Continued from yesterday’s edition
6: US Intervention in the Russian Civil War
The US military intervention in the Russian Civil War is an important but little-talked aspect of the wider conflict between the ‘White’ forces, their Western financial and political backers, and the fledgling Bolshevik government in territories from the Baltic and the Black Sea all the way to the shores of the Pacific. In September 1918, the United States landed some 5,000 troops in Arkhangelsk, northern Russia in what would become known as the ‘Polar Bear Expedition’. 8,000 more troops had already been deployed in Vladivostok a month earlier. The US joined troops from over half a dozen other nations to try and stop the Reds’ takeover of Russia, but, in the end, proved unsuccessful, with American forces withdrawing from Arkhangelsk in July 1919, and from Vladivostok in 1920. During their deployment, the troops were tasked with guarding local communications lines and railways, transporting goods out of the country as ‘compensation’ for their presence and, occasionally, clashing with the Red Army. All told, the US forces lost 424 men in northern Russia, and 328 more in the Far East. The failed intervention in the Russian Civil War proved one of the contributing factors to Moscow’s distrust of Washington and other Western nations for much of the remainder of the 20th century.
7: World War II
In December 1941, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and Hitler declared war on the USA, Washington joined the Second World War, which to date remains the bloodiest conflict in human history. The US Army joined with the Navy and Air Force in fighting in the North African, European and Pacific theatres, helping to liberate North Africa from Italian and German occupation in 1943, engaging in an island-hopping campaign in the Pacific starting in 1942 after a series of naval engagements, and, in 1943 and 1944, landing troops in southern Italy and France, opening up the Western Front long awaited by the Soviets in the east. The Second World War cost the US 407,000 military dead, with 318,000 of them Army and Air Force men, but also helped establish America as an undisputed superpower in the post-war world, a status it continues to enjoy today.
In June 1950, following months of escalating tensions between North and South Korea, Pyongyang declared war on Seoul, starting what would become a three-year-long US-led war against North Korea, Communist China, and, unofficially, Soviet fighter pilots. After being exhausted to the point of near defeat in the first two months of the conflict, US and allied forces launched an amphibious invasion at Incheon, near Seoul, driving through North Korea to the Yalu River border with China. However, in October 1950, Chinese forces entered the war, driving the US and its allies back to the 38th parallel, near to where the war began. By 1951, the conflict turned into a war of position, and an armistice treaty was signed in 1953. Over 1.7 million Americans took part in the war, with 36,500 troops losing their lives, and 100,000 more receiving injuries. The war prevented the defeat of Washington’s puppet South Korean ally, but also shattered the air of invisibility behind the US armed forces that emerged after the Second World War. It was also the Korean War that saw the US make the shift to an air power-heavy military doctrine, with US carpet bombing destroying nearly three quarters of North Korea’s population centers, and dropping more bombs on the country than during the entire Pacific Theatre of WWII.
In 1964, using the false flag Gulf of Tonkin incident as a pretext, President Lynden Johnson justified direct US entry into the war in Vietnam, a conflict which would claim the lives of some 58,000 US servicemen, wound 150,300 others and become America’s fourth deadliest war. By any measure, the Vietnam War was a defeat for the US Army, and all other branches of the military, with the Pentagon failing to achieve any of its strategic goals (stopping communism in Southeast Asia, preserving the regime in Saigon, defeating the North Vietnamese). On the ground in Vietnam, the US faced off against both North Vietnamese forces and fanatical Viet Cong militia, and the war quickly expanded into neighbouring Laos and Cambodia. Between 1965 and 1975, the US Air Force dropped over three times more bombs on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia than the total dropped by the Allies during the Second World War. The US suspended all combat operations in January 1973, withdrawing all forces by March of that year. Two years later, in April 1975, communist Vietnamese forces took Saigon, and the war was over. The Vietnam War severely damaged the reputation of the US armed forces at home amid the rise of a massive anti-war protest movement, and a shaken Pentagon would not engage in another major military conflict until the Gulf War in 1990-1991.
10: War on Terror
Following the 9/11 terror attacks in Washington, New York and Pennsylvania, the United States began the largest military and security operation in the modern era, known as the War on Terror, with the US Army playing an active role in this fight. In late 2001, the US intervened in Afghanistan, toppling the Taliban government only to spend the next two decades engaging a slow-burning insurgency. In 2003, the Bush administration used the pretext of the War on Terror to kick off the War in Iraq, another conflict where the US Army easily defeated the enemy army, only to get bogged down in deadly and costly counterinsurgency operations, culminating in the rise of Daesh (ISIS) terrorists in 2014. The War on Terror is a truly global conflict, with US forces intervening in conflicts in Pakistan, Syria, Libya, West Africa, East Africa, Yemen, and the Philippines. By late 2018, the war was estimated to have killed over 507,000 people, including nearly 4,500 US troops in Iraq, and 2,200 in Afghanistan, with 50,000 more injured. Furthermore, despite President Trump’s campaign pledge to stop being the ‘policeman of the world’, the war has yet to end, costing over $6 trillion to date, but filling US defence contractors’ pockets.