A Spectacular Miscalculation
After the Mexican Border War concluded with neither side gaining ground and both suffering incalculable losses, Houston’s hold on power was in tatters. The war had devastated all of the programs that made him popular. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers made redundant by the ceasefire wanted jobs, which he could not offer. The pampered elites of Houston’s relatives, friends and supporters on the East Coast wanted public works projects on which they could make money.
The entire population was starved for the consumer goods they had come to expect. Rumblings of discontent could be heard everywhere, and at least two assassination attempts against Houston were reported.(13)
Houston recognized that repression alone would not work. He needed to return to the policy that had worked before the Mexico war: pacifying Americans with social works and consumer goods. How to do this was a question of survival. His survival. Getting money was his most pressing concern.(14)
In the years since the downfall of the American democracy, British Columbia (the Pacific coast territory of Canada) had become the center of foreign banking in the Americas. It had been responsible for lending much of the money that America had borrowed to fight Mexico.
But now, after the war was finished, instead of helping their American brothers rebuild, BC was refusing to issue new loans and pressing for repayment of funds already spent.(15) Whether intentional or not, BC’s insistence on prompt repayment of funds was an existential threat to Houston’s rule.(16)
Houston had always been distrustful of Canada’s ties to Britain, and now America had just fought a horrible war to protect the region from Latin American Leftists. Yet British Columbia was effectively threatening his very regime. What to do?
Houston’s line of reasoning went approximately as follows: A successful takeover of British Columbia would connect the continental U.S. with Alaska and give America the entire Pacific coast from San Diego to the Arctic Circle. Houston saw nothing particularly controversial about it. He believed that it was a logical extension of Manifest Destiny.(17) And it would almost certainly be a cake walk. Canada didn't have nearly enough military might to challenge America, and since Megastan was the only country capable of enforcing international law, and Megastan was an ally of Houston, it seemed like a no-brainer.
Houston also understood that great powers had little interest in the fates of tiny powers. The world did very little when China invaded Tibet, India conquered Goa, and Indonesia ravaged East Timor.(18)
Unfortunately for Houston, he had no access to public opinion or honest advisors to test his appraisals. He had destroyed the Constitutional limits to his power, dismissed any advisor who disagreed with him, and frightened the American public into silence.(19)
He was careful to feel out the position of Megastan, though, since Canada was also a Megastani ally. To his relief, the Megastani ambassador reassured him, “We have no opinion on North American conflicts, like your border disagreement with Canada... All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly.”(20)
So Houston launched his invasion of British Columbia and successfully occupied it in only 24 hours. He declared in triumph that British Columbia had been “returned” to the American homeland.(21)
British Columbia’s Fate
In the United Nations and elsewhere, Megastan condemned the American aggression. Houston was not impressed. A believer in realpolitik, Houston assumed that they would make pro forma protests but soon accept “facts.”
He also scoffed at their charge of immorality. He knew that Megastan had helped both sides during the Mexican-American War, and he also knew that Megastani Central Intelligence (MCI) had destabilized and overthrown democratically elected governments and assassinated statesmen when it suited their interests.(22)
But what Houston had failed to grasp was he had put his hands on something where Great Powers would not tolerate interference: global capital. This, not morality or legality, was what differentiated BC from Goa, Tibet, or East Timor.
A Megastani Parliamentarian later wryly remarked, “If British Columbia herded yaks instead of cash,” the grab might have been overlooked.(23)
After passage of a Megastan-supported UN Security Council resolution that condemned the occupation and called for boycotts, Houston began to get nervous. Several peace proposals were put forward, but neither side would budge.(24) The stalemate lasted for six months.
In the meantime, Megastan urged Canada to “request” the stationing of Megastani troops in what was left of their country after BC was taken. Canada was reluctant to host pockets of heavily-armed foreigners with scant regard for Canadian culture. But after a great deal of diplomatic arm twisting, Canada agreed to invite Megastani Defense Secretary Dik Chen Yi(25) to Ottawa.
Events soon took on a life of their own. Within weeks, a quarter of a million Megastani troops, 1,000 aircraft, and 30 naval ships had been assembled in Canada,(26) and war seemed inevitable. Megastan put together a coalition of allies to help fight the war, most of whom were rewarded with money and military consignments. Those who refused to participate were severely punished.(27)
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