Gary Leimback: A simple approach to the American theory of war

(Khalid Mohammed | AP) A protester waves the national flag while demonstrators set fire to close streets near Tahrir Square during a demonstration against the Iranian missile strike in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. Iran struck back at the United States early Wednesday for killing a top Revolutionary Guard commander, firing a series of ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq that house American troops in a major escalation between the two longtime foes.

At the end of World War I, the winning Allies were so upset at the Germans for pursuing the war that the Versailles Treaty placed a severe burden upon Germany by imposing impossible reparations upon the German nation.

The League of Nations was created in 1918 as a world-wide organization with the purpose of making sure another world war would never happen. The Republicans in Congress, however, prevented the United States from participating in it.

Because of the economic and cultural devastation in Germany it was impossible for Germany to meet the imposed economic obligations. During the 1920s and 1930s, Germany suffered through terrible poverty and terrible living conditions. The consequence was the rise of German nationalism and the conquest of German political leadership by Adolf Hitler. Hitler’s fascism and fanatical leadership led to World War II.

After World War II, in order to avoid the mistakes of the Versailles Treaty, the winning Allies decided to institute the Marshall Plan to rebuild the German, Italian and Japanese nations and transform them from enemies to allies. The United Nations was set up in 1945 as a world-wide organization with the purpose of making sure that another world war would never happen. This time they were successful.

The new American enemy, however, became the Soviet Union. From 1945 onward, the Cold War allowed each side to build up a massive nuclear and conventional weapons arsenal. During this time, America became very strong and proud of its war making capabilities.

When the Vietnam conflict became a full-fledged war in the 1960s, this military pride allowed the generals and admirals of our armed services to mislead our political leaders (Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon) into believing we could win what was always a civil war.

In reality, America lost the Vietnam War. Our military leaders lied to us. This eventually led to great skepticism about American military capabilities by the American public, especially after realizing the truth. This attitude lasted from 1975 until Grenada.

When Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980, the Republicans had a unique strategy: They started with a small war in Grenada. After succeeding in that war, they had a larger war in Nicaragua, which they also won. Then came the larger First Gulf War, which was also successful. With bigger and bigger wars, the Republicans were successfully restoring America’s faith in our military. The goal was to have everyone forget the Vietnam War fiasco.

The tragedy of 9/11 gave the Republicans a sad opportunity to initiate an even bigger war. Instead of occupying Afghanistan, where Al-Qaeda had trained for 9/11, the George W. Bush administration chose to invade Iraq and dethrone Saddam Hussein. This war turned out to be based on misleading intelligence presented by the Bush administration. As this war was misprosecuted from the very beginning, it is still going on in some form in 2020.

Now, in January 2020, after three years of Donald Trump’s presidency, the United States is confronted with a possible war with Iran. If one examines the paradigm of the Treaty of Versailles and that of the Marshall Plan, the question is: Which paradigm is the best one to follow in dealing with Iran?

Secretary of State John Kerry’s several years of work during the Obama administration led to a treaty to control the development of nuclear arms in Iran in 2015. This was a difficult diplomacy and negotiating success. This would have been the beginning of a Marshall Plan approach. Delicately working with the Iranian leadership, it might have been possible to bring Iran into good standing among all nations and even influence them to stop their support of terrorism in the Missile East.

President Trump has used a confrontational approach to Iran, believing that he can get a better deal than Kerry did. He broke Kerry’s multi-national agreement and has instituted a series of punishing sanctions that has created terrible living conditions for the Iranian people. This is following the paradigm of the failed Versailles Treaty of 1918. It is not difficult to come to this conclusion.

The real question is: Will President Trump’s approach have a different result than that of the Versailles Treaty?

Gary Leimback

Gary Leimback, Salt Lake City, is a retired technical writer, curious about how history sometimes repeats itself.