Friday, January 25, 2008

America at war

This was initially on the politics side of the blog, but it seemed more appropriate here, mostly because it's so half-assed.
I can't remember why, but the other night I was thinking that the United States is about 231 years old, counting forward from the Declaration of Independence. That's what, the life expectancy of about four people?

And I wondered: What percentage of that time have we been at war? If you haven't noticed, though I don't consider myself educated enough to know whether any specific war was a good idea, I'm not a fan of war in general. I'm sorry if you are, because I don't mean to offend.

I added it up the best I could, using several internet sites to determine the approximate lengths of American involvement in various wars and conflicts. And what I came up with was 49.7 years or about 22 percent of the time.

Now, that's rough, and it's subjective. For the Gulf War, for example, I just credited six months. That's about how long active hostilities lasted, but of course we had troops in the area long after that and were actively patrolling the no-fly zone.

For Vietnam, I went from the Gulf of Tonkin (Aug. 1964) through the last troops leaving Saigon (April 1975).

Other dates may have been more appropriate to use in many cases. Anyone know the actual length of the Franco-American Naval War? For that matter, it might be more appropriate to count the country's age from the ratification of the current Constitution, which would make us about 220 years old.

I don't know what the just or moral percentage of time for a country to be at war is, and I don't know how we stack up against other countries. But this is the seemingly relevant question that occurred to me before I looked at any of the numbers:
War should always be a last resort. Do we really live in a world where it's been the right answer X percent of the time?

In this case "X" is 22 percent.