Four Troop Surges: Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq
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Today some U.S. troops are coming home from Afghanistan, following the troop surge the Obama administration started there. This followed the successful troop surge in Iraq initiated by the Bush administration. Before that we had the spectacularly unsuccessful troop surges in Vietnam during the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations.
Apparently it all goes back, in American history, to the troop surge during the U.S. conquest of the Philippines (usually called either the Philippines War or hidden under the rubric of the Spanish-American War). Following the ratification of the Treaty of Paris with Spain on February 6, 1899, in which Spain sold a nation they did not possess, the Philippines, to the United States of America for $20 million, the government and people of the Philippines launched a war upon occupying American troops. The Filipinos were poorly armed (most had only bolos, a sort of machete) and had little military training, else the Americans would have been wiped out. Despite their ability to defeat the natives in any set battle, the U.S. troops (Army and Marines) were not able to hold any territory outside of Manila.
As told in Honor in the Dust by Gregg Jones [p. 165], the engineer of the original U.S. attack on the Philippines, former Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, was already angling for the Republican Party presidential nomination late in 1899. After talking to officers who had seen fighting in the Philippines, Roosevelt decided that a troop surge was necessary. He wrote to Secretary of State John Hay urging the surge and predicting political catastrophe in the 1900 elections if his advice was not followed.
At first President McKinley ignored Roosevelt's advice, but the "rebellion," or national liberation struggle, continued. Roosevelt became McKinley's Vice-presidential running mate. Many Americans opposed the U.S. becoming an imperial nation, so McKinley and company had to mischaracterize the Philippines independence movement and lie about U.S. aims in the Philippines. [Jones ignores two issues: the needs of the sugar trust and the desire of the Roosevelts & friends to use the Philippines as a domino on the way to conquest of China, Japan, Indochina and the East Asian island]
Roosevelt got his troop surge in the Philippines. Uncounted numbers of Filipinos, including non-combatants, were killed by U.S. troops, who burned whole villages and crops. Torture was used during interrogations, notably water-torture. Enemy combatants — Philippines freedom fighters — were often executed as criminals instead of being treated as prisoners of war. McKinley and Roosevelt defeated William Jennings Bryan in the 1900 election. McKinley died at the hands of an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, in September 1901. Theodore Roosevelt became President.
However, the troop surge had worked. The same parasites in Manila who had sucked up to the Spanish were quick to suck up to their American conquerors. While the insurgency never went away, morphing and splitting to this day, by 1902 it was possible to drawn down most of the surge troops.
So far we have only one good instance of a troop surge not working: the Vietnam War. The two of the main differences between Vietnam and the Philippines were that Vietnam had a long tradition of nationalism long before the attempted U.S. takeover, and the Vietnamese independence soldiers were able to procure large quantities of decent-quality arms from the Chinese and Russians.
If looks, however, like the troop surge in Afghanistan will ultimately be a failure. The Taliban have not been defeated, and almost everyone in Afghanistan now hates the American occupation. There remains to be seen who will come out on top after American troops complete their exit, scheduled for 2014. It may be that the nation goes into another war-lord era, with no central government that is truly in control of the entire country.
President Obama likes to speak of how well things have gone in Iraq, how he brought peace to that nation, and always leaves out that it was George W. Bush who made the unpopular decision to use a surge of troops to give the new, democratic-style government time to get on its feet.
In 2006 the Democratic Party won Congress with a promise of bringing our troops home. In 2008 candidate Obama indicated that those of us who hoped for peace should vote for him. He has managed to make himself both the war candidate and the peace candidate. Expect the war to expand, in the name of peace, in his second term. He will find excuses to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan and continue to use your taxpayer dollars to buy foreign mercenaries to fight U.S. wars against many of the world's peoples.
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