AMERICANS should be careful when spending money and men overseas, especially actively engaging in the Twentieth Century malarkey carried into this millennium. 

There are books – because that is why books are written, to inform and influence – every policy maker and every American should read to access and evaluate plans and policies, and influence action.

In Face of Empire, Frank Golay, tells about the American take over, missteps, gross missteps and high wire acts during its “colonial” relationship with the Philippines (1898-1946). The American perception has been confounded by World War Two: Americans and Philippinos fought the Japanese together. It is not entirely clear whether the Japanese would have invaded the Philippines in 1941, if that land were Philippine ruled and a neutral country. Before the during the War Golay gives many, substantial reasons why MacArthur earned well, the sobriquet of “Dugout Doug.” 

For 40 years Americans tried to teach the Philippine people to support a home-based democracy, and Americans failed: Missing were the infrastructure, institutions and bureaucracy Americans believed the Philippines needed. For instance one American Governor tried to get the Philippine people to accept a summer capital, which was less hot than Manila. None of the insular peoples needed a “cool” capital. He spent millions constructing roads and building edifices. Face of Empire tells of more failures. It is the experience American has throughout the Twentieth Century until today. For decades the Colonial administration was filled with sycophants, toadies, eggheads, do-gooders, pinheads and chuckleheads wanting to try out theories, conceived in academia, on a whim in Washington DC, or the fantasy of Three Cups of Tea, while all were being overpaid at home, in an exotic land or selling books and appearing on radio [and later on TV].

Additionally came the presence and input of the U.S. Military expensively delivering its two-cents worth. Early on the military boasted: “We conquered this land” [under a Republican administration]. “It’s our blood and treasure.” During the Hoover administration (1932) Republicans would only grant independence after an American overlordship of 25 or 30 years. Independence in 1960? How ridiculous is that? Unsure but aware it was stuck to the United States, the Philippines accepted MacArthur during the Thirties, who was to make every wrong military decision before December 11, 1941.

Colonialism and lingering in a country like Afghanistan, is something the United States of America is no good at doing. It is best not to be there formally. Note that The Face of Empire, as reading material, is heavy lumber.

The Quiet American, Graham Greene, mostly famously details the American involvement and experience in Vietnam, a decade before Lyndon Baines Jerk-Creep committed America to enter a Civil War on the losing side. The Quiet American does not just tell the experience of Americans who were in Vietnam, but also for Americans who was aware of that War (60,000 dead over 11 years to failing TV ratings) experienced what Graham Greene wrote about.

Garrison Tales from Tonquin, James O’Neil, Charles Royster, Ed., were written by an American who was in the French Foreign Legion (circa 1890) serving in Vietnam. He tells of the passive resistance and stubbornness of the Vietnam people bypassing French offers to “help” become colonial subjects. The Tales go beyond Vietnam. The experience of an occupied people, whose culture and society extend almost as far back as French society did, crosses borders. Any country with a settled religion, an on-going culture, a long-standing society will not be penetrated by an outside, invading force. Note after World War Two Germany and Japan surrendered “unconditionally.” Each changed its government, but the culture and the societal strictures remained mostly in tact. The changes in Labor Laws in those two countries fed into and supported the political changes.

In Burmese Days, George Orwell presents a remarkable analysis of the colonial experience: For the colonizer and the colonial it is belittling and dehumanizing to lord over the native peoples. Orwell thereby questions the conventional wisdom of The White Man’s Burden.