"America Is Fighting More Wars Than Ever."
Yes and no. Clearly, the United States has been on a war footing ever since 9/11, with a still-ongoing war in Afghanistan that has surpassed the Vietnam War as the longest conflict in American history and a pre-emptive war in Iraq that proved to be longer, bloodier, and more expensive than anyone expected. Add the current NATO intervention in Libya and drone campaigns in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, and it's no wonder that U.S. military spending has grown more than 80 percent in real terms over the last decade. At $675 billion this year, it's now 30 percent higher than what it was at the end of the Cold War.
But though the conflicts of the post-9/11 era may be longer than those of past generations, they are also far smaller and less lethal. America's decade of war since 2001 has killed about 6,000 U.S. service members, compared with 58,000 in Vietnam and 300,000 in World War II. Every life lost to war is one too many, but these deaths have to be seen in context: Last year more Americans died from falling out of bed than in all U.S. wars combined.
And the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has taken place against a backdrop of base closures and personnel drawdowns elsewhere in the world. The temporary rise in U.S. troop numbers in South Asia and the Middle East, from 18,000 to 212,000 since 2000, contrasts with the permanent withdrawal of almost 40,000 troops from Europe, 34,000 from Japan and South Korea, and 10,000 from Latin America in that period. When U.S. forces come home from the current wars -- and they will in large numbers in the near future, starting with 40,000 troops from Iraq and 33,000 from Afghanistan by 2012 -- there will be fewer U.S. troops deployed around the world than at any time since the 1930s. President BarackObama was telling the truth in June when he said, "The tide of war is receding."