The history of US foreign policy is a violent and bloody one, although this is not necessarily the dominant perception of most Americans. From the frontier wars of subjugation against Native Peoples to colonial wars against Mexico, Spain and the Philippines, the Cold War interventions in Korea, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Grenada, Lebanon, Panama, Libya and elsewhere, the post-Cold War interventions in Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Kosovo, and the post-9/11 interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya today, the US has an unrivaled record of war and foreign military intervention. There are in fact, few periods in its history when the US has not been engaged in war or military attacks on other countries. In addition, the US is the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of military weapons, and has a military budget several times greater than all its nearest rivals combined. It is in fact, the most warring nation in modern history. It is in this historical context that we have to try and understand its current military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, the Horn of Africa and Libya.
Although it is sometimes argued by apologists that these military actions are always defensive in nature rather than proactive and expansionist, and are the result of real and serious threats to US security or the wider international system, the virtually impregnable security position of the US, notwithstanding the 9/11 attacks a decade ago, makes this argument unconvincing. The reality is that the size of the US landmass and population, the vast oceans to its eastern and western borders and the friendly countries to its north and south, and the extent of its economic and military power, means that there are no serious obstacles to the adoption of an isolationist foreign policy or even the adoption of a pacifist role in international affairs. In other words, there is nothing inevitable or predetermined about its long record of war and intervention. Explaining the historical record of US foreign intervention requires a careful evaluation of both its strategic interests and its ideological system, as it is the almost unique combination of these factors and the way in which they underpin and interact with each other which helps to explain why the US continues to be the most violent state in the international system today.
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