The battleship USS Maine, anchored in Havana Harbor, exploded on Feb. 15, 1898, killing 260 American sailors, setting off the Spanish-American War.
Commodore George Dewey sailed his Pacific Fleet Squadron into Manila Harbor and destroyed the Spanish Fleet on May 1. Santiago’s ground forces surrendered to the American Army — including Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders — on July 1, ending the five-month war.
Forensic analysis later concluded the explosion probably was a coal-dust explosion in the ship’s coal bunker.
The logic for the war: Cuba’s sabotage sinking of the Maine.
The Great War
In June 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was visiting Sarajevo, Bosnia — an Austria-Hungarian state — on a good will tour. The state of Serbia was fomenting disorder in Bosnia, hoping to annex it.
A crazed Serb shot and killed the archduke and his wife. In retaliation, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Russia had a military assistance treaty with Serbia and declared war on Austria-Hungary. Germany had a treaty with Austria-Hungary and declared war on Russia. France and England had a treaty with Russia and declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary.
The Great War ended with an armistice on Nov. 11, 1918, followed by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. This treaty was so punitive against Germany that French Marshall Foch declared, “This is not a peace treaty; it is only an armistice for 20 years.” His prediction was off by only two years.
The logic for this war: one person killed two others.
World War II
The Empire of Japan occupied Manchuria in 1931 to obtain its mineral rights. In 1937, it overran Shanghai. Germany declared war on Poland in 1939, overran the Low Countries and forced the surrender of France in 1940.
The U.S. imposed oil and steel embargos on Japan in 1940 and froze Japanese assets in the U.S. in 1941. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. A week later, Germany declared war on the U.S.
During the course of the world’s greatest conflict, 40 million civilians and military were killed. This was insufficient to avoid wars in Korea and Vietnam.
The logic for these wars: the imperial aspirations of Japan, Germany, Russia and China.
The Gulf Wars
In August 1990, Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait. President George H. W. Bush organized a coalition of 34 nations to attack Saddam’s forces in a war named Operation Desert Storm. The battle started on Feb. 23, 1991, and the Iraqi forces were driven out in five days. President Bush declared it a limited-objective war and stopped the fighting.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush launched a retaliatory attack against al-Qaida in Afghanistan 26 days later, called Operation Enduring Freedom. During the course of the next two years, success was achieved in driving much of the Taliban forces out of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida was not in Afghanistan during this period.
On March 19, 2003, President Bush launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, to eliminate the existence of weapons of mass destruction.
In 2005, the CIA announced there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
U.S. combat forces finally withdrew from Iraq late in 2011.
U.S. combat forces are scheduled to vacate Afghanistan in 2014.
The logic for these wars: our government’s desire to establish democracy in Arab countries.
The Future War Of The South China Sea
In 2009, five Chinese ships blocked the USNS Impeccable. In 2010, Chinese warships patrolled throughout the Spratly Islands, in violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea. Late in 2011, the U.S. announced the placement of a Marine Expeditionary Unit at Darwin, Australia.
Defense Secretary Panetta would like to station another MEU in Manila and use Vietnam’s Cam
Ronh (Ranh-thuy tinh vo) Bay for our ships’ port.
This “future war” of the South China Sea might start in the next few years when a Chinese destroyer might sink a Philippine coast guard cutter and then — honoring our 61-year mutual defense treaty with the Philippines — the Darwin MEU might sink the Chinese destroyer.
The logic for this war: a 500-year-old Chinese naval chart showing the South China Sea belonging to China coupled with inept leadership in both countries.
Can this hypothetical war be prevented?