• The Washington Post


Since the Vietnam War, the United States has engaged in several military interventions. As the West looks ready to act against the Syrian government, here are some instances in which the U.S. has intervened, sometimes without United Nations authorization.


Operation Urgent Fury

Unilateral U.S. military action

In October 1983, the U.S. led a military invasion of Grenada, a tiny Caribbean island nation, after a coup ousted the government of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, who was assassinated. President Ronald Reagan was said to have been concerned about a 3,000-meter airstrip that the communist country’s military was building, which he thought would enable planes loaded with arms from Cuba to reach insurgents in Central America. The administration was also worried about the safety of 800 American medical students studying in Grenada.


Operation Just Cause

Unilateral U.S. military action

In December 1989, the United States invaded Panama with more than 27,000 troops. The operation lasted just over a month, resulting in the defeat of the Panamanian forces. Panama’s leader, Gen. Manuel Noriega, was overthrown during the invasion, and a new president was sworn in.


Operation Desert Storm

Authorized by the U.N.

After the army of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the U.N. Security Council imposed economic sanctions on Baghdad. When the U.N. deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal expired, the U.S. started a massive aerial war that drove Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait. U.S.-led coalition forces advanced well into Iraqi territory.


Operation Gothic Serpent

Authorized by the U.N.

In June 1993, the U.N. passed a resolution declaring war on Mohamed Farah Aideed and his militia after Aideed ordered an attack on a Pakistani force that was part of the U.N. Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM), which worked to monitor a cease-fire in the Somali capital and protect humanitarian supplies and convoys. Starting in August 1993, U.S. troops attacked various targets in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, to find Aideed. The operation ended in October, after a bloody overnight standoff later known as “Black Hawk Down,” referring to the downing of two UH-60 helicopters by Aideed’s men.

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Operation Allied Force

NATO operation not authorized by U.N.

In March 1999, NATO began strategic airstrikes in Kosovo and Serbia because then-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was continuing to persecute ethnic Albanians in Kosovo who were organizing protests against Serbian rule. After several weeks of bombing, the Yugoslav forces agreed to withdraw from Kosovo, and Milosevic accepted an international peace plan to end the fighting.


Operation Enduring Freedom

NATO operation not authorized by U.N.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the U.S. launched a war in Afghanistan, attacking al-Qaida forces and the Taliban, which was hosting the terrorist group’s leadership in the country. After removing the Taliban from power, the U.S. and its allies took control of several parts of the country and have since been fighting insurgents. Two months after the U.S.-led attack, the U.N. Security Council authorized the establishment of the International Security Assistance Force to oversee security and train Afghan forces.


Operation Iraqi Freedom

Unilateral U.S. military action

In March 2003, then-President George W. Bush announced a war against Iraq, saying its goal was to “disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction” and remove Hussein from power. U.S. forces launched airstrikes on Baghdad, then began a ground invasion of the city that quickly led to the collapse of Hussein’s rule. The U.S. formally pulled out of Iraq in late 2011.

Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia

Unilateral U.S. drone strikes

Since 2002, the U.S. has regularly used armed Predator drones to target and kill terrorists in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The strikes have more than doubled under President Barack Obama, who has expanded the scope and intensity of the drone campaign against militants in the Middle East and Africa. The U.N. has criticized the drone tactics, saying the U.S. has disregarded the threat of civilian casualties from its aerial operations.


Name: Operation Odyssey Dawn

Authorized by U.N.

In March 2011, France and Britain led, with U.S. assistance, a military operation in Libya, conducting airstrikes against Libyan Army installations and air-defense systems, and imposing a no-fly zone. The NATO mission in Libya ended shortly after the death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in October 2011.

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