Global Policy Forum

US Military Expansion and Intervention

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The United States has a long history of military operations to expand its power in both peacetime and war. In the first century after independence, the US took military control of the North American continent, seizing territory from the native peoples, and from Britain, France, Spain, Canada and Mexico. Overseas military operations also began at an early date -- with the First Barbary War of 1801-05, followed by the 1813 seizure of the South Pacific island of Nukahiva as a military base. Global Policy Forum has created a US military and clandestine interventions from 1798 to present (December 2005) . The list does not pretend to be definitive or absolutely complete. It does, however, demonstrate that the US has engaged in military operations worldwide for political and economic reasons for more than two centuries.

Washington proclaimed the "Monroe Doctrine" (1823) to deter European powers from intervening in the Americas, and eventually to justify its own interventions in Latin America and Caribbean, Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and many other countries. Territorial expansion later in the century included the seizure of the Hawaiian Island chain (1893) and the conquest of Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines in the Spanish-American War (1898). GPF offers a particular focus on three countries in the US “backyard”: Cuba, looking at the relationship between the two countries, including the US sanctions against the country. On Haiti with articles that examines the US role in Haiti and includes information about the cessation of economic and humanitarian aid to the country, and Venezuela with articles and papers on the threat of US military intervention to overthrow Chavez government.

The United States did not create a colonial empire of the type established by France and Britain. Still, over the years, it has often used its overwhelming military power. Though Washington regularly deploys "soft power" through economic and diplomatic pressure, it has rarely hesitated to employ military and paramilitary means, as is clear in dozens of cases including Korea, Indochina, Afghanistan and Iraq. The US now maintains hundreds of overseas bases, even in large and wealthy countries like the UK, Germany, Italy, South Korea (to monitor North Korea) and Japan. Washington has used many justifications over the years for its heavy emphasis on military means. The US justified its interventions in the name of democracy to interfere in internal affairs in Asia and in the Middle East and Central Asia.

The US dependence on Middle East’s oil has often been an underlying motive for direct military intervention or meddling in political development, notably in Iran. The African continent is not spare of US intervention, either to prevent socialist expansion during the Cold War or to secure access to natural resources and oil in Africa.

In the period 1946-89, much was explained by reference to the "Cold War" whereas more recently the "war on terrorism" has pride of place. The 9/11 events gave the green light to Washington to engage in an open-ended war against “transnational terrorism,” but the military operations mainly targeted Afghanistan and Iraq. GPF provides links and articles on the build-up, invasion and current occupation of these two countries, as well as details about oil interests, politics under occupation, and the many wars and interventions that have shaped Iraq's modern history. The US “war on terror” has threatened many countries in the Middle East with preventive attacks; the most likely is Syria.

Today, with unparalleled naval and air forces, the US possesses a unique capacity to act militarily anywhere in the world, so as to forcefully pursue interests and to affirm what US military planners explicitly call "full spectrum dominance."


General Analysis on US Military Expansion and Intervention

Covers US troops and bases, military policy and military allies, foreign overt and covert involvement, and general threats and events of US military intervention throughout the world.

Specific Country Interventions

Latin America and Caribbean




Asia: General Analysis

North Korea

The Middle East and Central Asia: General Analysis





Africa: General Analysis


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