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The Spirit of 1812

It appears that the United States Coast Guard (USCC) and the US Department of Homeland Security (DoHS) have decided to begin militarizing the Great Lakes, in contradiction with the Rush-Bagot Treaty of 1817. That treaty, signed after the conclusion of the War of 1812, called for the severe restriction of naval forces deployed on the lakes in order to prevent another easy outbreak of war between British North America (Canada) and the United States of America. Since that time, and within the context of the Cold War, the treaty has been reinterpreted to allow for the stationing of military naval vessels within the waters for the purposes of training, so long as the capabilities and armaments of all such vessels were duely communicated by and to both States at all times.

Now, apparently, the USCC has decided to arm its vessels on the Lakes by calling upon the context of the War on Terror as reasoning, while simultaneously claiming to be following the precedent of the existing treaty interpretation that allows for training excercises. Of course, if they were to actually follow the treaty, they wouldn't actually be able to fire upon any hypothetical terrorist vessels without violating one of the world's oldest peace treaties. So, either a) the USCC and DoHS intend to follow the letter and spirit of the treaty, in which case arming the USCC vessels with chain-guns is perfectly silly, or b) the USCC and DoHS plan on firing their weapons at targets they deem hostile and thereby violating Rush-Bagot and creating an international incident.

If I were a more cynical individual, I might observe that the DoHS seems more capable of creating trouble than preventing it. I can imagine the headlines: "American Coast Guard Shoots-Up Passenger Boat on Great Lakes", "Coast Guard Says: 'They seemed suspicious, didn't respond to radio!'"

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