There has been lots of discussion recently about how new, hi-tech weaponry will make conventional warfare a thing of the past. Conflicts will be fought from bunkers, via satellites, through the medium of supersonic stealthy missiles which could hit a gnat's crotch, even when fired from a different continent. If all this were true, one would have expected recent conflicts to be relatively bloodless, displaced affairs with minimal casualties. Instead, wars have become insipid, clandestine, drawn out affairs in which more casualties are sustained after hostilities have "ended" than during the fighting itself.

For an example of how a war should be fought, we have to back to 1896 when the rightful Sultan of Zanzibar died. As the British wanted to maintain their control over their sultanate, they tried to install a puppet leader: Sayyid Hamoud bin Muhammed. However, before the announcement was made, the dead Sultan's brother-in-law, Sayyid Khalid bin Barghash, seized the throne and retreated to his palace.

The British sent a fleet to Zanzibar, and after some political maneuvering, they issued an ultimatum demanding that Sayyid abdicate by 9:00am on the 27th of August. However, the deadline came and went, and the British commander, Harry Rawson opened fire on Zanzibar at 9:02am. The fighting peaked at 9:15am when the one and only Zanzibar ship, the Glasgow, was hit and sunk by two rounds. By 9:40am, Sayyid had surrendered, and fled to German East Africa. This makes the 1896 Zanzibar-Britain War the shortest ever.

As a coup de grâce, the British demanded payment from the Zanzibar people in return for all the shells they had generously fired at them a few hours earlier.

So, inside a day, the British had forced their will on a peaceful people, bombarded innocent citizens, overturned a ruler and profited by exploiting a less developed civilisation. I'd say that's pretty good going - it's taken us a decade to do all that stuff in Iraq!

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