Restoring Order: The US Army Experience in Occupation Operations, 1865 – 1952

Abstract of my dissertation on US Army occupation operations:

This dissertation examines the influence of the US Army experience in military government and occupation missions on occupations conducted during and immediately after World War II. The study concludes that army occupation experiences between the end of the Civil War and World War II positively influenced the occupations that occurred during and after World War II. The study specifically examines occupation and government operations in the post-Civil War American South, Cuba, the Philippines, Mexico, post-World War I Germany, and the major occupations associated with World War II in Italy, Germany, and Japan. Though historians have examined individual occupations, none has studied the entirety of the American army‘s experience with these operations. This dissertation finds that significant elements of continuity exist between the occupations, so much so that by the World War II period it discerns a unique American way of conducting occupation operations. Army doctrine was one of the major facilitators of continuity. An additional and perhaps more important factor affecting the continuity between occupations was the army‘s institutional culture, which accepted occupation missions as both important and necessary. An institutional understanding of occupation operations developed over time as the army repeatedly performed the mission or similar nontraditional military tasks. Institutional culture ensured an understanding of the occupation mission passed informally from generation to generation of army officers through a complex network of formal and informal, professional and personal relationships. That network of relationships was so complete that the World War II generation of leaders including Generals Marshall, Eisenhower, Clay and MacArthur, and Secretary of War Stimson, all had direct personal ties to individuals who served in key positions in previous occupations in the Philippines, Cuba, Mexico, or the Rhineland. Doctrine and the cultural understanding of the occupation mission influenced the army to devote major resources and command attention to occupation operations during and after World War II. Robust resourcing and the focus of leaders were key to overcoming the inevitable shortfalls in policy and planning that occurred during the war. These efforts contributed significantly to the success of the military occupations of Japan and Germany after World War II.

For more information on this subject and access to the complete dissertation contact me at dimarcol@aol.com.

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.

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.

Book Review: The Philippine War, 1899 – 1902

The Philippine War, 1899-1902, by Brian McAllister Linn (Lawrence:  University Press of Kansas, 2000), 427.

Brian Linn’s The Philippine War is the best history of the U.S. war in the Philippines from February 1899 to July 1902.  Linn’s work systematically covers all aspects of the war, all the major personalities, and makes a special effort to address the major myths and misconceptions regarding the war.  Linn’s history is simply the best, clear, and objectively reasoned discussion of  the military aspects of the war yet written.

One of the great values of Linn’s work is his efforts to provide balance and accuracy to the many misconceptions and myths that have been created or perpetuated by earlier histories of the war.  Thus, though conceding that Generals Otis and MacArthur were quirky personalities who made some serious mistakes, he also recognizes that each of the first two American commanders were essentially competent and in different areas, very capable.  Otis, the trained lawyer, laid the foundation of the President McKinley’s benevolence policy, while MacArthur recognized the need for and supervised the well run counterinsurgency campaign of 1901.  Linn backs up John Gate’s analysis that the major part of the insurgency was won by the time MacArthur gave up command in the Summer of 1901 and makes the point that the Samar and Batangas campaigns, the most infamous of the war, were not typical of the war in general.

Read Complete Review Here.

Book Review: Benevolent Assimilation

Benevolent Assimilation:  The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903,Stuart Creighton Miller, Yale University Press, 1982.

Benevolent Assimilation is one of the most referenced and consulted works on the American – Philippine war.  The book is a well-written general military and political history that falls into the group of new-left histories written during or shortly after the U.S. Vietnam war.  As such, it consciously evaluates the American experience in the Philippines within the context of the perceived American tragedy of Vietnam. Miller’s view is that American success in the Philippines represents the triumph of a world military power over the nationalistic aspirations of an oppressed indigenous population.

Miller’s is an important work to read and understand.  To many, the book continues to represent how the U.S. military repeatied mistakes made in earlier wars in Vietnam.  Currently,  it is also used to illustrate the flawed U.S. policy in Iraq.    For these reasons it is important that military professionals engage with Miller’s history, and are able to compare and contrast his history with the more nuanced, pragmatic, and realistic analysis of John Gates and Brian Linn.

Read Complete Review Here.

A War of Frontier and Empire: Short Review

A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine – American War, 1899-1902, by David J. Silbey (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007), 254.

David Silbey’s work is a short, clearly written over-view of the conflict between Emilio Aguinaldo’s Philippine Republic and the military forces of the United States. Silbey’s intent is to place the war accurately within its historic context. His thesis is that the war was not an insurrection or a revolt against imperialism, but rather “was classically a war, and remarkably unlike an insurgency. The two sides were both states substantially sovereign, using conventional armies, fighting conventional battles, with conventional lines and weapons.” He does not deny that the Filipinos reverted to a guerrilla war strategy in 1900, but only makes the case that the important decisive aspect of the war, to Americans and Filipinos at the time, was the conventional fighting in 1899.

Other than its thesis, which is original and probably somewhat controversial given that it stands opposite the classic military history, which focuses on the insurgency, and the new left version of America’s war in the Philippines, this book is somewhat unremarkable. The author is an associate professor of European History at Alvernia College in Reading Pennsylvania, and may be working outside of his field tackling a difficult American military history subject. His research is adequate to the task at hand –that is producing a readable general history. It does not match that of the top works on the subject –John Gates’ Schoolbooks and Krags, and Brian Linn’s The Philippine War (reviews coming soon on both of these works), but is none-the-less a good introduction to the subject.

FM 3-07 and History

The new army stability manual, FM 3-07, Stability Operations, proposes using lines of effort to visualize the execution of stability operations tasks.  Specifically the manual states, “A line of effort links multiple tasks and missions to focus efforts toward establishing the conditions that define the desired end state. Lines of effort are essential in stability operations, where physical, positional references to an enemy or adversary are less relevant. In these operations, where the human dimension typically becomes the focus of the force, lines of effort often work best to link tasks, effects, conditions, and the end state. Lines of effort are essential to helping commanders visualize how military capabilities can support the other instruments of national power.”  The history of U.S. stability operations validates the concept as expressed in current doctrine.  It also offers some insights into the issues and importance of lines of efforts and stability operations in general.

For a presentation at the National Defense University entitled “Lessons of History:  U.S. Transitions in Cuba and the Philippines,” I took the history of two U.S. stability operations and superimposed that history on the LOOs as outlined in FM 3-07.  The results confirmed that, though they did not have a formal doctrine, the leaders of previous intensive stability operations, identified and executed critical tasks that align very closely with current doctrine.

Studying the history a little more closely revealed several important insights into stability operations:

1. The major influence on stability operations policy is domestic politics.  Congressional control of budgets and the ability of the Congress to enact legislation that constrains or sets policy is a major influence on operations.  Most importantly, the popular opinion of the American people, as expressed through their votes, has a strong influence on both the Congress and the Administration.

2. The American experience with stability operations includes both Civil and Military led operations.  There was no obvious difference between the two.  However, historically, the War Department (now DOD) was the lead agency and the civil administrator reported directly to the Secretary of War.  One clear aspect of the historical experience is that there was no ambiguity regarding who was in charge.

3. Insurgent resistance to the stability operation has an important effect.  This effect is not direct.  Historically, the U.S. military has demonstrated a capability to eliminate insurgency.  The important effect is on domestic public opinion.  Insurgency’s most important capability is to influence U.S. domestic politics (see 1. above).

4.  Economics and the economic LOO are extremely important.  It is the key to long-term stability and is more important and difficult to achieve than building the institutions of governance.  The latter are relatively simple to create but will fall apart if they are not supported by a sound economy.  Often, because of U.S. domestic politics, the focus of stability operations is on economic matters that relate to the U.S. economy and diminish the importance of economic issues that relate to the indigenous population.

5.  Cultural understanding is a key to assisting the indigenous population to achieve stability.  U.S. institutions will never be a perfect fit to another culture.  A deep understanding of culture is essential to making the critical decisions required for successful stability operations.  Governance, security, and economic issues all depend on identifying policies and techniques that will work within the context of the unique operational environment.  Leaders have to decide when to leave the culturally accepted method in place; when and how to adapt a unique foreign concept to the culture; and when and how to impose a completely foreign concept on the culture.  Making the right decision is the key to success along the LOOs and cultural understanding is the key to the right decision.

6.  Finally, stability operations are inherently difficult and complex.  Each of the LOOs is related to and dependant on the others for success.  They complement each other and set the conditions for each other’s success.  The amount of time forces are engaged in stability operations permits the tasks within the LOOs to develop.  As the individual tasks are accomplished, time permits their effects to mature and reinforce other tasks.  Rushing stability operations incurs the risk that systems and institutions built as part of the stability operations will erode for lack of support in an immature environment that lacks a cultural history that supports those institutions and systems.