18 August 2004


One of the more discouraging aspects of the conflict in Iraq has been its unfortunate resemblance to the US entry into World War One. In both conflicts—
  • The president used a single, or at least singular, threat to US interests on American soil as an excuse to intervene in a long-standing conflict across the Atlantic. Wilson's invocation of the Zimmermann Telegram, and its encouragement to Mexico's continuing dissatisfaction with the US's annexation of Arizona and New Mexico (at gunpoint, no less), presents a disturbing parallel to Bush's non-Hussein rationales for "regime change" in Iraq. (The less said about the Gulf of Tonkin, the better—particularly given the roiling controversy over Bush's and Kerry's respective military service records.)
  • The immediate aftermath involved continuous accusations of war crimes, regardless of credibility; of course, the victors were far more vocal, and formal, than were their erstwhile opponents.
  • The US entered the conflict with no clear objective aside from a "regime change." US newspapers and editorial cartoons of 1917 look an awful lot like Fox News does today.
  • Those plans that were made—even after cessation of the formal conflict—concerning governance of the loser's territory reflected little, if any, knowledge of or sensitivity to the general culture of and cultural conflicts within the loser's society.
  • US forces were largely untrained and ill-equipped for dealing with "liberated" civilian populations.

Fortunately, the conflict in Iraq has not created a parallel to the Treaty of Versailles. Yet. Although if there's another outbreak in twenty years…