Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State

Policing America’s Empire is a narrative written by Alfred W. McCoy showing how The United States of America tried to use the Philippines in creating its empire outside the US. This book shows how the American government tried to keep its hold with Philippines after taking it away from the Spanish Regime. Combined with history, technology and politics, this ambitious book by McCoy tried to show how colonialism, modern technology and counterinsurgency techniques were practiced in the Philippines by the Americans before using it in their homeland.


The Policing America’s Empire is a two part book. The first part talks about the security measures and policing techniques that the American leaders and politicians tried to use in the Philippines and practiced on it before taking it back to their country. The second part looks at the possible ways of keeping insurgencies in the Philippines from surfacing over and over again.

This 600+ pages book studied and analyzed the colonial system that the American government tried to apply in the Philippines. It looked at how the US government came to develop intelligence practice leading to intense surveillance of its colonized country and its people. It also showed the government of the Philippines became a mirror image of the US government.

McCoy also wrote about how the US force tried to control the insurgents and rebels in the Philippines and how it can be seen today with what the US is doing in Iraq. This books also shows possible it is for hateful things such as scandal, discrimination, drug abuse and torture that are now seen in the Philippines could have had originated from the US.

My favorite part of this book

This is indeed a long book to read with more than 600 pages and often times it feels like it is just repeating what it already said on the previous chapters. The best part for me is the way he explains how torture among other covert operation tactics were American legacies. It seems like US leaders back in the time were manipulative, controlling and politically oriented.

There were parts in the book where he tells a certain historical event then stops there, relate it with the current situation and explains how policing leads to such event. These were among my favorite parts as well because it shows how much the author knew and studied his discourse.

Who should read this?

This is highly recommended to people who want to understand the reasons of the US government in keeping the Philippines as its colony after the Spanish-American-Filipino War. This is also recommended to politically motivated people who want get a glimpse of American policing and how they run the Philippines before and after World War II.

Alfred W. McCoy

Alfred W. McCoy is the director of the Center for SE Asian Studies and is currently holding a teaching position at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He is teaching SE Asian History. He has been studying the history of Opium Trade. Most of his current works are focused on drug trade.

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