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US History: 17-Year of Peace and 230-year of Conflicts By Kashif Mirza


Jan 4, 2023

The writer is an

economist, anchor,

analyst and the

President of All

 Pakistan Private

Schools’ Federation



Since the birth of the United States of America on July 4, 1776, with the Declaration of Independence, the country has been at war for 93% of its existence. Only 17 years out of the entirety of the 247 years the United States in existence have been peaceful with 230 years of conflicts. Thomas Jefferson’s eloquently phrased key passage in the document that detailed the fundamental rights denied to the American people by the British: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” In the entire history of the USA, there has been a total of 17 years when the U.S. has not been at war with someone. From its founding in 1776, the United States was engaged in a war for its survival against Great Britain until peace was finally reached in 1783. It all started with the American War of Independence from 1775 to 1783. Now, to most Americans that conflict was more than necessary. Had it not taken place it is doubtful that King George III of Great Britain and his Parliament would have simply waved goodbye to the Thirteen Colonies and wished them well for the future. The new nation eventually got what it wanted in 1783 with its victory over the British. There was also domestic strife with the white settlers during the Whiskey and Shay Rebellions concerning taxes and civil rights that lasted well up until 1796. Unbeknownst to many, this wasn’t the end of the war for the fledgling United States. No, that wouldn’t come for more than a decade. Also beginning in 1776 were the Cherokee-American wars, also known as the Chickamauga Wars, which were a series of back-and-forth conflicts between American settlers moving into the Old Southwest and the Cherokee tribes calling this land home. Until the end of 1795, this violence would rage what is now Tennessee, as well as the colonies and eventually the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Kentucky. Justifiably concerned that they would lose still more land to the expanding white settlers, the Cherokee struggled long and hard against the fledgling United States, only to eventually sue for peace and give up much of the land they had so long fought for. There would be two peaceful years in 1796 and 1797. Before the United States could get more than a breath, the Quasi-War with France would break out in 1798. The Quasi-War between the United States and France was an undeclared war, but all the more violent for it. Then, the young nation enjoyed periods of peace in 1796 and 1797, and again from 1807 to 1809. The young American nation that, at the time, still consisted of 13 separate sovereign states that had banded together for a common cause needed to stand up for themselves to get all of the things stated in the Declaration of Independence.  There was another period of respite from 1828 to 1830. For the next two decades, the United States would engage in a number of conflicts against Native American tribes i.e. Tecumseh’s war, the Seminole Wars, the Creek War, and a number of anti-piracy efforts. Peace would again occur from 1826 to 1830, with only a brief spat of violence in 1827 known as the Winnebago War. Not really a war, this conflict was the result of the Ho-Chunk tribe launching several attacks against white settlers due to a number of lead miners trespassing onto their lands, and some rumours that a number of Ho-Chunk prisoners were given by the United States to a rival tribe to be executed. The year 1831 would set off over 60 years of new conflicts for the United States. Somewhat depressingly, the list of wars during this decade is too many to list out here, much less go into any meaningful detail.  Waged primarily across the high seas, it broke out following the fall of the French Monarchy when the United States refused to continue to pay back the debt it had accrued during the Revolutionary War. That being said, it would not be until the year 1807 that the United States would again see peace. Sadly it would not last long, for in 1810 the United States would act to seize control over Spanish-held West Florida. President James Madison at the time claimed that this part of the Spanish territory actually at the time of annexation it was a short-lived independent state called the Republic of West Florida actually belonged to the United States following the Louisiana Purchase from France. Suffice to say, these decades would see continued expansionist efforts by the United States to expand its territory West which contributed to a number of wars with numerous Native American tribes i.e. new Cherokee Indian Wars, the Texas-Indian War, the Navajo Wars, the Apache Wars, among others, the invasion of Mexico in the Mexican American War. 

The United States in time six decade long time period was also engaged in conflicts in South America as well as conflicts against China and Korea. The Korean Expedition of 1871 was the first military action undertaken by the United States in Korea. American forces were originally present to support a diplomatic expedition to establish trade and political relations with the Kingdom of Joseon, Korea, to learn of what happened to a missing merchant ship, and to create a treaty guaranteeing aid for shipwrecked sailors. The situation spiralled into violence when Korean shore batteries attacked two American Warships and, when no apology was given, 650 American troops seized control over several forts and killed more than 230 Korean troops ten days later. The year 1897 would be a brief pause before the United States fought the brief Spanish-American War, Philippine-American War, and the Banana Wars. The Spanish-American War would result in an American victory that would see the acquisition of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine Islands by the United States from Spanish control. The Philippine-American War followed closely on the heels of the Spanish-American War, as the First Philippine Republic, which had been struggling against Spain for independence, refused to recognize the terms of the Treaty of Paris. For several years the conflict would wage with tens of thousands dead, but eventually, the First Philippine Republic was dissolved and the Philippines would become first an unincorporated territory of the United States, and then later a U.S. Commonwealth, which it would remain until 1946. The Banana Wars were an additional series of occupations, police actions, and interventions in Central America and the Caribbean following the end of the Spanish-American War. Over three decades Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic would all be occupied at some point, with a number of lesser actions occurring as well. In the twentieth century when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt finally said enough. One of the country’s most celebrated leaders brought the US into a period of “splendid isolation,” a similar foreign policy to one held by its former mother country, Great Britain, in the late eighteenth century, albeit more successful. During the period from 1935 right through 1940, the US focused on domestic policy to shore up the nation after the Great Depression. The country had reached its maximum geographic expansion, and local enemies like Mexico had been defeated. The only remaining battle was at home, and it came in the form of empty stomachs and unemployment. 

The country has been at war for 93% of its existence. What has become most clear over the history of the engagement of the United States in wars is that U.S. will likely not experience the 18th year of peace for some time yet. More likely U.S. will experience its 231st year of War.

Sadly the peaceful period of 1935 to 1940 was the result of prevailing isolationist policies in the United States. In a twist of fate, had the United States not gotten involved in World War II the Nazi Reich would have come knocking soon enough. The sentiment largely was to let European Wars be fought by Europeans. But not for long. In December 1941, the US entered a war that would last four years. The US entry into World War II marked the beginning of almost uninterrupted conflict right up to this day. After the Allied victory over the Axis Powers of Imperial Japan, The Third Reich and Mussolini’s Italy, the US entered a phase that some historians like to call the Pax-Americana or American Peace. As far back as 1928, Hitler already recognized that the United States would be the next great foe for the Third Reich that he was planning, following the destruction of the Soviet Union (see the book: Germany and the Two World Wars). Even after the end of World War II, the launching of the Cold War between the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union would ensure proxy conflicts and wars would continue unabated from 1946 all the way until 1975. It would only be the defeat in the Vietnam War that would see three brief years of peace from 1976 to 1978 until the CIA launched their proxy war in Afghanistan following the Soviet invasion of that country. Only in 1997 and 2000 was the United States not involved in a war or conflict somewhere. For the majority, the United States has been engaged in the War on Terror with invasions into Afghanistan and Iraq, and the additional presence of troops in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and other countries. Looking back over the wars the U.S. has been engaged in four distinct periods. The first is the line period of conflicts waged to expand the borders of the United States to cover the distance between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The second is a period of conflict that saw greater engagement with the world beyond North America, up to and including outright acts of colonization in mimicry of what European powers had been doing for centuries. The third period deals with outright intervention in the affairs of the states in Europe, with the United States eventually seeking to take the reins of the global community while fighting off challenges from the Soviet Union. Most recently the fourth period has been taking shape. This last period is the most worrisome of all, as there is little direct engagement between armies and navies or between tanks and jets. The Global War on Terror has stretched on for over 20 years now. More than $2.9 trillion in debt in the United States alone. More than 1000,000 deaths in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq alone from 2001 until 2022, and now Ukarian-Rassia War and another Cold War with China. The costs of wealth and life go ever higher. The truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. What has become most clear over the history of the engagement of the United States in wars is that the U.S. will likely not experience the 18th year of peace for some time yet. More likely the U.S. will experience its 231st year of War. And as in its predecessor, the Pax-Britannica, the Americans, like British masters, in their role as policemen of the world could not enjoy a period of uninterrupted peace. It is the price of being at the apogee of world power.

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