Book Review: Bullets and Bolos

Bullets and Bolos:  Fifteen Years in the Philippine Islands Fighting Insurgents with the Philippine Constabulary.  John R. White.  St. Petersburg, FL:  Hailer Publishing, 2007 (originally published New York: Century Company, 1928), 348 pages, $29.99.

 Bullets and Bolos is the story of one American’s experience during fifteen years (1901-1916) as an officer of the Philippine Constabulary.  John White’s narrative is a fast paced, interesting and insightful read about how a former American soldier adapts to the challenge of leading foreign indigenous troops in combat.  It almost reads like a novel, but is full of intelligent insights and wisdom regarding an important and complex aspect of counterinsurgency.

 John White’s story begins when he joins the Philippine Constabulary after his service with the U.S. volunteers  during the Spanish American War.  As that war evolves into the Philippine Insurrection, the army mustered the volunteers out.  White elected to muster out in the Philippines and seek service with the growing U.S. civil service.  He first worked as a civilian clerk for the army commissary, but then enlisted as an inspector in the new Philippine indigenous police force –the constabulary.  White describes the highlights of his next fifteen years service commanding Filipino constables as they track and fight insurgents, bandits, and Muslim warriors through swamps, jungle, mountains, and even at sea.  White quickly proved himself to be an exceptionally effective leader, and a string of promotions and more challenging assignments took him to the rank of constabulary colonel and district supervisor.

Read Complete Review Here.

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Intuitive Decision Making and Military History

One of the recent popular books that delves into the subject of critical and creative thinking is Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. This book y is a fairly in depth discussion of intuitive decision making. What is interesting is that I was not expecting Gladwell to talk about the military, but he does. The following is an excerpt from the book:

“Of all the interviews I conducted while researching Blink, the one that made the most lasting impression on me was my interview with General Paul Van Riper –the hero (or villain) of the Pentagon’s Millennium Challenge war game…. I remember being surprised when he took me on a tour of his house by the number of books in his study. In retrospect, of course, that’s a silly thing to find surprising. Why shouldn’t a Marine Corps general have as many books as an English professor? I suppose that I had blithely assumed that generals were people who charged around and “did” things; that they were men of action, men of the moment. But one of the things that Van Riper taught me was that being able to act intelligently and instinctively in the moment is possible only after a long and rigorous course of education and experience. Van Riper beat Blue Team because of what he had learned about waging war in the jungles of Vietnam. And he also beat Blue Team because of what he had learned in that library of his. Van Riper was a student of military history.”

What Galdwell is implying is that a foundation of intuitive decision making –thinking without thinking –is study and preparation, and for the military professional a major component of that study is military history.  Now to just get the senior military leadership to buy the concept.

Organizational Culture and Creating Phase IV Competence

The below paper is a historical reflection on one of the factors I believe contributed to the success of post-conflict operations during and after World War II.  Obviously there is not a direct link to Phase IV operations in either Iraq or Afghanistan.  However, I think recognizing that a) the U.S. Army did a very good job with the post WWII occupation and military government missions, and 2) that it was no accident, but rather was largely a function of very smart army officers recognizing the requirement, understanding the scope and demensions of the task, and then putting resources, talent, and time toward mission accomplishment.  The paper doesn’t suggest how to conduct current Phase IV operations or how to ensure we address them adequently in the future.  However, by highlighting that WWII success was a function of operational expereince, professional military education, and mentoring, it suggests what preconditions might need to exist for the U.S. Army to better understand and execute Phase IV operations in the future.

Occupation Army:  Institutional Culture and Successful U.S. Occupation Operations in WWII

The successful post-World War II economic revitalization and political transformation of both Germany and Japan are virtually without precedent in the history of warfare.  However, almost no agreement exists regarding the credit for these successes.  The historiography assigns credit to a variety of factors ranging from the unique character of the German and Japanese people, to the brilliance of General MacArthur, to the magnanimous of the Marshall Plan.  This paper will argue that one of the major reasons for the success of post-conflict operations after World War II was an institutional culture within the U.S. Army that recognized and accepted the absolute criticality of effective post-combat operations to strategic success.  U.S. Army leaders understood that the measure of long-term battlefield success was the ability of the U.S. to shape a favorable post-conflict political environment, and that the army had a vital if not central role in that effort.  This understanding was the result of eighty years of institutional experience in which post-conflict operations and related tasks were an accepted mission.  The army’s history helped foster a culture wherein leaders like Marshall, MacArthur, and Eisenhower placed priority, devoted robust resources, and conducted detailed planning for the occupation of Germany and Japan.  .

The U.S. Army that entered World War II had a distinct culture, which the regular army officer corps most dramatically represented.  The army’s organizational culture evolved from several factors.  The army’s history was a strong influence on the culture.  Also, the interpersonal relationships between army officers and their mentors, friends, and family which ensured that the history was passed from generation to generation was a critical factor. Another factor that effected the culture was the professional education and operational experiences of army officers, particularly in the interwar years.  Examining the careers of three key figures in World War II military occupation operations, George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower,  and Douglas MacArthur, demonstrates how the components of institutional culture combined to contribute to the success of Army occupation operations in Germany and Japan during and after World War II.

Read the Rest of the Paper Here.

Book review of two pretty good general works on the important general officers of the occupation era: “Not the President’s Men.”

Book Review: Moroland

Moroland, 1899-1906.  America’s First Attempt to Transform an Islamic Society, by Robert A. Fulton (Bend, OR:  Tumalo Creek Press, 2007), 417.

Moroland by Robert A. Fulton is a comprehensive examination of American policy toward and military operations against the Moros of the southern Philippine Islands from 1899 to 1906.  Fulton very effectively covers policies, politics, and military operations.  What emerges from his work is a fascinating tale of brilliance and opportunities lost.  It is a must read volume for anyone interested in a host of contemporary issues including counterinsurgency, clash of cultures, Islamic warrior societies, and nation-building.

Read Complete Review Here.

Visit the Author’s Website Here.