News / USA

US Has Long History of Overseas Military Operations

U.S. soldiers from the 2nd battalion, 32nd Field Artillery brigade listen to their superiors' orders before going on a patrol in Baghdad Aug. 14, 2007.
U.S. soldiers from the 2nd battalion, 32nd Field Artillery brigade listen to their superiors' orders before going on a patrol in Baghdad Aug. 14, 2007.
VOA News
If the United States launches missile attacks on Syria in retaliation for its suspected use of the nerve agent sarin against anti-government rebels, it will be just the latest in a long series of U.S. foreign military operations. What would be unusual is that President Barack Obama is seeking congressional approval ahead of the attack. 
 
Previous presidents have gone to Congress for declarations of war after the country was directly attacked, such as by Japan at the start of WW II.  But more often, American presidents have acted on their own, using their authority as the country's constitutionally designated commander in chief. In that capacity, they have acted without congressional approval to send troops abroad, engage in bombing attacks, or dispatch U.S. military personnel to work with international allies.
 
By some counts, the U.S. has been involved in more than 50 significant military actions in the last half century - an average of more than one a year - ranging from significant fighting in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan to lesser incursions in such far-flung countries as Kuwait, Bosnia, Pakistan, Libya, Grenada, Haiti and Panama.
 
That total does not count more limited U.S. actions, such as drone strikes it now is carrying out against suspected Taliban insurgents in the Middle East.
 
In its 237-year history, the U.S. has often deployed its troops. History has recorded the U.S. as the victor in two world wars, but its overseas military ventures have not always been as successful. 
 
U.S. forces fighting under the U.N. flag in Korea in the early 1950s left with the peninsula split into a communist North and a democratic Korea, a tense outcome that endures to this day. In Vietnam, the U.S. withdrew its last troops in 1975 after more than a decade of military involvement, allowing a communist government to seize control.
 
History has yet to cast a verdict on this century's U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
U.S. troops ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in the Iraq War from 2003 to 2011, but allied forces never found the weapons of mass destruction they believed he was harboring. U.S. and allied forces are still fighting insurgents in Afghanistan, but Obama plans to withdraw American military personnel by the end of 2014 even as the country remains in turmoil.
 
Various studies show that U.S. military and security spending dwarfs that of other countries, but has fluctuated in recent decades depending on the priorities of individual presidents and the extent of U.S. fighting overseas.
 
Defense spending rose during the Vietnam War, during the administration of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and in the last decade as the U.S. initiated its global war on terror in the aftermath of the 2001 al-Qaida attacks on the U.S. that killed nearly 3,000 people. At other times, U.S. defense spending has been curtailed.

U.S. Military Assets - September 2, 2013
U.S. Military Assets - September 2, 2013
 
Here are some of the significant U.S. military operations since the 1960s:
 
1961 to 1975 -- The Vietnam War, a conflict that resulted in more than 58,000 U.S. battle deaths and let communists in control of the country.
 
1962 - In the Cuban missile crisis, the U.S. deployed a military blockade in the waters around Cuba to keep the Soviet Union from installing missiles on the island nation, prompting fears of nuclear warfare.
 
1980 - A U.S. commando raid inside Iran failed to rescue 52 American hostages being held by Tehran, although they were subsequently freed as Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency in early 1981.
 
1990 to 1991 - The U.S. confronted Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in a fight over oil riches.  American troops forced Iraq to withdraw after a short ground war.
 
1992 to 1995 - U.S. troops joined NATO forces in fighting in the Balkans, a lengthy battle that resulted from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and widespread ethnic confrontations.
 
2001 - U.S. launched war in Afghanistan to fight Islamic insurgents in response to the al-Qaida attacks on the U.S. on September 11 that year.
 
2003 - U.S. invaded Iraq on the premise that it had weapons of mass destruction that could be used against the U.S. 

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid