The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW

Military

American Military Intervention: A Useful Tool Or A Curse?
CSC 1984
SUBJECT AREA Foreign Policy
			    AMERICAN MILITARY INTERVENTION:
			       A USEFUL TOOL OR A CURSE?
				     Submitted to
			     Mr. Rudolph V. Wiggins, Ph.D.
			In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements
			      for Written Communications
	    	   The Marine Corps Command and Staff College
			      Quantico, Virginia
			     Major W.D. Bushnell
			  United States Marine Corps
				 April 6, 1984
		AMERICAN MILITARY INTERVENTION:
		   A USEFUL TOOL OR A CURSE?
			 OUTLINE
Thesis Statement - Although military intervention is a 
	viable diplomatic tool, the United States must return
	to the use of statesmanship to effect positive, long-
	lasting international diplomacy.
I.  Introduction
	A.  Four paragraphs
	B.  Thesis statement, second paragraph
II.  Background
	A.  Five paragraphs
		1.  Geography
		2.  History
		3.  U.S. interest
		4.  Teddy Roosevelt
		5.  Jose Zelaya and President Taft
III. Intervention
	A.  Eight paragraphs
		1.  U.S. Marines land, 1910
		2.  Legation Guard
		3.  1927, another intervention
		4.  Coolidge and Sandino
		5.  Escalation
		6.  Modern guerilla warfare
		7.  Marines depart
		8.  Henry Stimson
IV.  Aftermath:  Nicaragua
	A.  Four paragraphs
		1.  First intervention, 1909
		2.  Second intervention, 1927
		3.  Sandino's demise
		4.  Somoza's rise
V.   Aftermath:  Latin America
	A.  Two paragraphs
		1.  Fear of intervention
		2.  Spread of guerilla warfare
VI.  Aftermath:  Marine Corps
	A.  Seven paragraphs
		1.  "State Department Troops"
		2.  Recruiting
		3.  Tactics
		4.  Small Wars Manual
		5.  Development retarded
		6.  Professional edge
		7.  Legends
VII. Conclusion
	A.  Three paragraphs
		1.  Military intervention is difficult at best
		2.  Lack of understanding
		3.  Other interventions
	The sucessful exercise of international diplomacy in the
twentieth century must be considered one of mankind's most
difficult tasks.  The complex nature of politics, cultures,
societies, races and ideologies have made diplomacy a game of
chess in which the nations are checkmated.  To the statesman
then lies the responsibility of sorting out the complexities.
A statesman has at this disposal a number of tools with which
to build mutually effective internation relations.  Diplo-
matic discourse, conferences, ambassadors, mediators, arbi-
trators, international courts, friendship and commerce are
but a few of the tools.  There is one other tool which is
usually spoken of as a last resort, but which has also gained
use with popular frequency - military intervention.
	For years the United Stated has prided itself on a sense
of diplomatic fair play and a genuine concern for national
sovereignty.  Americans have long felt it was proper to give
the other guy a fair shake.  American patience was long and
understanding, up to a point.  Once that point was reached,
however, American muscle prevailed.  It seems then that during
this century, American patience has shortened.  In the first
third of the twentieth century, the United States has inter-
vened militarily in the affairs of six nations in the Carib-
bean area alone.  Since 1933, the list of military interventions
keeps growing longer.  American military intervention is
becoming the foremost tool of diplomacy.  Sadly, the results
of military intevention have been negative and (even) often
counter-productive to America's best intentions.  Although
military intervention is a viable diplmatic tool, the
United States must return to the use of statesmanship to
effect positive, long-lasting international diplmacy.
	The American military interventions in the Caribbean area
between 1900 and 1933 offer the best illustrations of diplmacy
gone wrong, especially the military intervention in Nicaragua.
During those thirty-three years, the United States intervened
militarily in Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, Santo Domingo (now the
Dominican Republic), Panama and Nicaragua.  In each case, the
intervention was justified to the government of the United
States, but to no one else.
	As a result, over forty, fifty and even sixty years later,
the United States is still suffering from the damage caused
by American military intervention in those countries.  A poli-
tical writer named Eduardo Crawley wrote, "At the vase of many
U.S. foreign policy failures appears to be the persistent
belief that most American political and social models can be
transplanted into foreign systems."1 The American military
intervention in Nicaragua from 1909 to 1933 serves as the
best example of Crawley's statement, with the predictably sad
failure of that attempt.  America's military presence in
Nicaragua for those twenty-four years has caused long-lasting
repercussions in Nicaragua, Latin America and the United 
States Marine Corps.
		  BACKGROUND
	Nicaragua is one of the six countries that make up
Central America.  It is the largest and least densely popu-
lated of the six countries, about the size of the state of
Iowa or Wisconsin.  It is bordered on the north by Honduras
and on the south by Costa Rica.  Nicaragua has two coastlines,
Pacific and Caribbean, each over two hundred miles long.  The
country's geography is divided into three regions.  The western
coastal plain is the most populated and is the center for
agriculture, industry and commerce.  The mountainous central
highlands are characterized by rugged, pine-covered ridges
and scattered villages.  The third region, the lowland jungles
of the Caribbean coast, is an inhospitable area known as
"The Mosquito Coast."
	Throughout its early history Nicaragua has been a back-
water of Caribbean area.  First colonized by the Spanish,
it languished in squalor and proverty, while its indian popu-
lation was decimated by slavery and European disease.  Finally,
independence from Spain came in 1821, but Nicaragua only
embarked on an even more erratic course of despair.  National-
ism was popular, but internal squabbles began which diluted
any true efforts towards progress and prosperity.  Two political
factions rose from within Nicaragua - the Liberals, based in
the city of Leon, and the Conservatives, based in the city of
Granada.  Competition and conflict between these two political
factions would carve Nicaraguan history up to and through
today.
	The United States first became interested in Nicaragua
in 1850 when Cornelius Vanderbilt, and American business tycoon,
began to investigate the possibility of building a canal across
southern Nicaragua.  The British were also sniffing around
along the Mosquito Coast, attempting to establish trading
centers of influence there.  This British interest caused the
American government to dust off the Monroe Doctrine and become
concerned about foreign encroachment into the western hemisphere.
Meanwhile, within Nicaragua continued to languish in turmoil.  It
has been said that "no Central American nation has wasted its
natural potential so shamelessly."2
	When Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United
States in the early twentieth century, he headed a fierce
passion of nationalism which swept America.  Foreign policy
became outright imperialism.  The Great White Fleet was steaming
around the globe showing the flag, and "Big Stick" diplomacy
governed international relations.  Roosevelt also added a new
touch to the Monroe Doctrine, the Roosevelt Corollary.  Where
the Monroe Doctrine was created to discourage foreign inter-
vention into the western hemisphere, Teddy wanted it under-
stood that the United States would intervene if it felt so
justified.  Teddy Roosevelt said, "Chronic wrongdoings or
an impotence which results in a general loosening of the
ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere,
ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation."3
By 1905, the United States had intervened militarily in Cuba
and Santo Domingo.
	Nicaragua was also gaining attention because of its
Liberal president, Jose Zelaya.  Zelaya had been in office
for sixteen years, a miracle of Nicaraguan politics.  In
that time he had proved to be ambitious and aggressive,
always trying to unite the six nations of Central America
under his rule as an empire.  There was also more talk of a
canal across Nicaragua, with Panama being considered as well.
President Roosevelt had other ideas.  He wanted Panama and
he got it through intrigue, some U.S. Navy warships and a
few U.S. Marines. Zelaya was angered at Roosevelt's deception
and he began making deals with European powers for loans.
Zelaya was clearly becoming a thorn in Roosevelt's side.
By 1909, William H. Taft had inherited the troublsome Zelaya
of Nicaragua.  Finally, even the Nicaraguan Conservatives
grew tired of Zelaya and a revolt began.  Zelaya fought back
and thus provided President Taft with an excuse to end this
Caribbean irritation.  Nicaragua had finally qualified for an
energetic application of "the Big Stick." 
		INTERVENTION
	By February, 1910, U.S. Marines had landed and were in
control of the major coastal cities and the capitol, Managua.
Zelaya resigned, but he was replaced by a string of presidents
who could not seem to hold office for more than a few months.
The Marines were used to support whichever side Washington
favored.  The decision-makers in Washington felt that they
knew best what was good for this mischievous country.
	The Marines remained in Nicaragua until 1912, when most
were sent back to Panama.  A legation guard of one hundred
Marines would remain in Managua for the next thirteen years.
During that time the Marines behaved badly and caused much
animosity and resentment.  The presence of the Marines was
viewed as a hated symbol of imperialism.  Meanwhile, two
American political scientists, first Thomas C. Dawson and
later Harold W. Dodds, attempted to create a viable election
system in Nicaragua so that popular vote would rule the
country rather than revolt.  Elections were held every four
years, always supervised by the Marines.  From 1912 to 1924,
every election was won by the Conservatives, and each election
was reported to be more honest than the last.  In 1925, the
United States was finally satisfied that Nicaragua could manage
its own affairs now that it had a taste of democracy and the
Marines.  After fifteen years of occupation in Nicaragua the
Marines left for home.
	Two years later, in 1927, Nicaraguan political tran-
quility collapsed.  A revolt began to ouster the government
favored by Washington.  Once again, U.S. Marines were sent
into Nicaragua to intervene.  This time, however, the United
States was in for a big surprise.  In the past most Caribbean
troublemakers were easily handled by a show of force or by
restained use of minor force.  This was to be much different
case.
	Calvin Coolidge was then President of the United States
and his Latin American policies earned him a position of infamy..
His foremost biographer, Willam Allen White, stated,
"Historians must record the fact that Calvin Coolidge was
never well beloved in South America."4  The Liberals were
then rebelling against the Consevative government in Nica-
ragua.  The Marines arrived, took control and disarmed every-
one.  Everyone, that is, except one man.  A Liberal general
named Augusto Sandino refused to comply with anyone's wishes
but his own.  He led his small band of insurrectionists into
the mountains, vowing to rid Nicaragua of all foreign inter-
ference.  Sandino was an intense nationalist, with a burning
hatred of all foreigners.  He wanted Nicaragua to be free of
all outside influence, especially from the United States.
	The Marines at this time felt that Sandino was nothing
more than a ragged bandit, with few followers and little
spirit.  For the next five years, however, Sandino showed
the entire world that he was not a mere bandit.  From 1927
to 1933 Sandino waged war against the American Marines and
the govenment of Nicaragua.  At the height of the conflict
the United States had over 5,000 Marines in Nicaragua trying
to capture or subdue Sandino.  The reason for even being
in Nicaragua became  obscure, as American energy forcused
entirely on catching Sandino.  Suprisingly, only one major
battle was fought during this five year campaign.  It occurred
at the outset in 1927 and Sandino's forces lost.  They lost
the battle, but ultimately won the war.
	After the first battle Sandino changed his tactics.  He 
created what is know today as modern guerilla warfare.  His
forces would ambush, raid and plunder, always keeping on the
move, operating in small groups.  The Marines were in a react-
ive posture for the whole five years, chasing groups of
rebels all over Nicaragua.  The Marines never caught Sandino.
The rebel leader even traveled abroad to seek support for his
cause.  Throughout  the world, even in the United States,
Sandino was considered a hero.  He was a master of propaganda
and the image of the United States grew more tarnished as 
each year passed.
	By 1932, Americans had had enough of this intervention
in Central America.  Nicaragua was still in chaos, Sandino
was still on the loose, and American prestige had sunk to
an alarming low point.  During that five year period only
132 Americans were killed in Nicaragua, so the price was 
not too high, except no one could remember why we paid it in
the first place.5  The Marines pulled out of Nicaragua on
January 1, 1933.  Before leaving,  though, in an effot to leave
a stable government behind, the Marines created a constabulary
called La Guardia Nacionale.  It was headed by General
Anastasio Somoza.
	After the Marines had left Nicaragua for the last time,
Secretary of State Henry Stimson was to say, "Marines had come
to save lives in the civil war, they had remained to disarm
the contenders, chase bandits, and hold an election, and they
left behind in the end a country, peaceful and independent.
It was a job well done."6  Or was it?
		AFTERMATH:  NICARAGUA
	The first intervention, beginning in 1909, with its
lightning swift campaign, had restored order, prevented
possible European intervention, and allowed Nicaragua to
develop a degree of stability.  American interests, business,
people and property were protected.  But, the first inter-
vention did not provide a solution for the internal problems
that plagued the country.
	Even less successful, however, was the second inter-
vention.  It is true that Nicaragua did benefit to a degree
from Marine presence.  Roads were built, airfields were
introduced, and communications were improved.  The Marines
had stopped a bloody civil war, but they had not brought
peace.  Sandino was never stopped, never beated by the Marines.
The Marines did leave behind two other monuments to their
presence.  One was the Guardia Nacinoale and the other was an
election system.  Neither would turn out quite as expected.
	Nicaraguan politics remained distinctly Nicaraguan.
After the Marines left, politics once again turned from the
ballot to the bullet.  The Sandino problem was solved finally,
but not as any fair-minded American would expect.  Later in
1933, Sandino negotiated an amnesty for himself and his men.
The Guardia Nacionale, however, was unenthusiastic about peace
with a live Sandino.  Early in 1934, after he had surrendered,
Sandino was assassinated by memebers of the Guardia Nacionale.
Guardia Nacinoale troops then attacked and massacred the
remaining Sandinistas.  General Anastasio Somoza, the head of
the Guardia Nacinoale, then deposed the Nicaraguan president
and took control of the country himself.  Backed up by the
Guardia Nacionale, Somoza established a family dictatorship
which lasted for over forty-five years.  The same thing had
happened in 1905 in Santo  Domingo when the Marines installed
Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, who led a family dictatorship in
that country for the next thirty years.
	Many Nicaraguans felt that Somoza was a puppet of the
United States.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt even said
of Somoza, He's a son of a bitch, but he's ours!"7  Since
the Marines never had the support of the Nicaraguan people
during either intervention it is easy to place the blame for
Somoz'a ruthless dictatorship on Marine occupation of their
country.  After all, did not the Marines create the Guardia
Nacionale and place Somoza as its leader?  The answer is yes.
Even Sandino's murder has been blamed on "Yankee imperial-
ists."  The Somoza government was finally overthrown in
1979 by a Liberal faction known as "Sandinistas."  Today
the Sandinista government is now fighting an insurrection
led by a pro-Somoza officer formerly of the Guardia Nacionale.
This spirit of Sandino still lives in Nicaragua.  That same
spirit may account for the current unpopular feelings
Nicaraguans have today towards the United States.  In 1984,
is it any wonder that Nicaraguans fear another intervention
by United States Marines?
		AFTERMATH:  LATIN AMERICA
	But that of the rest of Central and South America?  How
did Marine intervention in Nicaragua affect the rest of the
hemisphere?  Many Latin Americans opposed American military
intervention from the outset.  They feared that the United 
States would find a reason to intervene in their countries,
too.  Past interventions in Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, Santo Domingo,
and Panama proved their fear.  That fear also harbored
resentment and smoldering anger toward the United States.  The
Peruvian scholar, F. Garcia-Calderon, called America's 
military involvement in Nicaragua, "a triumph of vulgarity."8
	Sandino's successful guerilla war against the American
Marines served as the model for guerilla war as an instru-
ment of social revolution in Latin America.  Sandino's
example was emulated by insurrectionists throughout the
western hemisphere.  The best example would later appear
in action with Fidel Castro in Cuba in 1959.  Newspaper
headlines today report guerilla war and insurrectionist
turmoil in many Latin American countries, with much of the
rhetoric being anti-American and often using present-day
Nicaragua as a shining example of successful social revolu-
tion.
		AFTERMATH:  MARINE CORPS
	By the time the Marines came home from Nicaragua in 1933,
they were very glad to have something else to do.  They had
been fighting in the "Banana Wars" for over thirty years.  It
was generally accepted in the period that the Marines were
the State Department's "instrument of foreign policy."  In
fact, Marines called themselves "State Department Troops."
During this period Congress, the Navy Department, the State
Department, and even the Marines viewed military intervention
as the Corps' primary mission.  In the late 1920's, two-thirds
of the Marine Corps' total strength was serving at sea or
abroad, with almost half that number in Nicaragua.  General
Smedley Butler, who fought in Haiti, Panama, Mexico and
Nicaragua, stated the point quite clearly when he said he
had spent his life making the world safe for American
investors and corporations.9
	Marines viewed the mission of colonial occupation and
pacification as a mixed blessing.  Recruiting boomed during
the "Banana Wars."  Adventure and glory awaited the young
man who dreamed of tropical excitement, of campaigns in
Central America and the Caribbean.  At one point, recruiting
was so good, men were even allowed to buy their way out or
their enlistments after serving only one year.
	Even through Marine tactics on the ground in Nicaragua
did not change during either intervention, the Marines gained
valuable appreciation for the use of automatic weapons,
close air support, effective communications in poor terrain,
proper supply planning,, and patrolling and ambush techniques.
Marine aviation, in particular, enjoyed an explosion of
acceptance and development.  It was the single most important
tactical result of the war.  Articles on these and other
topics of the day abound in the Marine Corps Gazette of the
period.  The lessons from Nicaragua were not fully compiled
and officially adopted unitl 1935, however, when the Marine
Corps published The Small Wars Manual.
	This book comes in three volumes and covers a wide variety
of subjects, including psychology, use of pack mules, care of
animals, disarming the population, organizing a constabulary
and supervising elections.  It is a valuable manual, with
most of its concepts applicable today, such as staff action
and military-civil relationships.  Unfortunately, it did not
appear until after the "Banana Wars" were over, and it was
never tested because World War II was next and it was hardly 
a small war.
	Also, during the Nicaraguan campaigns other Marine Corps
activities were curtailed.  So much emphasis was given to
Nicaragua and other States Department-supported missions that
development of amphibious doctrine and equipment was retarded.
The Marine Corps seldom participated in fleet manuvers, even
with single battalions.  The patrol was the tactical unit
of the Corps.
	The Nicaraguan campaigns did provide the Corps its only
period of serious fighting between the world wars.  This did
much to temper the Corps' professional edge as a fighting
force.  While only forty-seven Marines died in combat in the
second intervention, with even fewer combat deaths in the
first intervention, the Corps developed a taste for combat.10
In contrast with other "Banana War" campaigns, the Marines
in Nicaragua faced an adept enemy, a modern-style guerilla
effort, internationally supported, which waged a ruthlessly
effective politico-military campaign.
	Nigaragua also produces Marine legends.  Famous Marines
would rise out of the mountains and jungles of Nicaragua.  A
generation of company-grade officers would be the colonels
and generals of World War II:  Captain Merritt Edson, Captain
James C. Breckinridge, Captain Chesty Puller, First Lieutenant
Holland M. Smith, Captain Harry Lee, Second Lieutenant Roy
Geiger, and Second Lieutenant Alexander Vandergrift.  These
men later shaped the Corps from their experiences in Central
America's Nicaragua.
		    CONCLUSION
	One thing remains, however, that the Marine Corps and
the United States seem unable to grasp, even today:  Military
intervention is difficult at best.  Even the greatest power,
with the best of intentions, lacks the ultimate capability to
change the fundamental nature of internal politics in other
countries. To attempt to turn a complex problem of the head
into a simple moral question for the heart to answer is to
be naive and short-sighted.  The American military intervention
in Nicaragua was unfortunate because of all the major U.S.
interventions in the Caribbean area, it was the most difficult
to justify.  Consequently, there was good reason for its
universal condemnation in Latin America and whole-hearted
regret in the Untied States.  One would be hard pressed to
prove that the national interests of the United State were
served by the whole sorry business.
	The fact that an undeclared war was fought and lost in
Nicaragua would seem to indicate that the diplomats of the
United States lacked a clear understanding of the social,
economic and political factors which operate in Latin America.
Military interventions have seldom achieved the long-lasting
positive results intended.  More often military intervention
creates more problems than it solves.  The Kissinger report
on Central America opens with the enlightened statement that
"the best route to consensus on U.S. policy toward Central
America is by exposure to the realities of Central America."11
	Other American military interventions have followed the
Caribbean adventures of the early twentieth century.  American
troops have landed in Lebanon twice, once in 1956 and again
in 1982, the Dominican Republic in 1965, South Vietnam also
in 1965, and most recently again in the Caribbean, on the
island of Grenada in 1983.  Think of the results of the 
outcomes of those interventions.  There has not been much
good ascribed to those affairs.  The American military recog-
nizes its role as an instrument of foreign policy.  What
remains then is for the diplomats to recognize its proper
application to avoid squandering a valuable resource and risk
harm to American prestige and influence.  A homespun philo-
sopher named Kin Hubbard has a solution:  "There's some folks
standing behind the President that ought to get around in
front where he can watch them."12
		    FOOTNOTES
	1Crawley, Eduardo, Dictators Never Die (New York:
St. Martin's Press, 1979), p.9.
	2Martz, John D., Central America:  The Crisis and the
Challenge (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press,
1959), p.165.
	3Crawley, p.37.
	4Cummins, Lejeune, Quijote on a Burro (Mexico, D.F.:
La Impresora Azteca, 1958), p.147.
	5Ibid, p.239.
	6Macauley, Neill, The Sandino Affair ( Chicago:
Quadrangle Books, 1967), p.240.
	7Crawley, p.99.
	8Cummins, p.145.
	9Millett, Allan R., Semper Fidelis:  The History of the
United States Marine Corps (New York:  Macmillan Publishing
Company, Inc., 1980) p.262.
	10Macauley, p.239.
	11The National Bipartisan Commision on Central America,
Report of the National Bipartisan Commission on Central
America, (Washington, D.C., 1984), p.1.
	12Murphy, Edward F., ed., Webster's Treasury of Relevant
Quotations (New York:  Greenwich House, 1978), p.491.
		   BIBLIOGRAPHY
The American University, Foreign Area Studies.  Nicaragua,
	A Country Study.  Washington, D.C., 1982.
Bell, Belden, ed.  Necaragua:  An Ally Under Siege.
	Washington, D.C.:  Council on American Affairs, 1978.
Crawley, Eduardo.  Dictators Never Die.  New York:  St.
	Martin's Press, 1979.
Cummins, Lejeune.  Quijote on a Burro.  Mexico, D.F.:  La
	Impresora Azteca, 1958.
Denny, Harold N.  Dollars for Bullets:  The Story of American
	Rule in Nicaragua.  New York:  The Dial Press, 1929.
Macauley, Neill.  The Sandino Affair.  Chicago:  Quadrangle
	Books, 1967.
Martz, John D.  Central America:  The Crisis and the Challenge.
	Chapel Hill:  The University of North Carolina Press,
	1959.
Mecham, J. Lloyd.  A Survey of United States-Latin American
	Relations.  Boston:  Houghton-Mifflin Company, 1965.
Millett, Allan R.  Semper Fidelis:  The History of the United
	States Marine Corps.  New York:  Macmillan Publishing
	Company, Inc., 1980.
Nalty, Bernard C.  The United States Marine in Nicaragua.
	Washington, D.C.:  Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps,
	Rev. 1968.
The National Bipartisan Commission on Central Americal.  The
	Report of the National Bipartisan Commission on Central
	America.  Washington, D.C., 1984.
Schweitzer, LtGen. Robert L., Chairman of the Inter-American
	Defense Board, Speech at the Inter-American Defense
	College, Washington, D.C., on 7 March 1984.
U.S. Congress.  House.  Congressional Record.  Senator Rankin
	Speech, 2 February 1927, pages 2825-2826.
Walker, Thomas W., ed.  Nicaragua in Revolution.  New York:
	Praeger Publishers, 1982.



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list


One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias