American Foreign Policy Timeline 1917-2003


                                                            (International Involvement)

WORLD WAR I 1914-8                                                  WORLD WAR II    1939-45

Causes:                                                                       Causes:

Colonies and their control                                           Dissatisfaction over Versailles Treaty

Trade                                                                           Ideological: communism

Naval Arms Race, Dreadnaughts                            national socialism (Nazis)

Military Alliances:                                                          corporate statism (Fascism)

Allies vs. Central                                                 free-market capitalism(Democracy)            

Combatants: .                                                            Combatants: 

Allies: Britain, British and French Empire,                       Allies: British, French Empires, Commonwealths,

Belgium, Italy, Japan, Serbia, Russia, USA                      China, Soviet Russia, and the USA

Central: Germany, Austria, Turkey                                  Axis: Germany, Italy, Japan, Roumania, Hungary

Strategy:                                                                       Strategy:

Allies: Repel German advance to Paris                              Allies: Contain Axis Advancement:

Keep sea lanes open to supply Britain and                    Supply Britain, engage in strategic

France. Blockade Germanys High Seas Fleet.                  bombing, counterattack Axis in

Central Powers: Conquer France, support                      secondary theatres: N. Africa, Sicily,

Turkish hegemony over the Middle East                         southeastern Pacific. Supply USSR,

Use unrestricted submarine warfare to                                  Bleed Axis on Russian eastern front.

strangle Britain. Defeat Russia to                                  Island hop in the southwestern Pacific,

concentrate on a one front war.                                                 Re-conquer the Philippines, strategic

                                                                                     bombing of Japan and Germany. Create

                                                                                     second front in Europe.

                                                                                     Axis: Germany, bomb Britain into

                                                                                     submission, defeat USSR creating single

                                                                                     front. Create and sustain fascist alliances.

                                                                                     Use submarine warfare to starve Britain.

                                                                                     Japan: use naval superiority to acquire

                                                                                     vast territories, preventing US recovery.

Tactical Innovation:                                                    Tactical innovation:

U-Boats, trench warfare, the convoy system                   Blitzkrieg, monoplanes, strategic bombing,

chemical warfare, mechanized armor (the tank)              Aircraft carriers, radar, sonar, U-Boat snorkel

air combat, dirigible bombing, railroad artillery,                 unguided missiles, rocketry (V1-2), Jet propulsion,

                                                                                    napalm, flame-flowers, atomic weapons

Results: Rise of USA as the major victor.                  Results:  Decline of Europe, shift of power

Decline of European royalty, break-up of the                   to the superpowers, the rise of China in

weaker European empires. Creation of new                    in the wake of the defeat of Japan. The be-    

countries in Europe and Mid-East out of                          ginning of the end to the long period of

Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires                         European colonialism. Ideological realignment,

Decline in alliances, rise of Pacifism. Arms                     between East and West, start of the Cold War.

limitation conferences; the outlawing of war.                   Small but hot brushfire wars. Indian partition,

The rise of Fascism, Nazism, and Communism.               Birth of Israel and the cycle of Mid-East wars.

Economic boom in the United States, the seeds                Creation of the UN. Discovery of the full extent

of world-wide depression. The decline of western            of the Holocaust affects world opinion on racial

democracy and the rise of dictatorships.                          genocide.


Both wars reflect a continuation of hundreds of years of European civil wars. The escalation of both sea and airpower are major changes from WWI to WWII..

Cost 2002 Dollars: $577 Billion                                       Cost 2002 dollars $4.7 Trillion

Battle Casualties: 53,402                                       Battle Casualties: 291,557








American Foreign Policy 1949-75 (Containment)

Korea  1950-3                                                              Vietnam  1964-1975

Causes:                                                                        Causes:

Korean (Chosen) Peninsular divided after                 Containment of Communism as opposed to

World War II, at the 38th Parallel. The defeat                 the recognition of Nationalist anti-colonial

of  the nationalists in China, and Chiang Kai-                  indigenous peoples. The aftermath of the

shek’s retreat to Formosa. The Acheson Policy            liberation of French Indo- China from the

of  trying to divide the Russians from the                    Japanese. Promises were made by FDR to

Chinese, by adopting a more conciliatory                   Ho Chi Minh, about ending French colonial rule

attitude towards Peking. Deterioration of            as a consequence of their help against the Japanese

the US Armed Forces under Truman 1948-50.                military occupation. The renewed struggle

In 1947 the Joint Chief’s Report declared,                       between the Viet Minh and the French,

that the US “has little strategic                                       culminating in the French defeat at Dien Bien

interest in maintaining the present (US) troops                 Phu in 1954, led to the creation of  two

and bases in Korea.”  400 border incidents last                   Vietnams, one backed by the French under Bao

6 months of 1949. Acheson stated in a press                        Dai, and the other backed by China led by Ho,

conference a clear implication that Korea was                          divided at the 17th Parallel. The North called for

outside our defense perimeter. No. Korean                          re-unification in 1959 and started a series of

Invasion June 24th, 1950                                                           probing actions, that led to American involvement.

Combatants:                                                               Combatants:

Allies: United States, N. Korea, United Nations,            Allies:    United States, Republic of S. Vietnam,

Australian, Turkey, others                                       Australia, and others.

Communists: North Korea, Communist China,                Communists: People’s Republic of No.Vietnam,

Russian (Air Force) volunteers.                                             Viet Cong (S. Vietnamese irregulars)

Stategy                                                                         Strategy:

Allies: Repel the invasion, buy time for                                      Allies: Hold on to the major urban population

Counterattack, (Inchon) drive into the North                centers, reduce the Viet Cong influence in the

and reach the Yalu River and unify Korea by              Mekong Delta (Iron Triangle), Protect the DMZ.

eliminating the Communist regime.                         Bomb the North into negotiation for a truce.

Cummunists: Overwhelm the S.Korean and                Communists: Infiltrate the south through any

US military, unify the country under Communist               means, Laos, Cambodia, tunnels, Ho Chi Minh

Rule.                                                                            Trail. Disrupt the political and social life of the

Tactical Innovation:                                                      south. War of Attrition and re-unification.

Fought with World War II equipment, mostly                Tactical Innovation:

out-dated. Wave suicide attacks by N. Korean and       Viet Cong and No. Vietnamese excellent light

Chinese volunteers, use of extensive off shore                 Infantry. Hit and run tactics, suicide members,

Carrier based airpower. Strategic bombing by                    women combatants, terrorist campaigns in the

land-based (B-29 Superforts).                                      cities. Search and destroy used by the US Forces.

Results:  Stalemate for two years. Negotiated                     Pacification of villages, integration of ARVAN

 Truce, with 38th Parallel still the dividing line               and US troops. High tech vs. low tech. Armor and

between North and South. Increased tensions                         airpower (helicopter gunships) vs.guerilla warfare.

between East and West, delayed normalization                 Static defenses vs. mobile offense.

between US and PRC. Gave impetus to massive                         Results:  Major US loss. Abandonment of Indo-

nuclear and conventional arms race that                            China to Nationists/Communists. Domestic trauma

transformed ill-armed democracy into a military                        resulting in loss of faith in the Armed Forces and

superpower. Gave root to the notion that the                major American Institutions. Re-evaluation of the

“spread of communism” in the Far East could be            need      of a draft Army. Re-focusing on strategic

contained by limited American military power,               nuclear deterrents.

which led to American military intervention in

Vietnam.    Similarities and Differences: North and South division of former colonies, containment of Communistic expansion. Stalemate saves S. Korea, dooms S. Vietnam. Peninsular vs.continental war.

Cost: 2002 dollars $400 Billion/Casualties:33,7341      Cost:2002 dollars $572 Billion/Casualties 47,414






American Foreign Policy 1990-2003

(Post Cold War Interventionism)

Gulf War I  1990-1                                                   Gulf War II 2003

Causes:                                                                        Causes:

Kuwait, a small independent wealthy emirate,                        Iraq, an oil rich Middle-Eastern country has been

was invaded by its much larger bellicose                        dominated by a fascist style Ba’athist Party leader

neighbor Iraq. Iraq claimed Kuwait was a                Saddam Hussein since the 1970’s. Iraq invaded

former territory that had been taken illegally.               Iran in the 1980’s and was ousted from Kuwait in

Iraq also claimed Kuwait was siphoning its                     1991. After the World Trade Center terrorist

Oil through the use of diagonal piping.                           attack of September 11, 2001 and the defeat of

After Iraq refused to withdraw                                              the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan, a UN 

from Kuwait in the face of UN sanctions, a                   Security Council voted 15-0, in 2003 for Iraq’s 

broad military coalition forced Iraq out of                     disarmament of weapons of mass destruction.

Kuwait, after 38 days of air war (Desert                         The US determined that Iraq was in non-

Shield) and 4 days of land combat (Desert            compliance with this demand and connected

Storm).                                                                         to the terrorist group Al Quieda, that was

Combatants:                                                               responsible for the WTC 9/11 bombing.

Allied Coalition: US, Britain, France, and 30+                        Combatants:

Other countries including Saudi Arabia and                    Allied Coalition: US, Britain and 45 minor

Syria. vs. Iraq Baathist Regime.                                                mostly non-combatant non-Arab countries vs

Strategy:                                                                      Iraq Baathist Regime.

Allies: Atrit and degrade Iraqi infrastructure,                Strategy:

And isolate Iraqi armies in Kuwait through the                    In a reversal, from 1991, the US Forces first struck

use of massive airpower. Envelope the static                leadership command headquarters in an attempt

Iraqi defenses by a large swing of mechanized               to remove Saddam Hussein. A large mechanized

armor into the desert and around their rear.                 armor attack followed by American US Army and

Iraq: Use their tanks and entrenched defenses.                      Marine Divisions along with British Army and

protected by large sand berms, and trenches to                    Marine units. This was followed by massive

hold off a frontal attack. Make the price to                     precise air attacks on Baghdad Command and

high for the Allied Coalition.                                    Control Centers. The Allied Coalition Forces are

Tactical innovation:                                                       moving to surround Baghdad and remove the

Allies: Extensive use of Tomahawk cruise               Baathist leadership. The Iraqis are utilizing Scud

missiles from Submarines, destroyers and               missile attacks, entrenched Elite Republican

WWII Iowa class battleships. Use of smart                        Guard interior defenses, and irregular suicide

bombs dropped by B-52s, and new Stealth                   guerilla tactics.

(no radar profile) B-2 bombers. Night vision                Tactical Innovation:

technology used by Allied Coalition soldiers.                        Allies: Precision smart bombing ordinance

Advanced heavy artillery and new troop                           guided by GBU laser guided bombs, Drone

Carriers Bradley and Humvee. Iraqi Scud                 unmanned attack and information relaying

Missiles, scorched earth, oil fire defenses.                      Aircraft. New upgraded F/A-18 Super Hornet

Results:                                                                      laser-armed attack aircraft. New electronic

Total annihilation of Iraqi Regular Army units.                   neutralizing bomb ordinance.

Destruction of their armor and national airpower.            Results:

Iraqi Baathist seek cease fire and agree to terms                The removal of Saddam Hussein.

of disarmament. Eventual creation of “no fly zone”

over northern and southern sections of Iraq. An oil         Cost: Gulf War I 2002 dollars: $80 Billion

embargo and trade sanctions were placed on Iraq,     Gulf War II  $20 Billion

until they removed their weapons of mass destruction.     Casualties: Gulf War I: 148

US and Britain enforced this “no fly zone” until the          Casualties: Gulf War II: 85

Spring of 2003.




Reading Lists:

Dreadnought– Robert Massie-Random House-1991 ( pre-WWI)

(Pre-WWI naval arms race)

The Proud Tower– Barbara Tuchman- MacMillan 1962 (pre-WWI)

(conditions leading to WWI)

The Guns of August Barbara Tuchman- MacMillan- 1962 (WW I)

(WWI acclaimed history)

August 1914 –Alexander Solzhenitsyn- Farrar, Strauss- 1971 (WWI)

(WWI history)

Donovan, America’s Master Spy-Richard Dunlop-Rand, McNally-1982 (WWI&II)

(Bill Donovan, soldier diplomat, spy, combat WWI)

When the Cheering Stopped, the last Year of Woodrow Wilson

Gene Smith, Morrow 1962 (post WWI)

A World at War– Gerhard Weinberg- Cambridge- 1994 (WWII)

Two-Ocean War– a Short History of the US Navy in WWII

Samuel Elliot Morrison-Little, Brown, 1963 (WWII)

FDR, the War President 1940-3– Kenneth W. Davis, Random House (WWII)

The 2nd World War– Martin Gilbert Henry Holt- 1989 (WWII)

Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom, James MacGregor Burns, Harcourt Brace-1964 (WWII)

Memoirs of the 2nd World War– Winston Churchill-Houghton, Mifflin 1959 (WWII)

Truman– David McCullough- Simon and Schuster, 1997 (BIO)

The Best Years, 1945-50– Joseph Groulder- Antheneum- 1976 (pre Korea)

The Forgotten War – Clay Blair- Doubleday Press- 1987 (Korea)

Soldier– Lt. Col (ret) Anthony Herbert, James Wooten- Holt, Rinehart, Winston-1973

(Korean-Vietnam, combat)

It Doesn’t Take a Hero-Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Peter Petre, Bantom Books-1992

(bio- Gulf War I)


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