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The United States at War


If we say the history of the United States has been written in war, that is not too much of an exaggeration. The United States, of course, began with the colonial war against England. The American Civil War, also called the War Between the States, then tore it apart less than a century later. Between 1861 and 1865, at least 618,000 and perhaps as many as 750,000 soldiers in both the Union and the Confederacy died on the battlefield or from disease. The minimum estimate almost matches the number of American deaths in all the other wars the United States has fought, and the maximum estimate greatly exceeds this number (seeTable 16.2 "US Participation in Major Wars").

Table 16.2 US Participation in Major Wars



War

Number of troops

Troop deaths

Troops wounded

Revolutionary War

184,000–250,000

4,435

6,188

War of 1812

286,730

2,260

4,505

Mexican War

78,218

13,283

4,152

Civil War

3,867,500

618,222–750,000

412,175

Spanish-American War

306,760

2,446

1,662

World War I

4,734,991

116,516

204,002

World War II

16,112,566

405,399

671,846

Korean War

5,720,000

36,574

103,284

Vietnam War

8,744,000

58,209

153,303

Persian Gulf War

2,225,000

382

467

Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

2,333,972

6,251

47,566

Note: Deaths are from combat, disease, and other causes.

Sources: Fischer, H. (2005). American war and military operations casualties: Lists and statistics. Retrieved fromhttp://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/american%20war%20casualty.htm;http://web.archive.org/web/20070711050249/http://www.cwc.lsu.edu/other/stats/warcost.htm; Hacker, J. D. (2011, September 20). New York Times. Retrieved fromhttp://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/20/recounting-the-dead; US Department of Defense. (2012, May 18). Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation New Dawn (OND), and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) U.S. Casualty Status. Retrieved from http://www.defense.gov/news/casualty.pdf(accessed February 16, 2012); Martinez, L. (2011, November 11). US veterans: By the numbers. ABC News. Retrieved fromhttp://abcnews.go.com/Politics/us-veterans-numbers/story?id=14928136#1.

The United States has been at war in one-fifth of the years it has existed (Bumiller, 2010). [8] Between the end of the colonial period and 1993, the US military was involved in at least 234 declared wars, undeclared wars, or other situations abroad involving actual or potential armed conflict (Collier, 1993). [9]Since 1993, US armed forces have waged war in Iraq and in Afghanistan and also joined international military operations in such countries as Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Libya. By any measure, then, the US military has played a fundamental role, for better or worse, in the nation’s foreign affairs historically and also today. Supporters of this role say the military has both protected and advanced the political and economic interests of the United States, while critics, as we have seen, charge that the military has been an instrument of imperialism.


Explaining War


The enormity of war has long stimulated scholarly interest in why humans wage war (Levy & Thompson, 2010). [10] A popular explanation for war derives from evolutionary biology. According to this argument, war is part of our genetic heritage because the humans who survived tens of thousands of years ago were those who were most able, by virtue of their temperament and physicality, to take needed resources from other humans they attacked and to defend themselves from attackers. In this manner, a genetic tendency for physical aggression and warfare developed and thus still exists today. In support of this evolutionary argument, some scientists note that chimpanzees and other primates also engage in group aggression against others of their species (Wrangham, 2004). [11]

However, other scientists dispute the evolutionary explanation for several reasons (Begley, 2009). [12] First, the human brain is far more advanced than the brains of other primates, and genetic instincts that might drive these primates’ behavior do not necessarily drive human behavior. Second, many societies studied by anthropologists have been very peaceful, suggesting that a tendency to warfare is more cultural than biological. Third, most people are not violent, and most soldiers have to be resocialized (in boot camp or its equivalent) to overcome their deep moral convictions against killing. If warlike tendencies were part of human genetic heritage, these convictions would not exist.



http://images.flatworldknowledge.com/barkansoc/barkansoc-fig16_x004.jpg

Scholars have attempted to explain why human beings wage war. A popular explanation comes from the field of evolutionary biology and claims that a tendency toward warfare is hardwired into our genetic heritage because it conferred certain evolutionary advantages.

Image courtesy of Sgt. Joshua Risner, US Army, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Army_51817_ BAGHDAD_-_Iraqi_Soldiers,_with_the_6th_IA_Division,_ familiarize_themselves_with_their_targets_and_prepare_ for_a_PKC_machine_gun_range_at_Combat _Outpost_402,_here,_Sept._28._In_addition_to_ marksmanship.jpg.


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