OF IRAQ: A LESSON OF HISTORICAL PRECEDENTS
By Alexa D. Potter, historian
Now that the U.S. military has declared the end of major military action
in Iraq, the coalition and the people of Iraq face the always daunting
task of rebuilding a devastated country. Each of the quotes below refers
to situations in which the United States went to war in order to remove
a repressive foreign regime; however, the outcomes were not always positive.
Students will compare the historical precedents of the Spanish-American
War and World War II to the current situation emerging in Iraq.
may be used in any social studies class. (world history, American history,
Students will need printed copies of the NewsHour
Extra article cited below or computers with Internet access.
about Teller Amendment
about the Marshall Plan
transcript from April 15, 2003, Historical
to National Standards
should either read or hand out the NewsHour
Extra story regarding the end of major combat activity in Iraq.
the class should be divided into two groups; each one will read the
quotes referring to a particular historical model (A: The Spanish-American
War's Teller Amendment; B: World War II's Marshall
Plan), and answer the questions based on said model. Students should
also consider how this model applies to the current situation in Iraq.
What is similar? What is different? What are the pros and cons of each
Group A: Spanish-American War Model:
The United States went to war with Spain to end slavery in Cuba, to
end to colonial rule there, and to avenge the sinking of the U.S.S.
Maine in Havana Harbor. Prior to going to war, the Teller Amendment
was adopted to assure the world community that the U.S. would maintain
a presence in Cuba only until the war was over.
The United States held true to its word, to a degree. We forgave Cuba
the debts incurred by the Spanish sovereignty, enabling the Cubans,
ostensibly, to develop a free market economy and democratic rule, and
vacated the island. In return, the Spanish absorbed the colonial Cuban
debt, ceded Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States, and let us buy
the Philippines for twenty million dollars. Cuba would then face a century
of brutal and abusive regimes, and finally the ascension of Fidel Castro
to power. Was this the right thing to do? Would Cuba have fared better
if we had stayed directly involved in the governing of that nation?
April 19, 1898
The U.S. Congress by a vote of 311 to 6 in the House and 42 to 35 in
the Senate adopted the Joint Resolution for war with Spain which included
the Teller Amendment, named after Senator Henry Moore Teller
(Colorado) which disclaimed any intention of the U.S. to exercise jurisdiction
or control over Cuba except in a pacification role and promised to leave
the island as soon as the war was over. President McKinley signed the
resolution on April 20, 1898 and the ultimatum was forwarded to Spain:
Text of the Teller Amendment
"That the United States hereby disclaims any disposition or intention
to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over said Island except
for the pacification thereof, and asserts its determination, when that
is accomplished, to leave the government and control of the Island to
Group B: Marshall Plan Model:
Following the end of WWII, much of Europe, both victor and vanquished,
was ravaged. Infrastructures had been destroyed, millions killed, cities
leveled. However, rather than punishing the German aggressors with billions
of dollars in war reparations, the United States engaged in a massive
campaign to rebuild Germany from the ground up. Germany is once again
a world leader, and boasts one of the strongest economies and democracies
in Europe. What would have happened if the U.S. had left Germany to
its own devices? How much of the success of the Marshall Plan is due
to a sizeable military presence in Germany?
Extract from "Design for Reconstruction" Proposed Address
for Secretary Marshall June 1947, drafted May 20, 1947:
"What will happen if we do not provide adequate funds and
commodities for subsistence and reconstruction abroad? This, I think,
is hardly questionable: what if adequate help from the United States
is not forthcoming, many of our allies in the late war ... will be obliged
the months to come to cease imports of food and reconstruction material.
Should this happen, human want, economic collapse, political crisis,
collapse of democratic institutions, growth of extremism, and perhaps
loss of independence would in many countries quickly follow. Our hopes
for peace and prosperity would quickly vanish. We would live in unprecedented
isolation. We would live in growing poverty. We would live in growing
Extract from George C. Marshall's speech to Harvard University, June
"Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but
against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Its purpose should be
the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence
of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.
Such assistance, I am convinced, must not be on a piecemeal basis as
various crises develop. Any assistance that this Government may render
in the future should provide a cure rather than a mere palliative."
students have looked at the questions relating to these two models,
discussing and sharing the pros and cons of the two positions, have
them move on the Iraq discussion:
What can these past efforts at reconstruction tell us about how to
go about rebuilding Iraq?
Do the same conditions apply to all countries at all times?
these historical models, and the Historical
Perspectives discussion from April 15, 2003, have each group reflect
upon the following questions for the reconstruction of Iraq, coming from
the standpoint of the assigned historical models. Students could discuss
the topics together or in groups or they could be assigned as a writing
Iraq have to pay back billions of dollars in debts incurred by Saddam
Hussein? Keep in mind the fact that Iraq has enormous potential economic
resources, if the oil embargo is lifted.
MacMillan states that "Washington seems to be talking about getting
in and out (of Iraq) in eighteen months." If this is the case,
is it likely that Iraq will remain stable?
Gwen Ifill asked about ethnic conflict in Iraq. Is it possible to
avoid the ethnic conflicts that have ravaged other countries, such
as the former Yugoslavia, following the collapse of Saddam's regime?
Did it make a difference in post-war Germany or Japan, that those
countries were almost entirely homogenous? Or should it be easier
to suppress ethnic violence, in a country of approximately two million?
does the United States' obligation to the reconstruction of Iraq end?
Council for the Social Studies Thematic
II. Time, Continuity, and Change
Groups, and Institutions
Ideals and Practice
Author Alexa Potter is an independent historian.
She has a BA in history from St. Olaf College and an MA in history from
the University of Pittsburgh.
To find out more about opportunities to contribute
to this site, contact Leah Clapman at email@example.com.