President Barack Obama will become the first U.S. leader in three decades to attack another nation without robust international support or in direct defense of Americans, if the U.S. launches military action to punish Syria for alleged chemical weapons attacks against its own people.
A look at major U.S. military strikes as ordered by the last four U.S. presidents.
—Beirut (1982-83): U.S. troops deployed to Lebanon as part of a three-nation peacekeeping force. Reagan ordered limited airstrikes, with France, to retaliate for 1983 bombing on military barracks that killed 299 U.S. and French troops.
—Grenada (1983): Invasion by an estimated 7,000 U.S. troops and 300 Organization of American States troops after a government coup; was condemned by Britain and the U.N. but supported by six Caribbean island nations that said it was justified under the OAS charter.
—Libya (1986): Airstrikes to punish leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime for a Berlin disco explosion that wounded U.S. 79 troops and killed two. The U.K. supported the strikes but the U.N. General Assembly condemned them.
GEORGE H.W. BUSH
—Panama (1989): Invasion by more than 26,000 troops after dictator Manuel Noriega declared war on the U.S. for sanctions on its drug-trafficking government. A U.S. Marine was killed after Noriega declared war but before the invasion began.
—Iraq (1991): Invasion of Iraq with troops from 33 other counties to enforce U.N. Security Council resolution that ordered Saddam Hussein to withdraw forces from Kuwait.
—Somalia (1992): Deployed troops for peacekeeping and humanitarian aid mission under U.N. Security Council resolution.
—Iraq (1993): Launched cruise missiles into Baghdad, hitting Iraqi intelligence headquarters, in retaliation for assassination plot against President George H.W. Bush.
—Somalia (1993): Increased troop deployment for security and stability mission with 35 other nations under U.N. Security Council resolution.
—Haiti (1994) Deployed troops for peacekeeping and nation-building mission as authorized by U.N. Security Council resolution.
—Bosnia (1994-96): Launched airstrikes with NATO allies over 18 months, culminating with bombings, artillery attacks and cruise missile strikes against Bosnia Serbs, by request of U.N. Secretary General Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali and to enforce no-fly zones as authorized by at least three U.N. Security Council resolutions. Deployed troops in year-long NATO peacekeeping mission.
—Iraq (1996): Launched cruise missiles at targets in southern Iraq in retaliation against attacks on U.S. jets enforcing no-fly zones to protect Iraqi minorities as authorized by U.N. Security Council resolution.
—Sudan, Afghanistan (1998): Launched cruise missiles at terrorist training camps in Sudan and Afghanistan in retaliation against U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 220 people, including 12 Americans.
—Iraq (1998): Launched cruise missiles and airstrikes on a number of Baghdad targets to punish Saddam Hussein for not complying with U.N. chemical weapons inspections as required under U.N. Security Council resolutions.
—Kosovo: (1999): Launched airstrikes and cruise missiles over more than three months at Yugoslavian military targets, power stations, bridges and other facilities as part of NATO mission.
GEORGE W. BUSH
—Afghanistan (2001): Invaded as part of NATO mission after attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. There are currently about 100,000 troops from 48 countries in Afghanistan with the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, 60,000 of them American. By the end of this year, the NATO force will be halved, and all foreign combat troops are to leave by the end of next year.
—Iraq (2003): Invaded with “coalition of the willing” of 48 nations to overthrow Saddam Hussein. As many as 160,000 U.S. troops were in Iraq at the peak of the war and all forces withdrew in December 2011 as required under a security agreement between Iraq and the U.S.
—Libya (2011): Launched cruise missiles and commanded initial international military operation to enforce U.N. Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Libyan civil war and established a no-fly zone.
—Osama bin Laden (2011): While not an attack on a foreign nation, the raid that killed the al-Qaida leader is considered one of the Obama administration’s top military and intelligence successes and was carried out without permission from Pakistan, where bin Laden was hiding.
—Hundreds of deadly drone strikes have been carried out on al-Qaida targets during the Obama and the George W. Bush presidencies. The vast majority of them have been in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. It’s disputed whether the governments of all of those nations have given the U.S. permission for the strikes.