I have made some notes and observations from the references given to me by Marcelo concerning the War of the Triple Alliance. As this website is devoted to naval matters people may be interested in reading and discussing them.
One of my interests is geopolitics, specifically the interaction of geography, economics, logistics and warfare strategy. Sea power is a crucial element in all this, and I have noticed that while South America is a large land mass, its military conflicts, with one exception, were largely based and decided on sea power.
Until I saw Marcelo's references I knew nothing of the detail of the Triple Alliance war, only the result, in that between 1864 and 1870 Paraguay was utterley defeated by the combined forces of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina.
I had expected the detail of the war to be entirely land based, land fought. Not so. Paraguay, the only permanently landlocked country of South America, had to import to sustain its ability to wage war (like Germany and Austria-Hungary in WW1). So the war hinged on the control of the rivers and waterways leading to the River Plate, Paraguay's only outlet to the sea; the only roads were dirt tracks. The early destruction of the Paraguayan navy decided the war, even while the Paraguayan army was still advancing on all fronts. Paraguay was blockaded, worn down by attrition and gradually overrun - much as Germany was worn down 1942 to 1945. The war only ended with the death of the dictator, Lopez in March 1870. The ending of the war and the absolute defeat of Paraguay in 1870 bears a sharp resemblance to the absolute defeats of Germany and to a lesser extent Japan in 1945.
The other major war of that time came in the early 1880's. This was the War of the Pacific, the very name suggests a sea war. This was the conflict in which Bolivia lost its coastline and its most valuable natural resource to Chile. In fact this was almost an entirely naval based war, the land fighting being ancilliary to the naval action (again no proper roads), itself based on the organised and aggressive Chilean navy. Bolivia was out of the war quickly, when it lost the Atacama coastline, Chile's other enemy Peru was defeated by a series of Chilean naval landings, culminating in the capture of Lima, the capital city of Peru.
It is striking that the three main military powers of South America, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, all had powerful navies and managed to avoid fighting each other - in sharp contrast to the major military powers in Europe. How did they avoid going to war? I think this is a matter of geography and a recognition of each others strength.
Argentina and Brazil have only a short land border, in an area where it would be logistically difficult to fight and in which little advantage could be gained by either country. Paraguay and Uruguay act as buffer states. Compare that with the French-German conflict over Alsace-Lorraine: three wars inside 75 years.
Argentina and Chile on the other hand have a very long border - which runs along the second highest mountain range in the world. On paper Chile looks to be geographically vulnerable to invasion from Argentina - if the Andes weren't there. In fact I would think that the only place they could fight on land is in Tierra del Fuego.
My conclusion is that the mutual naval strength and facing each other back to back has kept the peace - much better than the Cold War scenario in the northern hemisphere.
The one remaining conflict I have not yet mentioned, which involved no naval activity as the theatre was almost completely devoid of water, falls in my opinion into the category of the most futile and pointless war that has ever been fought. I refer to The Chaco War of 1929 to 1934, between Paraguay and Bolivia, the two countries least able to sustain a war, with Mussolini cynically supplying both sides with weapons, including aircraft.
Fortunately this has proved to be the last South American conflict. The only remaining trouble spot is the border dispute between Peru and Ecuador - but here, instead of actual fighting, Ecuador has steadily diminished in size over the decades. It is significant here that Ecuador did not get involved in the War of the Pacific as an ally of Chile and take the opportunity of annexing most of northern Peru.
I would welcome any comments or feedback people may wish to make on this post.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.