Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
Member Login

Site Notices
1/22/2020 12:12:56 PM
Posted: 7/22/2008 12:20:01 PM EST
found this on AKO, good read. Please discuss

USA Today
July 22, 2008
Pg. 11

Filipino War's Lessons For Iraq

A century ago, success seemed unlikely in an unpopular war — that is, until the tide turned. Can the shift in the Philippines show the way forward today?

By Michael Medved

The handsome young Democratic nominee is the most spellbinding orator of his generation, promising dramatic change to correct economic injustice and bring an end to a bloody, unpopular war. Republicans deride him as a showboating demagogue with scant governmental experience and place their faith in a gruff, battle-tested veteran who asks for public patience to fight the war till victory. Meanwhile, halfway around the world, anti-American insurgents have recently lost thousands of fighters to desertion and improved U.S. tactics, but they believe they can exploit their enemy's war weariness. The guerrilla fighters, therefore, intensify their gruesome attacks as part of a conscious effort to influence the November election on behalf of the Democratic "peace" candidate.

Though contemporary Americans will assume the above description applies to Iraq and the 2008 campaign, it's also an accurate summary of the situation leading up to the fateful election of 1900 and the darkest days of our four-year war against insurrectionists in the Philippines. This nearly forgotten conflict deserves renewed attention today since the parallels with our present predicament count as both eerie and illuminating.

Heavy casualty toll

For one thing, the United States lost 4,234 troops on Filipino battlefields — a close match to the raw number killed in Iraq. But with a national population less than one-fourth what it is today, the war in the Philippines took a far greater toll on the nation: the equivalent of some 17,000 battlefield deaths today. Moreover, the struggle 100 years ago claimed the lives of at least 200,000 Filipino civilians in a nation of just 7 million, for a relative impact vastly more devastating than even the darkest casualty estimates of Iraqis. Initially, the military achieved an almost effortless, "mission accomplished" takeover of the Philippines (as part of our Spanish American War) but policymakers found no good alternatives for the Asian archipelago and stumbled into a violent occupation for which they had never properly prepared. From 1898 to 1902, 126,468 U.S. troops served in the jungle struggle, but commanders always seemed short of men.

In 1900, the inexperienced but charismatic "anti-imperialist" Democrat who challenged the war was 40-year-old William Jennings Bryan, "Boy Orator of the Platte." He had emerged from obscurity (and only two brief terms in Congress) through a single electrifying speech at the Democratic convention, four years before. The tough, fight-it-out Republican was William McKinley, a hero in his youth (three decades earlier) in the Civil War.

Like 2008, the nation's leading celebrities decried the "senseless" bloodletting and focused on alleged U.S. atrocities. Mark Twain expressed disgust at tales of massacres and torture (including the infamous "water cure"), suggesting a redesign of the Stars and Stripes "with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and crossbones." He shared anti-war sentiments with former president Grover Cleveland, reformer Jane Addams, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, labor leader Samuel Gompers and others.

For the most part, America's volunteer troops maintained high morale, resenting anti-war activists back home because they understood this agitation encouraged the enemy. Maj. Gen. Henry Lawton, a Medal of Honor winner for bravery in the Civil War, grumbled that "if I am shot by a Filipino bullet, it might as well be from one of my own men … because … the continuance of fighting is chiefly due to reports that are sent out from America." Lawton received just such a fatal bullet a few weeks later when he was picked off by an insurgent sharpshooter while leading his men in the Battle of Paye.

Anti-war fever ebbs

Nevertheless, voters ultimately turned against anti-war politicians and gave the GOP ticket of McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt a resounding victory. Less than seven years later, with the insurrection crushed and the archipelago pacified, Filipinos convened an elected legislature, the first such body in Asia. In 1946, after many Filipinos fought the Japanese alongside American troops, the islands achieved final independence.

The U.S. succeeded through generous policies during the occupation as much as through courage on the battlefield. Max Boot described U.S. efforts in his superb book The Savage Wars of Peace: "Soldiers built schools, ran sanitation campaigns, vaccinated people, collected customs duties, set up courts run by natives, supervised municipal elections, and generally administered governmental functions efficiently and honestly. A thousand idealistic young American civilians even journeyed to the Philippines to teach school in a precursor of the Peace Corps."

Manuel Quezon, first president of the Philippines' "autonomous commonwealth" in 1935, once served as a major in the insurgent army and lamented the American kindness that undermined the insurrection: "Damn the Americans! Why don't they tyrannize us more?" Our failure to "tyrannize" our Iraqi allies could similarly destroy the chances of the Islamist terrorists who oppose us.

The outcome in today's Middle East remains uncertain, but our painful Philippine experience a century ago suggests that a positive result is still possible through a combination of public patience, battlefield brilliance and compassionate determination to provide better lives and freedom to the far-away people who became the war's chief victims.

Nationally syndicated radio talk host Michael Medved is the author of the upcoming book The 10 Big Lies About America. He is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors
Link Posted: 7/22/2008 12:36:56 PM EST
You're anti-Obama and that's RACIST
Link Posted: 7/22/2008 12:41:56 PM EST
Excellent article, and the Boot book mentioned is also a very important book for anyone with an interest in small wars to read.
Top Top