Like most of us, I grew up believing the United States was peace-loving and we were people who avoided war. After all, for a large part of our history, the military establishment and its emulation was kept very small. It was intentional. We didn’t want a large military that might become a threat to our government and institutions. Our founders were wise.
What changed us? What changed our view and our course?
Perhaps the only thing that has changed is our awareness. It seems what we teach in school leaves out some essential details, facts, and information. Let’s take a look at our record. Here is a list of the US military and surreptitious operations in foreign countries from 1798 to 2005. World Wars I & II are omitted.
1798-1800 France Undeclared naval war against France, marines land in Puerto Plata
in what is now the Dominican Republic
1801-1805 Tripoli War with Tripoli (Libya), called “First Barbary War”
1806 Spanish Military force enters Spanish territory in headwaters of the Rio Grande
1806-1810 Spanish and US naval vessels attack French and Spanish shipping in the Caribbean
1810 Spanish West Troops invade and seize Western Florida, a Spanish possession
1812 Spanish East Troops seize Amelia Island and adjacent territories
1812 War of 1812 Naval and land operations, including the invasion of Canada
1813 Marquesas Forces seize the island of Nuku Hiva and establish first US naval base Island in the Pacific
1814 Spanish East Troops seize Pensacola in Spanish East Florida
1814-1825 Spanish in US naval squadron engages French, British, and Spanish shipping in
Caribbean the Caribbean
1815 Algiers and US naval fleet under Captain Stephen Decatur wages “Second Barbary
Tripoli War” in North Africa
1816-1819 Spanish East Troops attack and seize Nicholls’ Fort, Amelia Island and other
Florida strategic locations. Spain eventually cedes East Florida to the US.
1822-1825 Spanish Cuba Marines land in numerous cities in the Spanish island of Cuba and also
and Puerto Rico in Spanish Puerto Rico
1827 Greece Marines invade the Greek islands of Argentiere, Miconi, and Andross
1831 Falkland/ US naval squadrons aggress the Falkland Islands in the South Atlanticc
1832 Sumatra, Dutch US naval squadrons attack Qallah Battoo
1833 Argentina Forces land in Buenos Aires and engage local combatants
1835-1836 Peru Troops dispatched twice for counter-insurgency operations
1836 Mexico Troops assist Texas war for independence
1837 Canada Naval incident on the Canadian border leads to mobilization of a large
force to invade Canada. War is narrowly averted
1838 Sumatra, Dutch US naval forces sent to Sumatra for punitive expedition
1840-1841 Fiji Naval forces deployed, marines land
1841 Samoa Naval forces deployed, marines land
1842 Mexico Naval forces temporarily seize cities of Monterey and San Diego
1843 China Marines land in Canton
1843 Ivory Coast Marines land
1846-1848 Mexico War. Mexico cedes half of its territory to the US by the Treaty of
1849 Ottoman Empire Naval forces dispatched to Smyrna
1852-1853 Argentina Marines land in Buenos Aires
1854 Nicaragua Navy bombards and largely destroys city of San Juan del Norte.
Marines land and set fire to the city
1854 Japan Commodore Perry and his fleet deploy at Yokohama
1855 Uruguay Marines land in Montevideo
1856 Colombia Marines land for counter-insurgency campaign
1856 China Marines deployed in Canton
1856 Hawaii Naval forces seize small islands of Jarvis, Baker, and Howland
1857 Nicaragua Marines land
1858 Uruguay Marines land in Montevideo
1858 Fiji Marines land
1859 Paraguay Large naval force deployed
1859 China Troops enter Shanghai
1859 Mexico Military force enters northern area
1860 Portuguese West Troops land at Kissembo
1863 Japan Troops land at Shimonoseki
1864 Japan Troops landed in Yedo
1865 Colombia Marines landed
1866 Columbia Troops invade and seize Matamoros, later withdraw
1866 China Marines land in Newhwang
1867 Nicaragua Marines land in Managua and Leon
1867 Formosa Island Marines land
1867 Midway Island Naval forces seize this island in the Hawaiian Archipelago for a naval
1868 Japan Naval forces deployed at Osaka, Hiogo, Nagasaki, Yokohama, and
1868 Uruguay Marines land at Montevideo
1870 Colombia Marines landed
1871 Korea Forces landed
1873 Colombia Marines landed
1874 Hawaii Sailors and marines landed
1876 Mexico Army again occupies Matamoros
1882 British Egypt Troops land
1885 Colombia Troops land in Colon and Panama City
1885 Samoa Naval force deployed
1887 Hawaii Navy gains right ot build permanent naval base at Pearl Harbor
1888 Haiti Troops landed
1888 Samoa Marines landed
1889 Samoa Clash with German naval forces
1890 Argentina US sailors land in Buenos Aires
1891 Chile US sailors land in the major port city of Valparaiso
1891 Haiti Marines land on US-claimed Navassa Island
1893 Hawaii Marines and other naval forces land and overthrow the monarchy
1894 Nicaragua Marines land at Bluefields on the eastern coast
1894-1895 China Marines are stationed at Tientsin and Beijing. A naval ship takes up
position at Newchwang
1894-1896 Korea Marines land and remain in Seoul
1895 Colombia Marines are sent to the town Bocas del Toro
1896 Nicaragua Marines land in the port of Corinto
1898 Nicaragua Marines land at the port city of San Juan del Sur
1898 Guam Naval forces seize Guam Island from Spain and the US holds the island
1898 Cuba Naval and land forces seize Cuba from Spain
1898 Puerto Rico Naval and land forces seize Puerto Rico from Spain and the US holds
the island permanently
1898 Philippines Naval forces defeat the Spanish fleet and the US takes control of the
1899 Philippines Military units are reinforced for extensive counter-insurgency
1899 Samoa Naval forces land
1899 Nicaragua Marines land at the port city of Bluefields
1900 China US forces intervene in several cities
1901 Colombia/ Marines land
1902 Colombia/ US forces land in Bocas de Toro
1903 Colombia/ With US backing, a group in northern Colombia declares independence
Panama as the state of Panama
1903 Guam Navy begins development in Apra Harbor of a permanent base
1903 Honduras Marines go ashore at Puerto Cortez
1903 Dominican Marines land in Santo Domingo
1904-1905 Korea Marines land and stay in Seoul
1906-1909 Cuba Marines land. The US builds a major naval base at Guantanamo Bay
1907 Nicaragua Troops seize major centers
1907 Honduras Marines land and take up garrison in cities of Trujillo, Ceiba, Puerto
Cortez, San Pedro, Laguna and Choloma
1908 Panama Marines land and carry out operations
1910 Nicaragua Marines land in Bluefields and Corinto
1911 Honduras Marines intervene
1911-1941 China The US builds up its military presence in the country to a force of 5000
troops and a fleet of 44 vessels patrolling China’s coast and rivers
1912 Cuba US sends army troops into combat in Havana
1912 Panama Army troops intervene
1912 Honduras Marines land
1912-1933 Nicaragua Marines intervene. A 20-year occupation of the country follows
1913 Mexico Marines land at Ciaris Estero
1914 Dominican Naval forces engage in battles in the city of Santo Domingo
1914 Mexico US forces seize and occupy Mexico’s major port city of Veracruz from
April through November
1915-1916 Mexico An expeditionary force of the US Army under Gen. John j. Pershing
crosses the Texas border and penetrates several hundred miles into
Mexican territory. Eventually reinforced to over 11,000 officers and
1914-1934 Haiti Troops land, aerial bombardment leading to a 19-year military
1916-1924 Dominican Military intervention leading to 8-year occupation
1917-1933 Cuba Landing of naval forces. Beginning of a 15-year occupation
1918-1920 Panama Troops intervene, remain on “police duty” for over 2 years
1918-1922 Russia Naval forces and army troops fight battles in several areas of the
country during a five-year period
1919 Yugoslavia Marines intervene in Dalmatia
1919 Honduras Marines land
1920 Guatemala Troops intervene
1922 Turkey Marines engaged in operations in Smyrna (Izmir)
1922-1927 China Naval forces and troops deployed during 5-year period
1924-1925 Honduras Troops land twice in two-year period
1925 Panama Marines land and engage in operations
1927-1934 China Marines and naval forces stationed throughout the country
1932 El Salvador Naval forces intervene
1933 Cuba Naval forces deployed
1934 China Marines land in Foochow
1946 Iran Troops deployed in northern province
1946-1949 China Major US army presence of about 100,000 troops, fighting, training and
advising local combatants
1947-1949 Greece US forces wage a 3-year counterinsurgency campaign
1948 Italy Heavy CIA involvement in national elections
1948-1954 Philippines Commando operations, “secret” CIA war
1950-1953 Korea Korean War
1953 Iran CIA overthrows democratically elected government of Prime Minister
1954 Vietnam Financial and materiel support for colonial French military operations,
leads eventually to direct US military involvement
1954 Guatemala CIA overthrows the government of President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman
1958 Lebanon US marines and army units totaling 14,000 land
1958 Panama Clashes between US forces in Canal Zone and local citizens
1959 Haiti Marines land
1960 Congo CIA-backed overthrow and assassination of Prime Minister Patrice
1960-1964 Vietnam Gradual introduction of military advisors and special forces
1961 Cuba CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion
1962 Cuba Nuclear threat and naval blockade (Cuban Missile Crisis)
1962 Laos CIA-backed military coup
1963 Ecuador CIA backs military overthrow of President Jose Maria Balesco Ibarra
1964 Panama Clashes between US forces in Canal Zone and local citizens
1964 Brazil CIA-backed military coup overthrows the government of Joao Goulart
and Gen. Castello Branco takes power
1965-1975 Vietnam Large commitment of military forces, including air, naval and ground
units numbering up to 500,000+ troops. Full-scale war, lasting for ten
1965 Indonesia CIA-backed army coup overthrows President Sukarno and brings Gen.
Suharto to power
1965 Congo CIA-backed military coup overthrows President Joseph Kasavubu and
brings Joseph Mobutu to power
1965 Dominican 23,000 troops land
1965-1973 Laos Bombing campaign begins, lasting eight years
1966 Ghana CIA-backed military coup ousts President Kwame Nkrumah
1966-1967 Guatemala Extensive counter-insurgency operation
1969-1975 Cambodia CIA supports military coup against Prince Sihanouk, bringing Lon Nol
to power. Intensive bombing for seven years along border with
1970 Oman Counter-insurgency operation, including coordination with Iranian
1971-1973 Laos Invasion by US and South Vietnamese forces
1973 Chile CIA-backed military coup ousts government of President Salvador
Allende. Gen Augusto Pinochet comes to power.
1975 Cambodia Marines land, engage in combat with government forces
1976-1992 Angola Military and CIA operations
1980 Iran Special operations units land in Iranian desert. Helicopter malfunction
leads to aborting of planned raid.
1981 Libya Naval jets shoot down two Libyan jets in maneuvers over the
1981-1982 El Salvador CIA and special forces begin a long counter-insurgency campaign
1981-1990 Nicaragua CIA directs exile “Contra” operations. US air units drop sea mines in
1982-1984 Lebanon Marines land and naval forces fire on local combatants.
1983 Grenada Military forces invade Grenada
1983-1989 Honduras Large program of military assistance aimed at conflict in Nicaragua
1984 Iran Two Iranian jets shot down over the Persian Gulf
1958 Panama Clashes between US forces in Canal Zone and local citizens
1986 Libya US aircraft bomb the cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, including direct
strikes at official residence of President Muamar al Qadaffi
1986 Bolivia Special Forces units engage in counter-insurgency
1987-1988 Iran Naval forces block Iranian shipping. Civilian airliner shot down by
1989 Libya Naval aircraft shoot down two Libyan jets over Gulf of Sidra
1989 Philippines CIA and Special Forces involved in counterinsurgency.
1989-1990 Panama 27,000 troops as well as naval and air power use to overthrow
government of President Noriega.
1990 Liberia Troops deployed
1990-1991 Iraq Major military operation, including naval blockade, air strikes; large
number of troops attack Iraqi forces in occupied Kuwait
1991-2003 Iraq Control of Iraqi airspace in north and south of the country with periodic
attacks on air and ground targets.
1991 Haiti CIA-backed military coup ousts President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
1992-1994 Somalia Special operations forces intervene
1992-1994 Yugoslavia Major role in NATO blockade of Serbia and Montenegro
1993-1995 Bosnia Active military involvement with air and ground forces.
1994-1996 Haiti Troops depose military rulers and restore President Jean-Bertrand
Aristide to office
1995 Croatia Krajina Serb airfields attacked
1996-1997 Zaire (Congo) Marines involved in operations in eastern region of the country
1997 Liberia Troops deployed
1998 Sudan Air strikes destroy country’s major pharmaceutical plant
1998 Afghanistan Attack on targets in the country
1998 Iraq Four days of intensive air and missile strikes
1999 Yugoslavia Major involvement in NATO air strikes
2001 Macedonia NATO troops shift and partially disarm Albanian rebels
2001 Afghanistan Air attacks and ground operations oust Taliban government and install
a new regime.
2003 Iraq Invasion with large ground, air and naval forces ousts government of
Saddam Hussein and establishes new government.
2003-Present Iraq Occupation force of 150,000 troops in protracted counter-insurgency
2004 Haiti Marines land. CIA-backed forces overthrow President Jean-Bertrand
There have been many more interventions and operations since 2005. Here are a few notables:
Unrestricted use of drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. 2011 military intervention in Libya. The raid and killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. 2011-Present, US combat troops in Uganda sent to advise. 2012, troops deployed to Jordan to help it contain the Syrian Civil War. Americans have been and are involved in Somalia, Chad, Syria, Iraq, Cameroon, and elsewhere. The US has been involved in numerous coups and attempted coups, including: 2007-Iran, 2009-Honduras, 2011-Libya, 2015-present, Yemen, 2019-present, Venezuela, and most recently the coup that overthrew Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2019 that has now been reversed and has blown up in our face.
It would seem we have had no qualms about flexing our military muscle and meddling in other countries whenever it suited our purposes and interests. It would appear the roots of an empire run deep in our family tree. During my more than 75 years of life, we have been actively involved in military operations, wars, and other actions almost without interruption. The US maintains more than 800 bases in at least 80 countries. It is the largest arms dealer on the planet and spends more annually on defense than the next dozen countries combined. It is one reason our democracy is in such peril.
Some of our bellicose behavior, I realize, is a reflection of the time they occurred. Nations with the ability to do so have rarely restrained themselves from flaunting their military superiority to obtain their objectives. That should not be interpreted and accepted as an excuse for behavior in any era.
Our ancestors arrived on this continent with the intention of conquest, colonization, and removal of any obstacle to their designs by whatever means necessary. This behavior is embedded in our DNA. We are programmed to eliminate any who are perceived as competition for access to resources.
War and conflict have been a part of our heritage. Conflicts with indigenous tribes commenced as soon as our European ancestors stepped foot on these shores in 1607. It continued until the Wounded Knee Massacre near the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota on December 29, 1890. Major conflicts during the colonial period connected to events elsewhere included: Queen Anne’s War-1702-1713, King George’s War-1744-1748, and The French and Indian War-1756-1763. To this list, we can also add instances of slave rebellions in the South.
We were not predestined to be a warrior nation. History, circumstance, and perhaps something peculiar in our national makeup may have made it more likely. Was England’s sending of more than 50,000 convicted felons to the colonies before the Revolution a factor? Was it convicted felons plus thousands more of the poor and unwanted sent to the colonies as indentured servants? Did Evangelical Christianity that fed abundantly off emotion and ignorance play a part? Was it a chance outcome fueled by personalities willing to take high risks that came to the colonies and uninhibited by society norms? These are questions others with more understanding and expertise will have to ponder. The result, however, is evident. We are not shy about asserting ourselves and using force to get what we want.
For most of our history, we have downplayed and hidden our behavior and activities from view. Our many intrusions and adventures around the world and especially in Latin America were never discussed or acknowledged. These things were never talked about or mentioned in any history class. The portrayal of our conflict with Native Americans was almost always a reaction to aggression and barbaric acts. Our massacring villages were recorded as ‘battles.’ My college classes in diplomatic history never mentioned any but the most famous instances listed above. We portrayed ourselves as exceptional, believing repeating this lie will cleanse us of sin.
Two world wars, the Cold War, and the endless preparation for war pushed us past a tipping point. What these events did was to expose what has been shielded from view. Embracing empire, militarism, and glorifying soldiers as warriors allowed us to see behind the curtain. We got a glimpse of who we are. We may try to ignore it. We may try to hide it, but it is what it is, and we are who we are.
Acknowledging these things allows us to look at and view our history from a different perspective. The toxic mixture of right-wing zealotry, paranoid fears of communism, and the Cold War, changed our attitudes toward war. Seduced by material abundance served up by a booming postwar economy and fueled by the release of pent-up energy of millions of returning veterans threw open the door to a growing militarization of society. Public attention was distracted, intoxicated, and addicted to the acquisition of things.
I remember the early 1950s when we practiced duck and cover drills in elementary school. We had no idea what we are doing, but we did as we were instructed by teachers who were as confused as we were. I remember rumors in my small midwestern town promoting fears of Russian bombers. It was whispered there were plane spotters with binoculars in the tower at the junior high school every night to keep watch.
The gluttonous annual defense budgets, the peacetime draft supporting the bulging military establishment infiltrated our thoughts and took over our thinking. The way current events were presented heightened the fears and hysteria ensuring the defense department would be well funded. There was the Korean War, the Suez Canal crisis in 1956, the shock of Sputnik in 1957, the intervention to prevent China from invading Taiwan in 1958, culminating with the Cuban Missile Crisis during October 1962.
President Dwight Eisenhower warned of the dangers posed by the growth of the military-industrial complex. No one listened. The page had been turned, and our conversion, not just to empire, but a highly militarized one that protected its interests, not necessarily the people’s.
An Empire is what we’ve been since Thomas Jefferson encouraged Congress to take advantage of Napoleon’s offer and purchased the vast center of the continent known as Louisiana Territory. It set a tone that has continued. We practiced ethnic cleansing and genocide on the indigenous peoples to clear the land. A manufactured war with Mexico gave us control over the continent, war with Spain freed us from North American containment. World War II ended with us in command. We controlled most of the world’s wealth, we had a large military, and we led in making the rules for the world that was to follow.
The Cold War facilitated the growing empire and particularly the military force required to enforce and control it. The Soviet Union became an unwilling but necessary partner in helping us achieve the militarization of society. They were the convenient boogieman used as an excuse for an ever-increasing military establishment.
The Soviet Union disappeared in 1991. The strain of trying to keep up with the US caused the Soviet Empire to collapse and disintegrate. The American Empire was unrestrained and able to impose its will for a time. But narrow thinking comes at a price, and we still have not acknowledged the terrible price we have paid. Nor have we experienced the impact of policies and activities that now threaten to come home and overwhelm us.
The rise of militarism was paralleled by the growth of the gun culture accompanied by pseudo-militias and other extremist groups. The culture was inundated by a fascination with violence. Our movies, TV screens, video games, and the evening news were filled with displays and portrayals of violence, particularly with a wild west shoot’em up attitude.
The constant threat of war and engaging in conflicts destroy a democracy. The Cold War caused a slow erosion and strangling of American democracy. Our transformation into a fascist empire was gradual. The change was subtle and almost invisible, revealed in small ways. Our servicemen and women were rechristened as warriors. There were constant references to those in uniform, thanking them for their service. Our leaders ended every speech with “God bless our troops.” Advertisements glorifying our armed forces filled the airways. However, the material support that would make their lives better or take care of them or their families in the event they were killed or injured was absent.
We spread our military tentacles of control around the planet. They are our means of influence and sway. Our goal is to maintain access to critical raw materials for Americans and our allies in poor and developing countries at prices we set. They have to adhere to the rules we made. The IMF, WTO, World Bank, and other international institutions are the enforcers.
Americans are confounded discovering how much we are distrusted and hated in the world. They are confused when the rest of the world watches the Star Wars saga and see the US identified with the evil empire. “Why do they hate us?”
What you send out into the world eventually comes home, and the policies and activities we developed and used in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere are returning to haunt us. It was inevitable that the means we use to influence and control other countries would be used for the same purpose at home. The temptation to use the tools you have developed to achieve the desired end on others is not going to be restricted “for foreign use only.”
Where do we go from here? Having an empire abroad leads inevitably to autocracy and dictatorship at home. History provides ample examples. A culture’s values are expressed by what it promotes and presents to others. When I was in the Middle East in 2016, I observed American movies flooding the TV screens. They were examples of the vilest and most violent films Hollywood has produced. It made me sad. We are better than this.
Our fascination with war and addiction to violence leads to death and extinction. We are not the first to tread this path. The historical graveyard is filled with other examples. We must decide if this is how we want the American experiment to end?
 Global Policy Forum
Note: This list does not pretend to be definitive or absolutely complete. Nor does it seek to explain or interpret the interventions. Information and interpretation on selected interventions will be later included as links. Note that US operations in World Wars I and II have been excluded.
See also at: Jerrymlawson.medium.com
See also at: https://www.datadriveninvestor.com/2021/02/23/when-did-we-begin-worshiping-war/