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.

What Counts in Foreign and National Security Policy

As I recently have been watching the release of CIA memos and who said what when briefed by the CIA, I’d just like the make the point that the quality of  the analysis and recommendations of regional and global foreign policy experts; the professionalism of  generals; and the bravery of  soldiers matter little  in comparison to the ebb and flow of domestic politics.  I illustrate this in my paper on the American experience occupying the former Confederate states after the American Civil War.  The momentum of domestic politics, dominated by domestic economic and social issues, really are the main influence on the general thrust  of American foreign policy.  Domestic policy trumps national security most of the time –especially after the emotion of combat has past and the country is faced with the tough and thankless business of post-conflict operations.  Soooo… that begs the question: what is the current direction of  American domestic policy and how does that effect American foreign policy? Specifically, how does the current economic fiasco and other issues effect our military operations in Iraq and Afghansitan?

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.

Military versus Civilian Occupation Governors

Historically speaking, who is more successful at post-conflict operations –a military governor or a civilian governor?  Lets look at the record:

Philip Sheridan (Louisiana, Texas, Florida, 1865-1868 ) :/

Leonard Wood (Cuba 1899-1902) :)George

William Howard Taft (Philippine Islands 1901-1905) 🙂

 Charles MaGoon (Cuba 1906-1908 ) :/

Frederick Funston (Vera Cruz 1916) 🙂

Henry Allen (Germany 1919-1923) 🙂

Lucius Clay (Germany 1945-1949) 🙂

Douglas MacArthur (Japan 1945-1950) 🙂

Paul Brenner (Iraq 2003-2005) 😦

Published in: on February 18, 2009 at 2:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ending Phase IV Operations

The new Administration will likely oversee the end of U.S. operations in Iraq.  The end has already been set-up by the Bush Administration’s agreement with the Iraqi government to end the U.S. troop presence by 2011.  The only real questions are if the Obama Administration will move the time table up, and exactly what the U.S. presence will be, if any, after the agreed upon withdrawal.  While contemplating the nature of the post-withdrawal presence, DOD planners and policy makers should consider the examples of history.  History shows us that although hasty withdrawal from occupation operations is politically attractive, it is often improperly conceived and fatal to the objectives of the occupation.

Two Cases in point:

In 1877 the U.S. army ended occupation operations in the former Confederate States.  That same year all of the Confederate states reestablished conservative Democratic governments, in large part operated by former Confederates –the same leadership that attempted to secede from the Union and plunged the country into the deadliest war in its history.  For the next 80 years the South was ruled at the local level by the white population which actively governed to keep the former slave population subjugated.

In 1902 the U.S. army ended its post Spanish-American War occupation of Cuba and withdrew all American troops from the new Republic of Cuba.  Four years later the U.S. army returned as the  government in Cuba fell into corruption and was about to be overthrown by a popular revolt.  In 1909 the army left again and the Cubans were left to their own devices.  Republican government was never firmly established in the country which eventually came under the control of the autocratic Batista regime which fell to the Castro revolution.

In both cases the army was withdrawn not because it had completed its mission, but in response to domestic U.S. politics.  What was the army’s mission in occupation?  In the South and in Cuba the mission was achieving the U.S. strategic objective of stable democratic government.  In both cases the army withdrew after putting in place the structure of democratic government.  However, structure was not enough and was quickly  subverted.

 

U.S. Troops in Cuba circa 1902

U.S. Troops in Cuba circa 1902

In the case of the South and of Cuba, the failure of democracy  resulted in long-term adverse effects for the United States.  The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s ultimately rectified problems in the South.  Cuba remains a problem to this day.

So, as the new administration considers policy in Iraq, it must realize that a premature withdrawal from Iraq will likely result in a failed policy and future problems.  The U.S. has built the structure of democracy in Iraq.  However, Iraq as a society has no experience or tradition of democracy.  For democracy to succeed will require U.S. mentorship, active support, and most importantly, large scale engagement with the Iraqi government.  This can only happen with a long-term U.S. military presence in the country.  Even after hostilities have ceased.  Without time and continued U.S. support to ensure the viability of democracy, Iraq will follow the history of previous occupations, and previous attempts at democracy in the Middle East, and revert to chaos. 

For further reading on the subject of failed U.S. occupations see my paper on the U.S. army in Reconstruction or the following books:

 

 

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