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. --Kirkus Reviews
America Invades. A provocative title for sure. Is this an account of American imperial aggression a la Howard Zinn, or perhaps a more neocon examination of historical nation building? Thankfully, nothing like that at all. The subtitle explains perfectly: How We've Invaded or Been Militarily Involved with Almost Every Country on Earth. That is completely accurate and leaves nothing out. Books like these almost always veer into political/idealogical riffing, and I can happily say that this doesn't happen once in this book. The purpose of America Invades is simple: inform in an entertaining fashion. And my does it succeed.
A warning: if the subtitle sounds boring to you, you will probably be bored. Not much to do there. But for the interested, this incredibly accessible book promises to make you look at the world map a bit differently. I read Mr. Laycock's book first, the British version entitled All the Countries We've Ever Invaded (And the Few We Never Got Round To) while abroad in Edinburgh. The title grabbed my attention instantly, being a sucker for trivia and "Did you know" factoids. The emergence of Mr. Kelly's more relatable (being an American) book was pleasantly surprising, even more so on seeing the collaboration between the two men. Both books are written in a very conversational style; some may be turned off by that approach, but I found it appropriate. This is not a textbook and it does not claim to be; it's more "popular history." The book stays light throughout (think wordplay and terrible puns), both in tone and substance, making it easy for those who may have forgotten their world history lessons. I found myself frequently smiling or even laughing out loud as I read about our abundant (and sometimes awkward) international exploits.
Another nice, if infrequent, plus about America Invades is that you don't necessarily have to read it front to back. The book is organized alphabetically by country, so it's easy to jump ahead and read the section on, say, Kenya, if that's what you would like to know. The book promises to be a good starting point for research, allowing the reader to make more informed and specific inquiries of more in-depth books.
America Invades is exactly what it promises to be. In short, you'll likely know from the outset if you'd find this book interesting. If so, pick it up. It's one of those books you'll thumb through again at random times. If nothing else, both Mr. Kelly and Mr. Laycock are helping keep obscure (though no less valuable) history alive. Mr. Kelly promises to update future editions of America Invades (we can start with the section on Syria, which seems intent on burning itself down). I look forward to it. --2nd Lieutenant Aidan Fahnestock, U.S. Army
This informative yet entertaining history text presents a factual account of United States military involvement throughout the world.
In America Invades, Christopher Kelly and Stuart Laycock delve into all types of US military foreign interaction; everything from territorial acquisition to devastating war to beneficial assistance, even touching lightly on cultural indoctrination. Alphabetically listed, every country the US has ever entered on a battle mission or in an official capacity makes an appearance in this well-researched reference tool. Backed by maps, glossy photographs, charts, a glossary, and an index, the knowledgeable authors provide essential details without overwhelming the narrative with unnecessary repetition or opinionated commentary.
The artwork on the cover is misleading, and a visual attack on the senses; its shocking depiction of Uncle Sam grasping a U.S. flag, with warplanes overhead and armed soldiers beneath, looks like a prelude to hard-hitting criticism. It's not. This concise book is pro-American without being ethnocentric--five percent of sales proceeds will go to military charities. It is written from a critical angle in a conversational style that veers into occasional off-the-cuff remarks to lighten the serious tone with dark (perhaps inappropriate) humor. "Among other interesting facts about Romania, you can find Transylvania there, legendary home of vampires and actual birthplace of Vlad Dracula, who also had the not very cuddly nickname Vlad the Impaler."
Anyone but a history aficionado will be astounded at the extent of the United States' involvement overseas. Packed with expected material pertaining to major conflicts and global wars, as well as a considerable amount of unexpected trivia, the overall impression will vary dramatically depending on political standpoint or national perspective. Since this subject is a hot topic for analysis and debate, information contained in these pages will provoke either sincere admiration or adamant disapproval. In the end, it may boil down to whether a country benefited or suffered as a result of US intervention.
Christopher Kelly, a retired television executive with a passion for military history, earned a degree from UC-Berkeley. Stuart Laycock is the author of several history books in the UK, with a diverse background in advertising and marketing, as well as TV. Even an avid history buff will learn something from the book--a little-known tidbit or a frequent ignored fact--making Kelly and Laycock's work a worthwhile read. The authors' involvement in television lends an attention-grabbing tone to the writing, steering the content away from academia and toward a mainstream audience. This compilation of data required extensive education, time, and diligence. Regardless of whether an individual approaches the text with a patriotic or non-patriotic viewpoint, no preconceived judgement will detract from the value of the reading experience. --Julia Ann Charpentier
About the Author
Stuart Laycock has a degree from Cambridge University. He has worked in advertising, marketing, and TV. Stuart has authored or co-authored a number of history books in the UK, including All the Countries We've Ever Invaded and the Few We Never Got Round To.