In America, we love our troops and during Memorial Day Ceremonies we remember and honor them. But while we love our troops, the truth is that we apparently love war even more.
From the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, here’s a list of the most significant wars and the number of US military casualties (dead & wounded) in each.
American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) 10,623
War of 1812 (1812-1815) 6,765
Mexican American War (1846-1848) 17,435
Civil War (1861-1865) 880,213
Various Indian Wars (1820-1890) 2,000
Spanish American War (1898) 4,108
Philippine-American War (1898-1913) 7,126
World War I (1917-1918) 320,518
World War II (1941-1945) 1,076,245
Korean War (1950-1953) 157,530
Vietnam War (1955-1973) 243,523
Gulf War I (1990-1991) 2,415
Iraq War (2003-2011) 36,211
Afghanistan (2001-present) 21,000
Note: This is not a complete list. It’s only the significant wars – those with more than 1,000 dead and wounded. There are at least another 10 “minor” wars and combat operations in our history.
Since its inception, the USA has been engaged in war for 154 years (65% of the years the country has been in existence). Let’s face it – we love war. WHY???
For the first 100 years, the young nation was protecting itself but since 1900, the wars have all been fought on foreign soil. Was America protecting itself and the interests of our allies? Certainly, but since 1945 there was also another significant factor at work.
The Great Depression of the 1930’s was ended by the dramatic increase in military spending needed to fight World War II. The greatest beneficiaries of this spending were the country’s largest corporations. Between 1942 and 1945, writes the historian Stuart D. Brandes, the net profits of America’s 2,000 biggest firms were more than 40 per cent higher than during the period 1936-1939. Less than 60 firms obtained 75 per cent of all lucrative military and other state orders. IBM, for example, increased its annual sales between 1940 and 1945 from 46 to 140 million dollar thanks to war-related orders, and its profits skyrocketed. This was a valuable lesson for business – profits can be earned more efficiently during times of war.
During his farewell address, President Eisenhower, the five-star general credited with winning WW II, warned the nation of the powerful and growing “military-industrial complex”. First as a soldier and then as President, he of all people, knew exactly what was going on. War is good for (American) business and the lobby of the military-industrial complex (the Pentagon and the corporations who supply the Pentagon) has been very effective in funding and convincing our politicians that we need to increase our own military spending and sell our weapons to just about anyone. It should come as no surprise that retiring Generals and Admirals regularly obtain high paying consulting (lobbying) jobs with the very companies who produce military equipment.
In fiscal year 2015, American military spending is projected to account for 54 percent of all federal discretionary spending, a total of $598.5 billion. That’s roughly the same amount as the next 10 largest military budgets around the world – combined. Amazingly, the conservative movement in the country believes that it is wasteful to spend taxpayer dollars on initiatives that would help domestic citizens (projects to expand education, health-care, roads, bridges and high-speed trains) but that it is our patriotic duty to increase our spending of taxpayer money on the military and foreign wars.
Americans like to think of themselves as a peace-loving nation, but our behavior does not support that proposition.