American Foreign Policy 1917-2003 Resulting in Conflict

American Foreign Policy 1917- 2003

Military Interdiction

Richard J. Garfunkel

Delivered at the Westchester Meadows Assisted Living Facility

April 14, 2003


American Foreign Policy, resulting in overseas expeditionary forces has been repeated quite often since the Spanish American War of 1898. But basically, all throughout American history much overseas involvements have been limited to the Western Hemisphere until America’s entrance in the First World War (known in those days as the Great War) in 1917.


Therefore this discussion tonight will be limited to the three major epochs of overseas actions taken by this country, and again exempting Western Hemispheric interventions, and of recent date the air campaign in Kosovo.


These three major overseas epochs, resulting in massive amounts of troops being committed would be characterized by three separate periods over the past 90 years.


A)    The first of these military expeditions would be the efforts in World War I and World War II. These could even be termed as idealistic efforts to do the following:

1.      Make the world safe for democracy

2.      Insure freedom of the seas, and therefore to allow our commerce to proceed without inhibition or even interdiction.

3.      Fight totalitarian expansionism

4.      Fight racist genocide, liberate enslaved peoples

B)     The second of these expeditions would be the involvement in undeclared police actions, not approved directly by a Congressional Declaration of War, and on the Asian mainland; Korea and Vietnam.

1.      Containment of Communism

2.      Win over the hearts and minds of non-western peoples

3.      Extend American power to areas previously dominated by other

      imperialist powers.

C)    The third and final military epoch involves the direct interdiction in the Persian Gulf region, Gulf War I and II.

1.      Acting in the role as the world’s only superpower

2.      Protecting the flow of oil to the west

3.      Removing an unstable totalitarian dictatorship

4.      Fighting the war on worldwide terrorism with a pro-active policy.

5.      Using the tactic of a pre-emptive strike for national protection  


Each epoch has two distinctive periods of conflict that has had an interregnum or a period of time between. But in each case there are some overwhelming distinctive similarities in the effort and justification of action. I will try to reflect on the causes and effects, the similarities, and differences, and the changes that resulted in molding a different America.



World War I, of course found ancient rivalries, manifested in imperial monarchies squabbling over old scores to settle:


1)      Alsace-Lorraine (French and German alternate control)

2)      Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina (Austro-Hungary/Serbian)

3)      The Turkish Middle East (Mesopotamia to Egypt)


In addition to these old unsettled territorial arguments, Kaiser Wilhelm the 2nd’s Germany emerged as the chief continental super power. After 1870 and the conclusion of the Franco- Prussian War, Germany was unified into a single country. In the post Bismarckian Age, Germany felt it was at a distinct trade disadvantage with it European rivals.


1)      Germany as a collection of competing principalities, never caught up to the other sea-faring nations acquisitions of overseas colonies (1500-1860’s)

2)      Germany therefore did not have a cheap supply of raw materials or a cheap overseas labor force.

3)      Germany’s acquired basically worthless leftover possessions in Africa.

(Cameroon’s, German East Africa later Tanganyika, Ruanda-Urundi)


Before World War I, a naval arms race had ensued, creating both an increase in national spending by European powers, and an escalation of continental anxiety. The British launching of the battle cruiser Dreadnought changed the military equation and language. Thereafter battleships of all increasing sizes were termed Dreadnoughts.


As incidents increased and new alliances were created, small brush fire wars erupted in the Balkans (1912-3). The Balkans were always racial and ethnic tinderboxes awaiting a flash of lightning to ignite fighting. Conditions haven’t changed much over the last 100 years. Only the strong-armed tactics of the Serbian Communist Josip Broz, also know as Tito, was able to bring order to these nine nationalistic entities in post-war Yugoslavia. In Sarajevo, a young radical Serbian nationalist, Gavril Princip, assassinated the Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand of Austria (June 28, 1914). Of course all of us are quite familiar with what happened next:


1)      Austria demanded concessions and reparations from Serbia under the threat of war.

2)      Germany backed Austria.

3)      Russia, the self-protector of the Slavs, backed Serbia, an Eastern Orthodox religiously dominated country.

4)      Serbia conceded to Austria’s term in the final hours of the ultimatum

5)      Mobilization of armies couldn’t be halted because the threat of a pre-emptive attack by one power over another caused defensive anxieties.

6)      France, which had an alliance with Russia, and remembering the humiliating loss of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany in 1870, mobilized to support the Russians.

7)      Great Britain, who was aligned with France, pledged their support to the French.



Therefore the conflict had a snowball effect and a life of its own, and before long Europe was flung into a war that know one really wanted and no one could envision or calculate its consequences.


In the same regard, World War II had distinctive similarities to the previous conflict, even though there were many changes in the post war era (1919 to1939), and the cast of leading characters had long changed:


1)      The monarchies of Germany, Austria, Russia, Turkey and even Italy had disappeared (Victor Emmanuel was still king but Benito Mussolini had seized power in the early 1920’s.)

2)      Ideology now replace strict nationalism:

a.       Germany became National Socialist  (Nazi)- 1933

b.      Italy had become Fascist- 1923

c.       Russia had become Communist- 1919

d.      Turkey had become a semi-republic, and a neutral (Kemal Attaturk)-1923

e.       Japan had become a military dictatorship- late 1920’s

But the basic alliance remained and would remain, except for Italy and Japan changing sides. Of course the reasons for the 2nd World War had a lot to do with the reasons of the first.

1)      Settling old scores, the curse of the Versailles Treaty, the “Guilt Clause”

2)      Room to expand and the reunification of ethnic groups (Drach nach Osten)

3)      Perceived trade disadvantages

4)      Lack of natural resources (iron ore, oil, rubber)

5)      An accelerated arms race (air power, aircraft carriers, mechanized infantry and artillery)


Also just like World War I, the German invasion of Poland had far-reaching treaty obligations and consequences. But, with all that in mind, Hitler had walked into Ruhr, reclaimed the Saar, annexed Austria, absorbed the Sudetenland, and occupied Czechoslovakia without a shot fired by the feckless Allies. Maybe Hitler really believed that the trumped up issue of Poland’s violation of Germany’s border, and the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, the non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviets would keep the British and French on the sidelines. But it is hard to believe that he was that naïve or foolish. But did he really want a new European War in 1939? In the same way, did the Kaiser really want war in 1914?


Of course, at the start of World War I, after initial offenses by both sides, two major occurrences, which shaped the war, happened after the extraordinary loss of 600,000 men at the Battle of Verdun. These were the establishment of trench warfare on the Western front and the defeat of Russia, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the eventual overthrow of the Romanovs. The defeat of Russia freed up millions of German soldiers on the Eastern front and enabled the Germans to launch a new offensive towards Paris. Along with this new threat to France, and the return of unrestricted submarine warfare, American under the idealistic leadership of the reform President Woodrow Wilson asked and received a declaration of war from Congress. Wilson, who had run successfully in 1916 under the “banner of he kept us out of war” and believed that Americans should be “neutral in thought” entered the war on the side of the Allies.

New American manpower and equipment turned the tide of battle at the Argonne Forest and Chateau Thierry. Even though there were other theaters of battle in the First World War; Northern Italy versus Austria, sea battles of Jutland and the Falklands, the disaster at Gallipoli and the fighting by General Allenby and Captain TE Lawrence in the Middle East against the Turks, the main action was in France. With American intervention, and six more months of hard fighting a peace was sued for by the Germans under the “fig-leaf” of an Armistice and the Great War ended.


Of course America similarly stood on the sidelines in the period of 1939 to late 1941 while another European war raged on. Again even though the majority of Americans were sympathetic to Britain and the Allies, they were totally against unilateral intervention in the war. FDR understood this attitude of the American people, and started his own aggressive plan for re-armament and preparation for war. He pushed Congress for removal of the binding neutrality laws, instituted an unprecedented peacetime “draft” and got “Lend-Lease” passed (1941, $50.6 Billion spent by the end of the war) to help the Allies. In fact he did everything short of war. But the public, up until the last pre Pearl Harbor Gallop Poll, were against 90% against joining the war against Nazi Germany even to save Britain from falling. Pretty shortsighted, wouldn’t one say?


Therefore as a consequence and as a result of the First World War, America became a creditor nation that would be soon feeding all of impoverished and hungry Europe. Of course disillusionment with the European victors, eventually drove the United States back into isolationism and eventual rejection of the Versailles Treaty, the League of Nations and World Court. Wilson became a broken and a sick man. Also as a result of the carnage of the war the “old order” quickly changed. The Ottoman Empire collapsed, leaving their possessions in the hands of the British and French. The Imperial monarchies of Austria, Germany and Russia disappeared and the ruling classes of France and Britain were decimated. Along with all of that, Britain was broke and disillusioned over their massive loss of a generation of youth.


All-in all with worldwide depression and civil insurrection effecting one-half of Europe, America emerged as the only intact manufacturing colossus. The 1920’s were a great era for the United States economically, but with recovery of agricultural in Europe and the collapse of the onerous debt structure placed on Germany (Credit Anstaldt Bank) by the victors, worldwide Depression finally caught up with America.

1)      Food exports had kept America financially strong along with exports through out the mid 1920’s.

2)      When the demand dropped for American wheat and corn, the railroads that had been propped up by these agricultural exports, began to collapse and go bankrupt.

With this vacuum of worldwide leadership the Great Depression led to the rise of the strong man, one party rule dictatorships. Along with the emergence of Stalin after the death of Lenin in 1924, Italy first turned to one-party Fascist rule. Of course Eastern Europe soon followed along with Germany and then Spain and Portugal. This continental phenomenon led to the impression that the western democracies were inadequate to the task of bringing on recovery. Both Italian and German re-armament and public projects enabled by centralized big government spending, led to accelerated recoveries where the democratic West struggled with unemployment, socials needs and political in-fighting.

(The Decline of the West, by the German Oswald Spengler, 1918)


Therefore this second chapter of European rivalry started to emerge in the mid to late 1930’s. Along with this ominous trend, Japan a modernized and newly westernized society started to face critical problems brought on by the depression. Their lack of exports and natural resources were leading them to national impoverishment. They saw the lure and possibility of a new colonial empire in Manchuria, China, and possibly Indo-China and Java in the rich Dutch Indies.


Consequently the seeds were planted for the next worldwide chapters of “take what can be taken and redress of supposed grievance.”


1)      Germany annexes Austria (1938), re-occupies the Saar (1935), the Ruhr, takes Sudetenland (1938), wants Memel in Lithuania, Alsace and Lorraine, and East Prussia reunited with Prussia and the free port of Danzig (Capital of Prussia 1814-1919), closing the Polish Corridor.

2)      Italy wants to take Ethiopia and goes to war in Africa. They would like to expand their colony of Libya, and take back parts of Albania (annexed by Italy 1939) and even Monte Carlo.

3)      Japan invades and conquers Manchuria (1931), invades China (1937) and has plans for other territories now controlled by Britain, France and the Dutch.


Again, as in 1914, Germany initiates the next war by invading Poland and setting off a chain of events. Along with Japan this new Axis alliance threatens to dominate the world. The progressive, though pragmatic liberal Franklin Delano Roosevelt plans for war but cannot really initiate any real physical help to the beleaguered Allies because of public and Congressional opposition. Of course Pearl Harbor, just like the sinking of the Lusitainia in1915 and 9/11 in 2001 changes public opinion quite quickly.


Within two years America brings dramatic changes to the major theaters of war. The Japanese advances were reversed in the Pacific and the German losses at Stalingrad and El Alamein halted their offensive momentum. American sea power, logistical might and manpower lead to the invasion of North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and victories in the Pacific.Eventually a war that could have easily been lost is turned dramatically around and ultimately won.


As a result of the destruction and impoverishment of Europe, a power vacuum again emerges. But unlike World War I, the power shifts away from the old order of Europe to the new dynamos, the USA and the USSR. But unlike the World War I, there is no retreat from responsibility by the United States. The United States understood its new role, and also understood the challenge in the rise of the Soviet Union and its new Eastern European client states. The United States started to understand its superpower role. Also as the Cold War started to emerge America found itself in the unenviable position of becoming the counter balance to the expansionist desires of Stalinist Russia.


1)      The Marshall Plan (George Marshall, US Sec. of State 1947-9) 

2)      Truman Doctrine in Greece and Turkey (March 1947)

3)      Strategic nuclear arsenals with intercontinental delivery systems

4)      NATO 1949/ SEATO 1954/CENTO 1953 collective security organizations

5)      The Berlin Airlift (June 1948-May 1949) Reaction to Berlin Blockade

So at the end of both halves of this great first epoch, there are some similarities; the League of Nations, and the United Nations; the victory over Germany, and the re-shaping of certain parts of the world. Where, in the wake of the First World War, old Imperial dynasties disappeared and some colonial empires were erased, new ones emerged. In the Second World War the momentum of de-colonialization was accelerated. Wherein the League failed miserably, the United Nations became an important institution in keeping the peace among the big powers. Europe had finally lost its hegemony over world affairs and the Cold War, along with the emerging nuclear threat brought a new type of order to the world. But unlike the relative peace that existed between 1920 and 1939 with few exceptions, the aftermath of the 2nd World War brought a series of anti-colonial struggles and brushfire wars with the surrogate backing of the Cold War rivals.


Unfortunately for the world, the lessons of the World War I were lost. European greed and American naiveté led to new power struggles, new arm’s races, and ultimately the great disaster of World War II. Could the West have crushed communism in 1920? Could Hitler have been killed in the Munich Putsch of 1923, could France have stopped the Nazi Germany in the Saar Basin and the Ruhr in the mid 1930’s? Could Czechoslovakia been backed in 1938 when Germany was relatively weak? The memories of the bloody disaster of the First World War created toothless leadership in France and England in the 1920’s and 1930’s that led to the later conflagration of the 1940’s.


The 2nd Epoch- Cold War Containment


 Therefore we move on to the 2nd American military epoch. The United States had in the period of 1945-50, the choice between the expressed anti-colonial spirit, sentiment and the doctrine of FDR and the challenge of communism filling the vacuum left by the colonial powers. Most often it was a case of communist operatives supporting faux and actual people’s liberation movements. Cold War territorial compromises resulted in the dividing artificially of two former Asian colonies, Korea and Vietnam. Of course because of geographical realities, these two territories were divided between north and south, and because the north was closet to China, the north became logically under the dominance of the communists. Korea and Vietnam, of course, were quite different. Korea had been a conquered territory of the Asian imperialist Japan since the 1890s. It was a primitive barren land that had never really developed under the Japanese. When the two separate Korean countries were created, they both began to develop separately and differently. From the beginning there was an impetus from both sides to unify. Unlike other areas of the world, there was no colonial presence to fight. Both sides were backed and financed in different and distinctive ways. The northern Communists were encouraged by Stalin to challenge the DMZ at the 38th Parallel, and by the time of the1950 invasion, over 400 armed provocations had happened. The south under the semi-dictatorial leadership of President Syngman Rhee also retaliated with artillery duels and military counter incursions. The great difference was that the United States did not support physical confrontation with the north. In fact, because of mixed signals from Washington, the Soviet Union interpreted America’s confused ambivalence over Korea, as an excuse to cross the border in great force, in other words a coup de main. On top of this the Communists were emboldened by the recent defeat and retreat to Formosa by the Chinese Nationalists under their leader Generalisimo Chiang Kai-shek.




In the ensuing months, the war turned around 180 degrees, and by the fall of 1950 the UN Forces led ably by General Douglas MacArthur were on the banks of the frozen Yalu River, which divided North Korea from the People’s Republic of China.


Already as we all know, Korea and the start of the Korean War seemed right out of the World War II textbook. To a degree it was the same American soldiers, who had fought WWII five years before. It was fought with the exact same equipment, except for the introduction of Jet fighters, and the terrain was similar to World War II European conditions, but much worse. Korea was a terribly primitive and barren place in 1950.


Of course the Korean War entered into its 3rd of five distinct phases when the Communist Chinese crossed the frozen Yalu River with overwhelming forces, and completely surprised and defeated the thinly spread, lightly armed American forces. After the initial disaster of the attack, a 4th phase began with the American and UN Forces stabilizing the front and stopping the advance. As the military situation settled into some modicum of stability, and the Chinese forces were hurled back by massive artillery and air strikes, the last phase of “stalemate”, in and around the 38th Parallel began. This stalemate lasted for two years punctuated by fierce fighting over the same old ground, This was quite reminiscent of the WW I trench fighting. Eventually a truce was sign at Panmunjon and this political situation continues to this day over 50 years later.


Its consequences were profound and led to the creation of SEATO (1954). The doctrine established that the United States could not afford politically to allow communist military aggression without countering it with force. Therefore, with that reasoning in mind, the United States committed itself to a similar, but different effort in Indo-China. The Eisenhower Administration started to give military aid to the French in their ongoing and never ending war against the Viet Minh, which violated our previous commitment to de-colonization. Unlike the physical similarities that characterized the European phases of the first two World Wars and probably Korea, Vietnam was quite different. This was a land that had been European colony for a hundred years. It was a semi-tropical rich land without a real frontier. America could not force an enemy back across a DMZ. America could not create a double envelopment like Korea with the landings at Inchon, and the Marine invasion on the eastern coast. America had to deal with a triple canopy jungle and an uncooperative public that had no allegiance to the early leaders of South Vietnam, who were northerners and Catholics. Eventually Diem, and his ruling class cohorts were deposed by a new ruling military elite backed by us. Again America was involved in a no-win Asian stalemate. Unlike Korea, where the status quo was eventually preserved, Vietnam, and its neighbors Laos and Cambodia could never be really pacified. We were blinded by the containment doctrine, which was expostulated by the “domino theory.” This theory was that if one Asian nation fell to the Communists all would eventually topple. Unlike Korea, there had been an ongoing nationalist struggle against the French for decades. It was interrupted by World War II, and the Japanese conquering and occupation of French Indo-China. Ho Chi Minh, a nationalist leader, and a social and land reformer sought help in Soviet Russia as early as the 1920s. During World War II his cooperation with the Allies, elicited a promise from FDR that Vietnam would be free from the French in a post World War II world. Of course FDR died, the French moved back in, and arrogantly maintained support of their control with the use of former Japanese occupiers.



Eventually the French, with our support, were defeated at Dienbienphu. This led to the artificial dividing of Vietnam into two countries. Almost immediately a long protracted struggle ensued. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution gave Congressional approval to our involvement, and we continued to escalate the war. Of course under the aegis of containment, we did everything in our power to fight a limited war against an intractable foe.


1)      Bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong and mining of their territorial waters

2)      Napalm and defoliation- Agent Orange

3)      Search and Destroy forays into the Villages and countryside

4)      Pacification

5)      Intrusion into Cambodia and Laos- The Ho Chi Minh Trail

6)      B-52 Carpet bombing

7)      Rotation of 6 million troops, peak strength 534,000 men and women

8)      Vietnamization (turning the fight over to the ARVAN)

9)      Peace Conferences, retreat and defeat (debates over the shape of the table)


What were the conclusions and results of this second epoch? We learned to our dismay that Korea and Vietnam were totally different. We learned that to use a “draft” army to fight an unlimited, unending war of attrition was political suicide. We learned that Johnson was hated, as was Truman for stalemate, but Eisenhower and Nixon were praised for compromise and loss. In Korea, we had at least a digestible stalemate. The status quo had been preserved and the Communist onslaught had been thrown back. In Vietnam we were completely frustrated and worn out militarily, emotionally and politically. Ironically the Vietnamese were not in the pocket of either the Chinese or Russian communists. They were nationalists who wanted their own social order, whatever it was called, and the “domino effect” was proven to be false. Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other Asian countries never experienced similar challenges.


Again the United States had the choice of supporting a world wide costly effort of containment that required blood and treasure or retreating to isolationism and allowing communist domination.


Vietnam and Korea were the “hot” part of an ongoing Cold War that spanned almost 50 years. In other areas surrogates did the fighting and economic and military assistance helped stiffen anti-communist resistance


1)      Berlin (revolts in E. Berlin), erection of the Berlin Wall 1961

2)      Hungary (revolt against Communist rule 1956)

3)      Czechoslovakia (revolt against Communist rule 1968)

4)      Nicaragua

5)      Santo Domingo (1965), Chile (1970-3)

6)      Cuba (1959) Revolution, Bay of Pigs Invasion (1961)

7)      The Congo (1959)

8)      The Middle East, Iraq, Iran

9)      Afghanistan

The Third Epoch- The Gulf wars I & II

Transition from Collective Intervention to Unilateral Action


Ironically Afghanistan played an important part in ending the second epoch of containment and starting the third epoch of pre-emptive engagement. After America’s retreat or defeat from Vietnam, a period of soul searching continued within the American people. The impeachment of Richard Nixon, and the continued social revolution of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s continued. This was a period of cultural upheaval and re-evaluation. Ironically after Vietnam emerged what I called the three myths: myth one, we would never be patriotic again, myth two, our national debt would could or never would grow as large and as fast, and myth three, our drug epidemic resulting from Vietnam would be ongoing. Of course later history showed that patriotism was renewed by Gulf War I, our national debt because of spending would reach colossal proportions under Reagan and George Bush I, and our drug epidemic would dwarf the post Vietnam era when crack hit our streets in the 1980’s.


Afghanistan is the ironic piece of the puzzle that links both the last epoch of containment and the third epoch of the Gulf Wars. Afghanistan, a historical crossroads between Europe and the sub-continent of Asia has been a favored route of invaders for thousands of years. In the post Vietnam era, while America was undergoing national psychoanalysis, other problems were arising around the world. The Carter Administration was devastated by the upheaval in Iran in 1978 and the forcible exile of the Shah, who had been a staunch ally of the United States. But his excesses and the religious fervent in the region caused his 35 year regime to be toppled. This religious fervor grew like an uncontrollable virus and it reached out to other areas, especially poverty-engulfed Afghanistan. The Russians ever fearful of Islamic fundamentalism in the southern republics that made up the Soviet Union engineered a bloody coup in Afghanistan in 1978, and installed a pro-leftist regime while ousting a republic that had been in power since 1973. A year later, in 1979, the Soviets began a massive airlift in Kabul and backed a new coup, leading to installation of a more pro-Soviet leader. Of course this led to a civil war and armed rebellion against the Soviet occupation, backed by the United States. The muhajadeen, or Muslim rebels were armed by covert US action emanating from Pakistan and eventually Afghanistan became the Soviet Union’s Vietnam. After years of fighting, and a UN brokered agreement in 1988, the Soviets started a withdrawal. But continued Soviet interests led to continued fighting until their complete withdrawal in 1992, after fourteen bloody years and 2 million Afghan deaths. Eventually civil war resulted in the rise of the Taliban, a Muslim fundamentalist group, which consolidated their rule between 1996 and 1998. This of course became the home and breeding ground of Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network.


But of course we are getting to far ahead of our story. The Persian Gulf has emerged as the post World War I version of the Balkans. In the wake of the de-colonialization after World War I and World War II era and the discovery of huge oil reserves, the Persian Gulf took on great importance in the industrialized world. Oil had always been important, but discoveries in Texas, Oklahoma, Venezuela, and Ploesti in Roumania and Baku in the Caucuses had created large reserves for use in the early part of the 20th Century. But concerns started to arise as the industrialization reached high gear in the 1920’s. There were many predictions how long current reserves would last. One analysis predicted that with the current growth of usage all the known reserves would run out by 1950.


Little did these prognosticators know that World War II would happen before 1950, and the use of oil during that period would be incredible. In fact more oil was used between 1939 and 1945 then all the oil ever used before 1939 and after until the 1970’s. Therefore one could easily discern that oil reserves have been constantly underrated. But unfortunately one fact is quite apparent, the available reserves located in the previously mentioned areas were quite drained by World War II consumption. As this supply started to dwindle, new sources were needed, and British and American interests came in to the Gulf. Over the next number of years, the Cold War superpowers started to take sides and tried to influence and control the oil spigot. A series of coups, assassinations, and border skirmishes had started to plague the region with continued instability. When, in 1947, the British withdrew from the final part of their Mid-East mandate, a strip of land bordering both sides of the Jordan, which was derisively named Palestine by the Romans, renewed religious conflict erupted. There had been always been some conflicts in that region between indigenous Arabs and Jews who lived in and on the land since antiquity. Later on in the early 20th Century, when Jews became active Zionists and started to immigrate to the land, more conflict arose. This rivalry for the land was exacerbated after World War I when Arab states were carved out of the old Ottoman Empire and the Balfour Declaration gave future hope to a Jewish State or homeland in the mandate area.


With all this in mind, there were constant rivalries, political change and strife in the Arab world. By the fall of 1980 conflict started to arise between the Islamic Fundamentalist State of Iran and secular Iraq over control of the Shatt al-Arab waterway that divided both countries. This of course led to war and an invasion of Iran by Iraq. The war spread to the Gulf, and both sides were threatening the future of oil shipments. American patrols of the Gulf were instituted to keep the sea-lanes open and protect the normal flow of oil.


Possibly because of huge losses in revenue from its disastrous war with Iran, that finally ended in1988, Iraq started to plan another bold stroke. In 1990, Baghdad, under the brutal leadership of Saddam Hussein, invaded the tiny oil-rich Emirate of Kuwait. Saddam Hussein then declared that the conquered Kuwait was now the 19th province of Iraq.


Of course, the world obviously was not happy about this action and conclusion. Saddam Hussein’s large and mobile mechanized army not only controlled oil-rich Kuwait, but also threatened Saudi Arabia which owned the world’s largest reserves of oil. The West had great fears of Saddam Hussein controlling one-half of the world’s known reserves if he rolled unopposed into Saudi Arabia. The US and her Allies were able to have the UN authorize a large 500,000 force to liberate Kuwait. This multi-national force also included Arab neighbors who joined and fought with the coalition. Eventually with overwhelming air superiority, the Allied Coalition bombed Iraq and their troops during a 38 day period called Desert Shield. After this considerable pounding, ground forces led by the American Army General, H. Norman Schwartzkopf, invaded Kuwait and after 100 hours of the Desert Storm campaign, Iraq retreated, and was defeated. The UN mandate to liberate Kuwait was fulfilled, and President George Bush declared victory. 






As a result of this victory certain consequences and results followed:


1)      The Iraqi regular Army was decimated (that has become the modern and misused term for being destroyed. Classically it meant that an Army lost 1 out of its 10 men.)

2)      Hundreds of Kuwait oil wells were set on fire. It took many months to cap the flames.

3)      The US encouraged the Iraqi citizenry to rebel and cast out the ruling Ba’athists and Saddam Hussein. Fourteen out of 18 provinces fell into anti-government hands.

4)      The revolt failed because of the lack of US support and Saddam who was allowed to keep flying non-fixed wing aircraft (helicopters), used these craft to crush the rebellions.

5)      Saddam Hussein punished the abortive rebels without mercy. Many thousands were killed and tortured.

6)      The US created “no fly zones” in the north and south, and suppressed Iraqi anti-aircraft radar and batteries by missile attacks.

7)      The UN spent years in Iraq searching for weapons, and having many destroyed until they were asked to leave by the Iraqis.

8)      The cost of this operation was over $30 billion.


The inconclusive ending to Gulf War I created some difficult problems for the United States, President George Bush I and the region. As a consequence the US, in the aftermath of the patriotic euphoria, was to enter years of expensive containment of Iraq. George Bush was defeated badly in the 1992 election, partly to do with his allowing Saddam Hussein to survive. The Middle East entered into a new phase of turmoil between Israel and the West Bank Arabs. Even though President Clinton worked hard with both the fractured Israeli government and the PLO represented by Yasir Arafat, no real settlement was achieved. Finally a new government headed by Ehud Barak offered a plan to the PLO on the future independence of a “Palestinian” state. Arafat and the PLO rejected this plan. Since that rejection, a revolt started in the West Bank and Gaza, which eventually featured “suicide” bombers, and other violence directed towards the Israeli military, the Jewish West Bank settlements and Israeli citizens. In this ongoing chapter of the latest “Intifada” over 700 Israelis have been killed along with 2000+ Arabs. Connections were made, through the seizure of PLO documents, that Arafat was connected to “suicide” bombers, and their families were being rewarded by payments from Saddam Hussein and Saudi Arabian charities.


Therefore after a series of terrorist actions by Osama Bin Ladin and other Arab and Islamic militants, that resulted in the following:

1)      The World Trade Center bombing in 1993

2)      The bombing and killing of five American servicemen in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (1995)

3)      The 1998 bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

4)      The US bomb terrorist camps in Afghanistan and the Sudan. (1998)

5)      The bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen by suicidal terrorists (2000)

6)      The World Trade Center and the Pentagon attacks on Sept. 11th, 2001

7)      Oct 7th,  2001, Afghanistan hit by joint US and UK air attacks

8)       Afghanistan invaded and the Taliban Islamic terrorist was overthrown Dec.3.


All of this created the circumstance that led to the Current Gulf War II. The United States after its campaign in Afghanistan had continued a worldwide search for Osama Bin Ladin and the other missing leaders of the Taliban regime. The Bush II administration felt the pressure from the public and press over their inability to capture or confirm the death of Bin Ladin and others. The US, along with Britain, started to build up a sizable military force in and around Iraq:


1)      A naval fleet (carriers, destroyers, submarines) in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf

2)      Troops in Qatar and Kuwait

3)      Mobilization of American Armed Forces Reserves and National Guard

4)      Air Force readiness in Britain and other bases in the region


In a series of intricate and exasperating diplomatic maneuvers within and without the United Nations, the Bush administration tried to link and accomplish the following:


1)      The War on Terrorism with Saddam Hussein’s continued rule in Iraq.

2)      The connection between Al Quaida and some Arab governments.

3)      The problem of the dissemination of weapons of mass destruction or as we have termed them unconventional weapons. These could include, nuclear; low or high radiation yield, chemical; poison mustard gas, seran, ricin, or bacteriological; anthrax, small pox, uncontrollable viruses to terrorist groups.

4)      A new UN inspection team authorized to search of Iraqi industries and storage sites for the aforementioned WMDs.

5)      The removal of Saddam Hussein from power through negotiation as an alternative to future embargoes and possible intervention.

6)      The call for another vote authorizing a UN sanction and approval for armed intervention in Iraq if compliance with UN inspectors was not immediately forthcoming.

7)      A call for more time by the inspectors by France, Germany and Russia.

8)      A rejection of any proposal to call for military intervention by the French, with a promised Security Council veto.


With the failure of the UN to put a short and a hard deadline on Iraqi compliance, the United States, along with Great Britain, started to weigh its own options:


1)      Keep troops indefinitely billeted in the region.

2)      Slow up mobilization of further reserves and the delivery of ordinance and logistics.

3)      Accept the UN’s Security Council’s recommendation for a longer inspection period.

4)      Consider calling off the operation because of the problems of future military operations regarding the approaching warm weather in the Gulf and Iraq and the problem of losing the new moon. (The US fights basically at night, using its high night vision technology.)

5)      Executing its war plan to invade Iraq and topple its regime.



As we all know the war started on March 19th with an attempt, by air strike to destroy the Iraqi leadership. As of today we are not sure how much damage was achieved by this strategic decision and tactical effort. But the following have happened:


1)      US and British ground forces crossed the Iraqi frontier.

2)      Cruise missiles from various locations, and delivery platforms were launched at Iraqi command and control targets.

3)      A heavy specified air campaign targeted laser and satellite guide smart-bomb ordinance on military and political targets

4)      British and US Marines swept in to Basra, Iraq’s second city. Basra eventually was cut off, surrounded and neutralized.

5)      The British attacked and captured Iraq’s only port and started humanitarian shipments of food and water to Iraqi citizenry.

6)      The American Forces, which included infantry, mechanized, marines, and airborne units, fought their way up and across the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.

7)      American Special Forces linked up with indigenous Kurdish paramilitary elements to attack from the north. These elements are besieging Iraqi towns and cities and suppressing rebel Islamic Fundamentalist groups.

8)      The destruction of Iraq’s elite Republican Guard Forces by a combined effort of air, artillery, mechanized and mobile infantry assaults.

9)      The capital Bagddad, their political and military center is surrounded by Coalition Forces.


The conclusion of the war is in sight. The fate of Saddam Hussein and his operatives is uncertain at the moment, but their fate is sealed and the regime is finished. The final results of this military success have yet to enfold. But the following are some of the direct and indirect possible and obvious consequences:


1)      Iraq has been removed as a threat to the region.

2)      The Arab world has lost it last country with any real power.

3)      The connection with Al Quaida may probably be established.

4)      A new government will be established in Iraq. The US, Britain and their coalition partners will make most of the decisions.

5)      The UN will have a limited role, mostly regarding relief and the rebuilding of humanitarian institutions.

6)      Pressure will be put on Syria and Saudi Arabia to bring in democratic reforms

7)      The Israeli-Palestinian issue will be addressed with the so-called 4 Power “Road Map”

8)      The embargo on Iraq will be lifted, and their moribund oil industry will start to be re-built. Their current oil production will start to flow into the market places legally.

9)      The free flow of oil will hurt Syria, and Jordan, who have been partners in Iraq’s black market shipping of embargoed oil.

10)   The peaceful transition to normality may come sooner than later.


How this will eventually affect the United States’ damaged image in the world has yet to be seen. Certainly Western Europe and the industrialized world will be quite happy over this successful action. The Arab in the street will not be so happy. He will feel violated again and impotent.


The following are some considerations to ponder:


1)      Can the overthrow of the Ba’athist regime lead to democratization of Iraq?

2)      Will Iran’s reform movement be encouraged to reduce or eliminate the influence of the Islamic conservative religious forces?

3)      Can Syria be forced out of the Bekka Valley in Lebanon?

4)      Will democracy in Iraq become infectious to the region?

5)      Would free elections lead to more Islamic Republics?

6)      Will terrorism be reduced by the spread of democracy in the region?

7)      Will the Palestinians accept the reality of Israel?

8)      Will this lead to a settlement that would guarantee Israel’s security and a Palestinian state?

9)      Can democracy really work in the Middle East without education, liberation of women and economic opportunity?



              Cost 2002$  Casualties   Sorties    %Precision  Sorties to hit

                                 KIA            Flown          Weapons  60×100 bldg

WWI      $577B         53,402        28,000            0%               na

WWII     $4.7 T       291,557        1.746 M         0%               3024

Korean    $400B        33,741       341,269           0%               550

Vietnam  $572B        47,414        1,992 M         1%               44

Gulf I        $80B             148          29,393          9%                8

Gulf II      $20B                85          41,850        67%           1


Sources: Department of Defense, Congressional Research Service,

Richard P. Hallion, aerospace historian c/o NY Times 4-20-03








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