How much peace has the United States had time to enjoy?
Having taken a considerable amount of guff from Canadian friends this past year for living in a country that calls itself peace-loving while it plans a war, I think I've found a way to quantify our dislike for conflict. While I disagree with the current direction we're heading, I also disagree with the opinion that American foreign policy consists of constantly bombing other people to get more oil.
I'm not a numbers person, so let's use whole years rather than exact durations, a minimum duration of 1 year for calculation purposes, and begin America's conflict history with the first major war following roughly a century and a half of European colonization. Even though wars don't begin and end on New Year's Day (now there's a concept worth exploring!), let's simplify it so you can do the math in your head.
Someone else can do it with exact dates and a calculator if you want to belabor the point.
1754 to 1763 French and Indian War: 9 years 1763 to 1775 Not officially at war: 12 years 1775 to 1783 American Revolution: 8 years 1783 to 1812 Not officially at war: 19 years 1812 to 1815 War of 1812: 3 years 1815 to 1846 Not officially at war: 31 years 1846 to 1848 Mexican War: 2 years 1848 to 1861 Not officially at war: 13 years 1861 to 1865 Civil War: 4 years 1865 to 1898 Not officially at war, although many consider Reconstruction to have been unnecessarily punitive: 33 years 1898 Spanish-American War: 1 year, for the sake of calculation 1898 to 1917 Not officially at war, and we won't count those who may have participated in WWI or that Mexico thing: 19 years 1917 to 1918 American involvement in World War I, which began in 1914: less than 2, so call it 1 year to save math 1918 to 1941 Not officially at war, although we had troops in China in the 1930s: 23 years 1941 to 1945 American involvement in World War II, which began during the mid-1930s: 4 years 1945 to 1950 Not officially at war: 4 years 1950 to 1953 American involvement in Korean conflict, which never actually ended and we still have 37,000 troops stationed there: 3 years 1953 to 1964 Not officially at war, though Americans were in Viet Nam during this time: 11 years 1964 to 1975 American involvement in Viet Nam conflict ended in 1973-1975: 11 years 1975 to 1991 Not officially at war: 16 years 1991 Persian Gulf War: I won't round it to zero 1991 to 2003 Not officially at war: 12 years 2003 Second Persian Gulf War: ?
Averaging the gaps, we get just over 17 years - enough time to raise another generation of military personnel, and improve defense technology. Using the round numbers above and adding up the gaps, we've had roughly 193 years of peacetime, not counting the period of colonization and conflict prior to the French and Indian War. Using the 240 years since that war as a baseline, the United States has been at peace, more or less, for approximately 80% of the time.
The last war fought mostly or entirely on American soil ended 138 years ago. Since then we've been at war for less than 21years, some of it at someone else's request (the UN in Korea), and some resulting from hostile actions against Americans (you recall the Lusitania and Pearl Harbor). Those who believe we are constantly fighting wars (well, yes, the later gaps seem shorter, don't they?) can do the math and find out the United States has been more or less at peace for roughly 85% of that time.
Okay, it's your turn. Try France as an exercise. (Hmm, let's see, now, there was that thing with the Prussians, then World War I, World War II, that unpleasantness in Algeria and Viet Nam.)
Parenthetically, tongue in cheek of course, it may be noted that the gap following the Mexican War left the U.S. Army with only one combat-experienced general at the outbreak of the Civil War, while the shorter gaps after WWII and Korea gave us more senior officers with combat experience for Viet Nam. Therefore, Bush's war is necessary to ensure that we have combat-ready generals for World War III, which if you use the minimum of 1 year as above for calculation purposes, and add 17 as the average gap between wars, is scheduled to occur in about 2021.
Let's hope not.