In this extensive, whimsical volume, the authors posit what many have long suspected: the United States has invaded or been militarily involved with almost every country on the globe.
Kelly, a longtime military-history buff, readily admits in his introduction that he drew inspiration for his first book from Laycock’s previous work (All the Countries We Invaded: And a Few We Never Got Round To, 2012), which covers Great Britain’s overseas excursions. The two got to talking and discovered that the U.S. offered even greater fodder for such a compilation. It has invaded 84 out of the 194 countries recognized by the United Nations and has been militarily involved with 191 of those. (The holdouts, the authors note, are Andorra, Bhutan, and Liechtenstein.) Military action is never too far away for America, as Kelly notes: “Americans are always hoping for peace but usually preparing for war. The American Eagle is an ambivalent bird holding arrows in the talons of one foot and an olive branch in the other.” A work such as this has the potential for being academically stodgy, but Kelly and Laycock deftly avoid that trap. Instead, they find colorful, obscure episodes from each country’s past. Take, for example, Panama’s Watermelon War of 1856: “It was really more of a Watermelon Riot, which was triggered by an intoxicated American railroad traveler who took a slice of watermelon from a Panamanian fruit merchant and refused payment. Fifteen Americans were killed in Panama City, and we sent our troops in to restore order.” One drawback is that readers can get cast adrift on the sea of military and political acronyms in the book, but the authors do provide supporting materials, such as a glossary, maps, and a comprehensive index, at the back of the volume to provide perspective for those seeking clarification. Still, for a dedicated history fan, this is an invigorating travelogue, taking readers around the world and backward and forward through time.
An intensive compendium of America’s interactions, both good and bad, with other countries that rightly leaves out the philosophizing.