Monday, April 18, 2011

War Through the (American) Ages

The first war in which the not-quite-yet United States were involved lasted 13 months. From July 1675 to August 1676, colonists were busily fighting an assortment of Native Americans, including the
Wampanoag, Narragansett and Nipmuck Indians. Once that war was over, there was a brief hiatus until the French threatened the new colonies and King Philip’s War began in 1689. It would last eight years and fairly easily segue into Queen Anne’s war, still against those pesky French. That one went on from 1702 to 1713, to be followed by the King George’s war, pitting the French colonies against Great Britain.  Eight years later, the conflict started up again and was named the French and Indian War (or Seven Year War) and at about the same time, the colonists took on the Cherokee Nation so that from 1675 to 1761, the country was involved in some sort of conflict for a total of 34 years.

It didn’t get much better as time went on.  The American Revolution lasted from 1775 to 1783, to be followed 15 years later by the Franco-American Naval War, which ended in 1800. But as soon as that war was done, America launched its navies against Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli (piracy was an important issue) which enabled the Marine Corps to write a moving anthem. Then came the war of 1812 against the Brits, with Americans simultaneously carrying on a two-year conflict against the Creek Indians. Twenty-two years later, Texas went to war against Mexico, and a decade after that, the US as a whole fought against its southern neighbor. The Mexican-American War ended in 1848. There were 13 years of peace before the country went to war against itself from 1861 to 1865, licked its wounds for three decades, then got involved in the Spanish-American War. Total, 26 years of conflict from 1775 to 1898.

The First World War was fought from 1914 to 1918, and the second from 1939 to 1945. Then came Korea in 1950, ending in 1953. Vietnam started seven years later, and lasted a decade-and-a-half, during which time we also saw the attempted invasion of Cuba and the Bay of Pigs fiasco. In 1983, we invaded Grenada to rescue medical American students who, it turned out, were not in need of
rescuing. In 1989 the US invaded Panama for reasons which to this day are unclear, and a year later we started the first Persian war against Iraq. In 1995 and 1996 US troops were in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and in 2001 we invaded Afghanistan, then Iraq in 2003. We’re still there, and have also taken on Libya. All in all, in less than 100 years since 1914, this country has been involved in some sort of armed conflict for a total of 53 years. This does not include covert activities that took place in Central America and elsewhere.

I’m no historian, but that’s a whole lot of wars.

Granted, many were responding to aggression. In others, we aided allies, but the wars we’ve started or participated in since and including Korea make for an astounding 40 years of conflict since 1950. In other words, the US has been fighting something or someone two out of every three years in the last six decades.  War, it turns out, is as American as apple pie, though probably not quite as healthy.

That’s a whole lot of conflict. It’s also, of course, a whole lot of money for the people who make arms and ammo, and a whole lot of advancement opportunities for the military officers who, in peacetime, might retire with too few stars on their shoulders. And let’s not forget--there’s nothing like a good little war to show the world who’s the boss.

No comments:

Post a Comment