Unintended Consequences: What’s the worst that can happen?

Very often, too often if you really think about it, people find themselves stirred into an emotional frenzy over things that their chosen, and therefore trusted news provider has told them is important. And people are often so worked up over the way a new law or program or ideology might fix a problem that they never stop to ask about the possible problems that might come up.

But taking a moment or two to consider the possible unintended consequences can give you a chance to get past the emotion of the moment, and really look at the problem and your intended solution, and use reason and critical thinking to examine the problem in a new light.

My closest friends know that I am an armchair historian. I am not good enough to consider myself an expert, and I do not have the time available to study as much as I would like, but I do study, and I know a bit. I am going to take a look into history and provide an example of a seemingly harmless plan to solve a near crisis that ended up costing a nation much more than they bargained for or ever would have intentionally given up.

In our day, we are taught that the Native American Indians were a peace-loving and noble people and that the depictions of them as unwashed savages are Hollywood creations.

In truth, the real answer regarding what type of people the American Indians were is going to need the clarification of which tribe you are referring to. Some of the tribes were not really interested in war, others were most assuredly warrior cultures. Some tribes killed and enslaved others as part of habit. Others killed because of grudges that went back many generations. Some were peaceful but had customs that were utterly barbaric, such as the Karankawa practice of feeding newborn daughters to the dogs so that they would not marry an enemy tribe and produce more enemies.

For our purposes here, we will look at the Comanche. In strictly technical terms, the Comanche was not a single Tribe as we think of the word. There were several groups, but they shared a language and by and large were similar in their culture. They raided and killed, and they stole as many horses as they could. Horses were status and money if we simplify things for easy understanding.

The Comanche were hell on wheels…uh…actually hell on horses would be more accurate. They could ride as well or better than anyone, and they rode so much that many people found them to be awkward when not on horseback. They had a low birthrate due to the frequency of miscarriages as the women rode as well. They could fire about twenty arrows in the time it took for a person to reload a firearm of the time (The Kentucky Long Rifle was great for hunting and limited types of warfare in its day, but dismounting to use it against a mounted Comanche was suicide). It is no exaggeration to say the Comanche were the most powerful light cavalry of their time.

Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the Comanche would attack other Indian tribes, kill them men and enslave the young women and children. After the Europeans, when the first horses were introduced to the Americas, they did the same thing, only they had other victims.

The Comanche commanded a large area, larger than any other tribe, and they were, for a time, the largest and most powerful Indian tribe in America.

And they changed the history of America.

And Mexico.

Americans were not really going to Texas when it was a part of Mexico until the Mexican government decided that it needed a buffer between Mexico and the Comanche. This tribe was so skilled at raiding and killing that the government of a free nation decided to allow other people from a different nation to acquire land in their own territory in order to give the Comanche other people to kill, and a group to slow the raids into their power base.

On the surface, this seemed reasonable, undoubtedly so to the people in charge of Mexico at the time. These would not be fellow countrymen providing a human shield, they were foreigners. They would slow the advance of the Comanche, and maybe even stop raids into Mexico altogether due to the habit the Comanche had of hitting hard and fast and then speeding out as fast as possible to avoid pursuit.

Of course, we know what happened. Americans settled in Texas, they armed themselves heavily after finding themselves at the mercy of a merciless group, and after throwing the Comanche back, they decided they didn’t need the government of Mexico either and fought and won to become the Republic of Texas.

A bad call on the part of Mexico was to try to find an easy way to stop the raiding of the Comanche Indians. Had they not chosen this path, or had the Comanche not been such a fierce enemy, Texas might still be Mexico to this day.

Unintended consequences actually happen. Before taking action on any level, it is good to stop and think, not only of what can happen if everything goes as planned but what might happen if things go very wrong.

The next time a friend or politician or newsman is telling you how this or that is going to easily solve a problem, take the time to consider what might happen if things go terribly wrong.