Because it was, in some ways, a precursor to the American Revolutionary War, this timeline begins with the pre-American-independence French and Indian War. American independence was formally declared during the Revolutionary War, in 1776.
Light blue areas are for pre-American involvement in wars which ultimately ended in some form of victory for the USA, with dark blue areas representing American involvement in wars that ended in a victory for the side containing the United States, alone or with allies.
Each new part of this timeline contains the end of the previous one, and all wartimes within a single portion of this timeline are shown to scale. The white areas represent periods of peacetime, and are also shown to scale. Yellow wars are those that ended in stalemates, or conditions that could simply be called a tie.
Beginning in 1945, things get complicated, with an ideological war (the Cold War) occasionally turning “hot,” as it did in Korea and Vietnam. A similar “it’s complicated” situation appears later, during the ongoing War on Terror. Also, the Vietnam War makes two new colors needed: orange, for pre-USA-involvement in wars that ultimately lead to a defeat for the USA, and red, for the period leading up to a loss for the USA which actually involved American personnel.
When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, ending the Cold War, some actually wrote of “the end of history,” as if the world had suddenly became uncomplicated. Subsequent events proved this idea to be premature.
Since the War on Terror, as well as its component in Afghanistan, is unresolved as of now (2014), a new color, green, is used here for ongoing conflicts.
Finally, it should be pointed out that the administration of George W. Bush tried to sell, to the American public and others, the idea that the 2003-2011 Iraq War was part of the War on Terror. Many Americans, however, myself included, do not accept this rationale, for no connection has been established between Iraq, on the one hand, and the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against multiple targets in the USA, on the other.