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Modernizing Repression

Police Training and Nation Building in the American Century

Jeremy Kuzmarov

Publication Year: 2012

As American troops became bogged down first in Iraq and then Afghanistan, a key component of U.S. strategy was to build up local police and security forces in an attempt to establish law and order. This approach, Jeremy Kuzmarov shows, is consistent with practices honed over more than a century in developing nations within the expanding orbit of the American empire. From the conquest of the Philippines and Haiti at the turn of the twentieth century through Cold War interventions and the War on Terror, police training has been valued as a cost-effective means of suppressing radical and nationalist movements, precluding the need for direct U.S. military intervention and thereby avoiding the public opposition it often arouses. Unlike the spectacular but ephemeral pyrotechnics of the battlefield, police training programs have had lasting consequences for countries under the American imperial umbrella, fostering new elites, creating powerful tools of social control, and stifling political reform. These programs have also backfired, breeding widespread resistance, violence, and instability—telltale signs of “blowback” that has done more to undermine than advance U.S. strategic interests abroad.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Series: Culture, Politics, and the Cold War

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Many people have assisted me over the years in writing this book. First, I thank the archivists and staff of the libraries I visited, including the National Archives; Michigan State University archives; the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson presidential libraries; and Carlisle Barracks Military Archives; and at the National Archives ...

Abbreviations Used in Text

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-16

In a March 19, 2010, cover story, "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight," Newsweek reported that although the United States had spent $6 billion trying to create an effective police force in Afghanistan, officers could barely shoot a rifle or hit a target fifty meters away, and much of the ammunition wound up being used by insurgents. ...

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Part I. Taking Up the "White Man's Burden": Imperial Policing in the Philippines and the Caribbean

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pp. 17-20

From the Philippine Islands in 1901 to Afghanistan in 2012, police training, through a cadre of technical specialists, has been a central facet of Washington's foreign interventions. The programs evolved in distinctive ways and have been carried out by different bureaucratic agencies, including the military, the State Department, ...

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1. The First Operation Phoenix: U.S. Colonial Policing in the Philippines and the Blood of Empire

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pp. 21-36

"Let any critic try the nerve-racking sport of hunting well-armed babaylanes, pulajanes, Moros or ... ladrones [euphemisms for guerrilla bandits] before he censures the constabulary for firing quickly—and to kill."1 So wrote the soldier of fortune John R. White in Bullets and Bolos: Fifteen Years in the Philippine Islands, ...

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2. "Popping Off" Sandinistas and Cacos: Police Training in Occupied Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua

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pp. 37-52

In 1917, two years after the marines landed in Haiti to protect American business interests there, General Smedley D. Butler, one of the most decorated marines in American history, was sent to Haiti to create a police Gendarmerie that would serve the same purpose. Much like his counterparts in the Philippines, ...

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Part II. Under the Facade of Benevolence: Police Training and the Cold War in Southeast Asia from the "Reverse Course" to Operation Phoenix

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pp. 53-56

Though separated by less than fifteen years from the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Caribbean, the post-World War II American occupation of Japan and the onset of the Cold War marked the opening of an entirely new era, one in which the United States emerged as the preeminent global power. ...

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3. "Their Goal Was Nothing Less than Total Knowledge": Policing in Occupied Japan and the Rise of the National Security Doctrine

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pp. 57-78

In the late 1940s, police recruits at a training academy established by the United States in Osaka were required to watch a feature-length film on democratic policing standards titled Midnight in a Great City. The story centered on a generational conflict between a father, a veteran of the police force who clung to traditional methods,

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4. "Law in Whose Name, Order for Whose Benefit?" Police Training, "Nation-Building" and Political Repression in Postcolonial South Korea

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pp. 79-98

In July 1946, as part of an investigation by the American Military Government (AMG) in South Korea, an adviser asked the police chief in Kongju if he believed that left-wing leaders should be suppressed. The chief hesitated and asked, "As a policeman or echoing the opinion of the people?" ...

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5. "Free Government Cannot Exist without Safeguards against Subversion": The Clandestine Cold War in Southeast Asia I

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pp. 99-120

From 1956 to 1959 Jeter Williamson, the police chief in Greensboro, North Carolina, spent much of his time in the Philippines jungles, training rural police and constabulary units to suppress remnants of the Huk guerrilla movement. Like the constabulary officers of yesteryear, Williamson was willing to endure difficult field conditions ...

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6. The Secret War in Laos and Other Vietnam Sideshows: The Clandestine Cold War in Southeast Asia II

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pp. 121-140

In the spring of 1959, Paul H. Skuse, a CIA operative working undercover in Laos as a police adviser with the State Department's International Cooperation Administration (ICA), invited two Hmong chiefs, Touby Lyfoung and Toulia Lyfong, to his French-style villa outside Vientiane for dinner with the aim of securing their cooperation ...

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7. "As I Recall the Many Tortures": Michigan State University, Operation Phoenix, and the Making of a Police State in South Vietnam

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pp. 141-162

On April 19, 1965, a seventeen-year-old suicide bomber walked into the Flower nightclub in Dalat, Vietnam, seeking to emulate "heroes" who had given their lives for the anti-imperialist cause, including Nguyen Van Troi, a legendary guerrilla executed after attempting to assassinate Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge. ...

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III. The Cold War on the Periphery: Police Training and the Hunt for Subversives in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East

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pp. 163-164

In 1974, CIA operative Philip Agee published an expose, Inside the Company, which rocked the American foreign policy establishment. The book detailed Agees role in funneling money to centrist, anticommunist candidates in Ecuador and Uruguay, in infiltrating labor unions, and in collaborating with the military and secret police ...

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8. Arming Tyrants I: American Police Training and the Postcolonial Nightmare in Africa

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pp. 165-187

In 1961 the State Department issued a report outlining the importance of the police to postcolonial development in Africa. It proclaimed that in many nations, the police" [are] organized under rigid central control, live in barracks, operate in large groups, and make police stations into such formidable spots that any sane citizen wants to avoid them ...

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9. Arming Tyrants II: Police Training and Neocolonialism in the Mediterranean and Middle East

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pp. 188-207

In the mid-1950s a reporter asked a member of the Iranian Gendarmerie why he was shooting at fellow Iranians. "They are your brothers;' said the reporter. The officer replied, "Our shoes are American, our clothes are given by Americans, and our salaries are paid by them. They instructed us to fire."1 ...

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10. The Dark Side of the Alliance for Progress: Police Training and State Terror in Latin America during the Cold War

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pp. 208-231

In fall 1955 Lee Echols, a national pistol shooting champion and veteran of the police programs in Japan, received a call from his friend Byron Engle asking him to go to Bolivia as part of the 1290-d program. Without hesitation, the forty-nine-year-old customs officer from Calexito, California, accepted and began work setting up training schools ...

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Conclusion: The Violence Comes Full Circle-From the Cold War to the War on Terror

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pp. 232-252

In his trilogy on the American empire, Chalmers Johnson demonstrates how the United States has historically projected its power through a variety of means, including economic blackmail and the manipulation of financial institutions, covert operations, propaganda, arms sales, and, most important, ...

Abbreviations Used in Notes

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pp. 253-256


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pp. 257-368


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pp. 369-384

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About the Author, Back Cover

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Jeremy Kuzmarov received his PhD in history from Brandeis University in 2006 and holds BA and MA degrees from McGill University. He has taught at Bucknell University and Emmanuel College and is J. P. Walker Assistant Professor of History at the University of Tulsa. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9781613761960
E-ISBN-10: 1613761961
Print-ISBN-13: 9781558499164
Print-ISBN-10: 1558499164

Page Count: 424
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Culture, Politics, and the Cold War

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Police -- Political aspects -- History.
  • Police training -- Developing countries -- History.
  • Military planning -- United States -- History.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Developing countries.
  • Developing countries -- Foreign relations -- United States.
  • Imperialism.
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