get resolved.

Today, South Sudan is faced with building peace with their neighbor Sudan. The two sides fought a civil war that ended in 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. But this agreement has a long way to go before becoming a genuine peace.

Last summer, fighting erupted between South Sudan and Sudan over the disputed territory of Abyei. A United Nations Security Force has been dispatched for the demilitarizing of Abyei and to ensure protection and humanitarian aid for civilians.

In South Kordofan and Blue Nile, fighting is raging. U.S. Ambassador Princeton Lyman says “conflict has been raging there since last May, arising from issues never fully resolved in the civil war because people in those states, particularly in the Nuba mountains, fought with the South.”

There is also internal conflict in South Sudan between rival tribes, the Lou Nuer and the Murle, that has displaced many thousands of people in the Jonglei state. These two tribes have repeatedly attacked each other over the years through cattle raids and kidnappings. The scale of their battles, though, has increased substantially in recent months.

In May a peace conference is set to begin to deal with this deadly rivalry. Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, head of the Peace, Reconciliation and Tolerance in Jonglei Committee, says, “I am expecting everybody who loves peace to participate in this process because we have lost so many people. I hope everybody will come, sit together and try to find a lasting solution for the problems.”

There is an initiative underway to collect the guns that have proliferated in Jonglei and there are plans for a buffer zone between the Lou Nuer and the Murle to help transition to peace.

Deng Bul says, “It is important for all citizens not to carry arms because the arms are tempting [people] to unnecessary actions. If we want to have development in Jonglei, we must make sure that everybody is not carrying a gun.”

South Sudan desperately needs its own peacemakers before it’s too late. The internal and external conflict has harmed the region’s food supply. Drought has also struck. These two elements, combined with preexisting poverty, are creating a hunger crisis approaching famine. The UN World Food Programme, which relies on voluntary funding, says nearly five million people in South Sudan are suffering from hunger. Food is desperately needed to reinforce the peace process.

South Sudan needs the United States and others to stay with them during these rough waters as it tries to build a road to peace.

As we mark the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, students and other citizens can take time to reflect on the peace with Britain that emerged from the ashes. This learning adventure in American history can also offer a way for students and others to connect with South Sudan. How can this newly independent nation build their own road to peace?

For what the governor of Ohio, Thomas Worthington, proclaimed after the War of 1812 rings true. Worthington said we must seek the day “when bloody wars engendered in pride and wickedness, and prosecuted in fury and unrighteousness, shall forever cease, and when every human being, in the true spirit of humanity, meekness and charity,shall do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with his God.”

Article first published as South Sudan and the War of 1812 on Blogcritics.

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The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

At a press conference President Eisenhower stated, “the concept of atomic war is too horrible for man to endure and to practice, and he must find some way out of it.” In “The Road to Peace” read about President Eisenhower and President Kennedy’s pursuit of a nuclear test ban treaty, a first step in nuclear arms control with the Soviet Union. The attempt to control nuclear weaponry came at a time when the Soviet Union and the United States were engaged in the Cold War. Tensions were running high.

A lesser-known arms control measure is also discussed in the book, how the Soviet Union and the United States actually agreed to ban nuclear weapons from at least one part of the globe in 1959. Also read how a diplomat from Mexico led the struggle to create a nuclear weapons free zone in Latin America in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

“The Road to Peace” includes the struggles between America and Britain over the Great Lakes and the Oregon territory. The now peaceful border of the United States and Canada did not come about easily. Read about diplomatic initiatives after World War I when the great hope of mankind was an end to warfare. Also, there is a concluding section on the INF and Open Skies treaties. Featured in “The Road to Peace” are notable peace efforts by extraordinary statesmen who served in government here and abroad from 1812 to the 20th century. Lessons of diplomacy and cooperation between countries are applicable to today’s conflicts.

Table of Contents
1. War and Peace on the Great Lakes
2. The Oregon Treaty
3. Peace After the Great War?
4. Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
5. The First Nuclear Weapon Free Zones
Epilogue- The INF and Open Skies Treaties

The Road to Peace is available from


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