U.S. has launched ‘almost 400 military interventions’ since its founding – According to the study by the Military Intervention Project: A New Dataset on U.S. Military Interventions, 1776–2019, half of those conflicts and other uses of force occurred between 1950 and 2019.
More than a quarter of them have taken place since the end of the Cold War. Out of the nearly 400 military interventions, 34 percent have been in Latin America and the Caribbean; 23 percent in East Asia and the Pacific region; 14 percent in West Asia and North Africa; and 13 percent in Europe and Central Asia.
The authors find that U.S. interventions have “increased and intensified” in recent years. While the Cold War era (1946 – 1989) and the period between 1868 – 1917 were the most militaristically active for the United States, the post-9/11 era has already taken the third spot in all of U.S. history and most of that military adventurism has been in West Asia.
It says “these interventions have only increased and intensified in recent years, with the U.S. militarily intervening over 200 times after World War II and over 25 percent of all U.S. military interventions occurring during the post-Cold War era.”
Until the end of the Cold War, U.S. military hostility was generally proportional to that of its rivals. Since then, “the U.S. began to escalate its hostilities as its rivals deescalate it, marking the beginning of America’s more kinetic foreign policy.”
The study reads “that some scholars have explained such increasing interventionist trends as part of the new norm of ‘contingent sovereignty,’ which explicitly challenges the traditional principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states. Particularly regarding the U.S., one perspective is that the country is evolving past its Cold War doctrine.”
The study notes “U.S. military interventions to promote geopolitical interests cannot explain the dynamics of the post-Cold War era. If the U.S. primarily intervenes when its security interests are threatened, we expect the U.S. to intervene less in an era void of peer competitors where fewer vital interests are arguably at stake.”
The authors point out that other researchers have asserted the U.S. uses force abroad “without a clear organizing principle and thus its military missions have had disastrous long-term and unintended consequences.” In 2018, a co-author said “current patterns of U.S. military engagement as kinetic diplomacy, diplomacy solely through armed force,” the research says, in the past years “while U.S. ambassadors are operating in one-third of the world’s countries, U.S. special operators are active in three-fourths”.
A challenging aspect of measuring military interventions is how to define an intervention, the research notes. The study highlights “that the definition of U.S. military intervention may fall under any of the following categories.”
The movement of regular troops or forces (airborne, seaborne, shelling, etc.) of one country inside another, in the context of some political issue or dispute. To separate higher intensity interventions from minor skirmishes, this definition excludes paramilitaries, government-backed militias, and other security forces that are not part of the regular uniformed military of a state.
Similarly, “events must be purposeful, not accidental.” Inadvertent border crossings are not included in this definition and neither are unintentional confrontations between planes or naval ships. The definition excludes soldiers engaging in exercises in a foreign land, transporting forces across borders, or on foreign bases. Furthermore, the definition categorizes international military interventions by temporal guidelines so that interventions are continuous if repeated acts occur within 6 months of one another.
Instances in which the United States has used its Armed Forces abroad
in situations of military conflict or potential conflict or for other than normal peacetime purposes…Covert operations, disaster relief, and routine alliance stationing and training exercises are not included here, nor are the Civil and Revolutionary Wars and the continual use of U.S. military units in the exploration, settlement, and pacification of the western part of the United States”
The political use of military force involving ground troops of either the U.S. Army or Marine Corps in an active attempt to influence the behavior of other nations.
Any deployment of U.S. ground troops on the territory of another country that included at least 100 person-years.
Use of armed force that involves the official deployment of at least 500 regular military personnel (ground, air, or naval) to attain immediate term political objectives through action against a foreign adversary. Routine military movements and operations without a defined target like military training exercises, the routine forward deployment of military troops, non-combatant evacuation operations, and disaster relief should be excluded.
Militarized interstate disputes are united historical cases of conflict in which the threat, display, or use of military force short of war by one member state is explicitly directed towards the government, official representatives, official forces, property, or territory of another state.
This recent pattern of international relations conducted largely through armed force, it noted, has increasingly targeted West Asia and Africa. These regions have seen both large-scale U.S. wars, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, and low-profile combat in nations such as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, and Tunisia.
The authors say “the U.S. has increased its military usage of force abroad since the end of the Cold War. Over this period the U.S. has preferred the direct usage of force over threats or displays of force, increasing its hostility levels while its target states have decreased theirs. Along the way, the regions of interest have changed as well. Up until World War II, the U.S. frequently intervened in Latin America and Europe,” but beginning in the 1950s, the U.S. shifted its focus to West Asia and the North Africa region.
The data comprises confirmed covert operations and low-profile interventions by Special Operations forces, however, it points out that U.S. government secrecy and scrupulous sourcing standards of the public database it studied guarantees that the post-9/11 tally is an undercount.
Despite the post-9/11 era appearing to be the third most active for U.S. interventions of relatively higher hostility levels. In this era, threats of force are absent, while the use of force has been overwhelmingly commonplace. Since 2000 alone, the U.S. has engaged in at least 30 military interventions.
Experts say that the Pentagon has likely used secretive authority to carry out combat beyond the scope of any authorization for the use of military force or permissible self-defense.
They point out that while secretive “127e” programs in Somalia and Yemen for instance overlap with well-known U.S. military interventions, other uses of the authority, such as in Egypt and Lebanon, may not. The same goes for even lesser-known programs like “Section 1202”.
U.S. military conflicts have provided American arms manufacturers with ample opportunity to make a profit and prolong the country’s history of violence based on its founding.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Global military expenditure is estimated to have been $1917 billion in 2019, the highest level since 1988.
With a military expenditure of $732 billion, the U.S. remained by far the largest spender in the world in 2019, accounting for 38 percent of global military spending. The U.S. spent almost as much on its military in 2019 as the next 10 highest spenders combined.
Today, SIPRI puts the cost of the US military at more than $800bn annually, accounting for almost 40 percent of global military spending.
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