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Without America's many invasions?

Americans have invaded or been militarily involved with every country in the world with only three exceptions - Andorra, Bhutan and Liechtenstein.

"Of course, 'invasion' can have a range of meanings, from Genghis Khan's military conquests to the British cultural invasion of the 1960s, led by The Beatles," says Kelly, co-author with Laycock of "America Invades," a global tour of American's military impact around the world.

"While America's cultural and economic influence has been ubiquitous, we ultimately decided to define an American invasion as an 'armed attack or intervention in a country by American forces.' According to that definition, Americans have been launching significant invasions of other countries since 1741.

America has invaded or fought in 84 of 194 countries recognized by the United Nations. America has been militarily involved with a spectacular 191 out of 194 or 98% of the total.

Americans are ambivalent about war; "we're always hoping for peace but usually preparing for war," he says. "Our national symbol, the American eagle, represents this attitude by holding arrows in one talon and an olive branch in the other."

Without grinding political axes, Kelly outlines a number of consequences to America's global military influence. Below are three notable examples.

1. Without Invasions, the United States would be a much smaller and less powerful nation on the world stage (and Mexico would be much bigger). Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and our third president, enjoined us to found an "Empire of Liberty." He encouraged Madison to wage the War of 1812 with Britain and suggested that the conquest of Canada would be "a mere matter of marching." While Canada was spared, Mexico lost half its land, which created the U.S. Southwest. In 1845, President John Tyler annexed Texas to form the 28th state. This set the stage for the Mexican-American War of 1846?48, which incurred a costly 13,768 American casualties. Ultimately, the U.S. won the war and, in addition to what would become Texas, annexed land that would become California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and parts of other western states at a cost of $15 million dollars.

2. American invasions helped to keep totalitarianism in check during the 20th century. Founding Father Benjamin Franklin said, "There hardly ever existed such a thing as a bad peace, or a good war." Yet America's military involvement against Nazi tyranny and Imperial Japan during World War II helped save humanity from a new Dark age. After the "Good War" ended the USA became engaged in a Cold War competition with Communism. Baby-boomers remember the era of "duck and cover" when mutually assured destruction and nuclear stockpiles locked the global superpowers in a stalemate. Unable to sustain itself, the USSR collapsed, and recently Putin's Russia has launched invasions of its own to restore Russia's place in the world.

3. America's overwhelming military power and reach present challenges in the 21st century: Some perceive us as the "Great Satan" while others view us as the "Great Protector". America's military might far exceeds that of any other nation, and the rest of the world regards the U.S. with a combination of hope and fear. While many liberal democratic nations are happy to ally with America and the protection it affords (and, largely, pays for), some are weary of perceived U.S. imperialism. Even some Europeans seem to sympathize with terrorist groups that refer to the U.S. as the "Great Satan." Today, hundreds of European-born Muslim extremists have joined the Islamic State (ISIS) to create a new nation that denounces America and beheads journalists.

In order to understand our country and the world, it is essential to understand our past, say Kelly and Laycock.

"We Americans have a rich and amazing military history filled with triumphs and tragedies, liberations and fiascoes," Kelly says. "We have been around the world from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli and everywhere in between."


Christopher Kelly is the son of a Korean War veteran and the descendant of Stephen Van Rensselaer, the leader of a disastrous invasion of Canada during the War of 1812. Kelly is the past chairman of Chyron Corp. (now ChyronHego, ticker: CHYR) and the former director of Kelly Television Co. and Kelly Broadcasting. He and Stuart Laycock are co-authors of 'America Invades.' Laycock is a British historian and author of 'All the Countries We've Invaded,' which documents British military involvement throughout the world.

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Updated May 10, 2017 9:56 AM EDT | More details

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