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The attack on Iran’s Soleimani is just the latest in a 245-year history of US military actions

US tanks
AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis
Tanks for the memories.
  • Oliver Staley
By Oliver Staley

Business & culture editor


The US drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s special forces, on Jan. 3 means the 2020s will continue an unbroken string of decades dating to the 1770s in which the US has deployed its military overseas.

While the US has fought just five declared wars—against Britain, Mexico and Spain in the 19th century, and the two World Wars in the 20th—it has taken military action many dozens of times, from major undeclared conflicts (such as the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq) to minor skirmishes in countries as far flung as Haiti, Niger, and Fiji. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the US deployed forces to defend and protect US embassies, civilians, and business interests during local insurrections. During the Cold War, the military intervened on behalf of the US’s allies. In recent decades, it’s operated with a broad mandate to root out terrorism.

The above is an interactive map of all the countries in which the US military has operated, according to a report produced by the Congressional Research Service (pdf). Scroll over each country for a description of the operation (interventions for purely humanitarian purposes where there was no armed conflict, such as hurricane relief efforts, are left out). The map uses the current names and borders of nations, so, for example, attacks on British colonies in North America are coded as attacks on Canada. Also, for the sake of simplicity, some complex interventions, such as in the Balkans in the 1990s, are folded together.

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