File:US Interventions 1798-2012.pdf

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Disclaimer (#3)Document.png report  by Richard F. Grimmett dated 19 September 2012
Subjects: United States/Foreign policy
Source: US Congressional Research Service

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An authoritative commentary and list of US military interventions in other countries between 1798 and 2012 from the Congressional Research Service

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Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2012


This report lists hundreds of 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. It was compiled in part from various older lists and is intended primarily to provide a rough survey of past U.S. military ventures abroad, without reference to the magnitude of the given instance noted. The listing often contains references, especially from 1980 forward, to continuing military deployments especially U.S. military participation in multinational operations associated with NATO or the United Nations. Most of these post-1980 instances are summaries based on Presidential reports to Congress related to the War Powers Resolution. A comprehensive commentary regarding any of the instances listed is not undertaken here.

The instances differ greatly in number of forces, purpose, extent of hostilities, and legal authorization. Eleven times in its history the U.S. has formally declared war against foreign nations. These eleven U.S. war declarations encompassed five separate wars: the war with Great Britain declared in 1812; the war with Mexico declared in 1846; the war with Spain declared in 1898; the First World War, during which the U.S. declared war with Germany and with Austria-Hungary during 1917; and World War II, during which the U.S. declared war against Japan, Germany, and Italy in 1941, and against Bulgaria, Hungary, and Rumania in 1942.

Some of the instances were extended military engagements that might be considered undeclared wars. These include the Undeclared Naval War with France from 1798 to 1800; the First Barbary War from 1801 to 1805; the Second Barbary War of 1815; the Korean War of 1950-1953; the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1973; the Persian Gulf War of 1991; global actions against foreign terrorists after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States; and the war with Iraq in 2003. With the exception of the Korean War, all of these conflicts received Congressional authorization in some form short of a formal declaration of war. Other, more recent instances often involve deployment of U.S. military forces as part of a multinational operation associated with NATO or the United Nations.

The majority of the instances listed prior to World War II were brief Marine or Navy actions to protect U.S. citizens or promote U.S. interests. A number were actions against pirates or bandits. Covert actions, 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. This report will be updated as warranted.


The following list reviews hundreds of instances in which the United States has utilized military forces abroad in situations of military conflict or potential conflict to protect U.S. citizens or promote U.S. interests. The list does not include covert actions or numerous instances in which U.S. forces have been stationed abroad since World War II in occupation forces or for participation in mutual security organizations, base agreements, or routine military assistance or training operations. Because of differing judgments over the actions to be included, other lists may include more or fewer instances.

The instances vary greatly in size of operation, legal authorization, and significance. The number of troops involved range from a few sailors or Marines landed to protect American lives and property to hundreds of thousands in Korea and Vietnam and millions in World War II. Some actions were of short duration and some lasted a number of years. In some instances a military officer acted without authorization; some actions were conducted solely under the President’s powers as Chief Executive or Commander in Chief; other instances were authorized by Congress in some fashion. In eleven separate cases (listed in bold-face type) the United States formally declared war against foreign nations. For most of the instances listed, however, the status of the action under domestic or international law has not been addressed. Most instances listed since 1980, are summaries of U.S. military deployments reported to Congress by the President as a result of the War Powers Resolution. Several of these Presidential reports are summaries of activities related to an on-going operation previously reported. It is important to note that inclusion in this list does not connote either legality or level of significance of the instance described. This report covers uses of U.S. military force abroad from 1798 through mid-September 2012. It will be revised as circumstances warrant.

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