Special Operations Forces gaze back. U.S. Army photo

It’s Impossible to Keep Track of Everywhere America Is at War

We tried in this podcast


Quick, how many wars is America fighting overseas?

Don’t feel bad if you can’t answer that right away, I know I can’t. We’ve tried on this podcast before to answer that question and got bogged down in a semantic discussion of the word “war.”

What is and is not “war,” legally speaking, is important. But so is knowing where American soldiers are fighting and dying across the globe. The truth is, the American public doesn’t have a very good grasp of the scale of U.S. military action.

Right now, America is fighting a war in Afghanistan — the longest in its history — plus a war against Islamic State in the Middle East, a campaign against Islamic radicals in Pakistan, several different operations in and around the Horn of Africa and — if you ask the Houthi rebels — a war in Yemen, too.

That’s a short list. Since 9/11, America has gotten involved in more conflicts across the globe than in any previous period. These conflicts are often small-scale and involve mostly Special Operations Forces and drones, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t wars.

Or, at the very least, war-like conflicts.

Most of these operations aren’t secret. It’s just that they’re … complicated. They don’t make for interesting news and aren’t much discussed by anyone except maybe the people fighting them.

Today on War College, we sit down with War Is Boring’s Joseph Trevithick, who has spent the better part of the last year compiling a list of all the military operations America is fighting overseas.

He uses the Freedom of Information Act and a spreadsheet to keep everything straight. As of this recording, his list of American military operations is up to 188 separate entries.

That’s a whole lot of war.

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