Occupational Hazards

Occupational Hazards: Success and Failure in Military Occupation

David M. Edelstein
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Occupational Hazards
    Book Description:

    Few would contest that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is a clear example of just how fraught a military occupation can become. In Occupational Hazards, David M. Edelstein elucidates the occasional successes of military occupations and their more frequent failures. Edelstein has identified twenty-six cases since 1815 in which an outside power seized control of a territory where the occupying party had no long-term claim on sovereignty.

    In a book that has implications for present-day policy, he draws evidence from such historical cases as well as from four current occupations-Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq-where the outcome is not yet known. Occupation is difficult, in Edelstein's view, because ambitious goals require considerable time and resources, yet both the occupied population and the occupying power want occupation to end quickly and inexpensively; in drawn-out occupations, impatience grows and resources dwindle.

    This combination sabotages the occupying power's ability to accomplish two tasks: convince an occupied population to suppress its nationalist desires and sustain its own commitment to the occupation. Structural conditions and strategic choices play crucial roles in the success or failure of an occupation. In describing those factors, Edelstein prescribes a course of action for the future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5856-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. 1-21)

    “History points out the unmistakable lesson that military occupations serve their purpose at best for only a limited time, after which a deterioration rapidly sets in.” General MacArthur wrote these words to the U.S. Congress less than two years after the occupation of Japan had begun.¹ In the rest of his letter, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers in Japan implored Congress to continue its support of the occupation while also noting that the occupation could not go on indefinitely without testing the patience of the Japanese population. More than fifty years later, in the midst of a fledgling...

  5. 1 WHEN TO OCCUPY: The Threat Environment
    (pp. 22-48)

    The most successful occupations in history were in many ways the most ambitious and radically transformational. They were also among the most surprising. The United States and its allies fought lengthy and vicious wars against both Germany and Japan, yet were then able to occupy both countries and transform them from fascist, militaristic, and highly nationalistic enemies into democratic and peaceful allies. There is a simple explanation for why these occupations, despite their apparent difficulty, were able to succeed while others have failed: the threat environment of the occupied territory. By “threat environment,” I mean both external threats and internal...

  6. 2 HOW TO OCCUPY: Strategies of Occupation
    (pp. 49-86)

    The threat environment of an occupied territory is not a static, exogenous factor. Whereas certain elements of threat, such as the capabilities of a neighboring state, may be particularly important for shaping the initial threat environment of an occupied territory, an occupied population’s perceptions of threat are also shaped by the strategies pursued by an occupying power once the occupation is underway.

    Occupying powers have three general types of strategies available to them: accommodation, inducement, and coercion.

    A strategy of accommodation attempts to satisfy the nationalist demands of an occupied population by incorporating elements of that population into the governance...

  7. 3 WHEN TO LEAVE: The Occupation Dilemma
    (pp. 87-135)

    In this chapter, I address a final challenge that all military occupiers face: when to end an occupation? The decision to end a military occupation is critical since occupations are, by definition, intended to be temporary. Even occupied populations that may welcome the protection offered by an occupying power desire an eventual withdrawal that leaves the population secure but also sovereign. How and when can occupying powers withdraw yet remain confident that their interests will be secure?

    Before an occupying power withdraws, it must satisfy two conditions to improve the chances of long-term success. These conditions are consistent with the...

  8. 4 WHO OCCUPIES: Multilateralism and Military Occupation
    (pp. 136-152)

    Multilateralism might be conducive to occupation success for two reasons. First, according to a prominent argument, it is increasingly accepted that states must use military force in a multilateral manner in order to be viewed as legitimate.¹ Legitimacy, in turn, makes it more likely that a state or group of states will be able to accomplish their goals without significant opposition. For instance, the eminent historian of the occupation of Japan, John Dower, argued that the U.S.–led occupation of Iraq would be less successful than the occupation of Japan because the occupation of Iraq lacked the legitimacy that multilateralism...

    (pp. 153-170)

    “A year ago we liberated them from the Fascist Monster, and they still sit there doing their best to smile politely at us, as hungry as ever, more disease-ridden than ever before, in the ruins of their beautiful city where law and order have ceased to exist. . . . The days of Benito Mussolini must seem like a lost paradise compared with this.” The prolific British travel writer Norman Lewis, serving as an intelligence officer in occupied Italy, wrote these words on September 23, 1944.¹ The allied occupation of Italy ultimately succeeded, but one can easily imagine these same...

  10. Appendix 1. CASE SELECTION
    (pp. 171-174)
  11. Appendix 2. MILITARY OCCUPATIONS, 1815–2007
    (pp. 175-192)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 193-228)
  13. Index
    (pp. 229-236)