JOHN M. GATES: THE U.S. ARMY AND IRREGULAR WARFARE, CHAPTER THREE
The pacification of the Philippines
Of the U. S. Army’s early encounters with irregulars, none is more relevant to contemporary concerns than the army’s campaign in the Philippines at the end of the nineteenth century, and my study of the Philippine-American War provided the foundation for much of my thinking on irregular warfare. I began research on the topic in 1964 when I embarked upon a Ph.D. program at Duke University. At the time the army’s successful campaign in the Philippines stood in marked contrast to its then stalemated efforts in Vietnam. I finished my thesis in 1967, and over the next two years I revised the manuscript for publication in the Greenwood Press military history series. Although I sent the completed book manuscript to the publisher in 1970, publication was delayed until 1973.1 I have no idea why publication took so long, but I have always suspected that someone at the press did not want to bring out the book until American participation in the Vietnam War had ended. Praising the U. S. Army, even for work done more than a half century before, was bound to prove controversial, as it has.
Since 1973 I have revised my views on the Philippine campaign to incorporate the work of other scholars and new research of my own. The first formal opportunity to present an updated analysis came in 1980 when I was invited to participate in the United States Air Force Academy’s Ninth Military History Symposium. I revised the symposium paper, "The Pacification of the Philippines, 1898-1902,"2 in 1985 for presentation as one of five lectures given at Obirin College in Japan, and it has been revised further for inclusion here. Even with revision, however, my interpretation of the army’s work in the Philippines remains incompatible with the popular view of the campaign as one characterized by brutality.
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The war between the United States and the forces of the Philippine revolution began in 1899 and lasted over three years. Almost every unit of the U. S. Army served in the Philippines during the conflict, as well as a number of state and federal volunteers. Of some 125,000 Americans who fought in the Islands at one time or another, almost 4,000 died there. Of the non-Muslim Filipino population, which numbered approximately 6,700,000, at least 34,000 lost their lives as a direct result of the war, and as many as 200,000 may have died as a result of the cholera epidemic at the war’s end. The U. S. Army’s death rate in the Philippine-American War (32/1000) was the equivalent of the nation having lost over 86,000 (of roughly 2,700,000 engaged) during the Vietnam war instead of approximately 58,000 who were lost in that conflict. For the Filipinos, the loss of 34,000 lives was equivalent to the United States losing over a million people from a population of roughly 250 million, and if the cholera deaths are also attributed to the war, the equivalent death toll for the United States would be over 8,000,000. This war about which one hears so little was not a minor skirmish.
Even if the number of dead had been lower, however, the war would still rank as an important conflict for it provides an example of a significant phenomenon taking place at the dawn of the twentieth century. On the Filipino side one sees a struggling anti-imperialist movement seeking Philippine independence, as well as peasants reacting to the stress of economic change. Pitted against the Philippine revolution in the beginning was the waning power of imperial Spain, a nation that some 300 years earlier had been the strongest in Western Europe but by the end of the nineteenth century had been in a period of decline for over a century. When the United States went to war with Spain in 1898, although the issues leading to war concerned Cuba, the United States soon found itself also embroiled in the quickly moving events of the Filipino revolution. The Philippine-American War thus represents an important event in the confrontation between Western imperialism and Asian nationalism, a phenomenon that would become increasingly significant in the twentieth century. The war was also an important milestone in American overseas expansion and an example of that expansion in one of its most militant phases.
As important as the conflict was, however, it has long remained one of the least understood wars in American history. In most history texts, the war is given only a few brief paragraphs, commonly treated as an appendage of the Spanish-American War rather than an event with its own significance. Thus the one volume military history published by the historical branch of the U. S. Army in the 1950s contained fewer than three pages on the war. Much earlier, in 1906 and in 1908, William Howard Taft had quashed John R. M. Taylor’s attempt to publish an officially sponsored history of the war, along with translations of a number of documents captured from the Filipino revolutionaries, because he thought that Taylor’s work might alienate people in both the Philippines and the United States.
Although the government found the Philippine-American War too controversial for an official history, the war’s anti-imperialist opponents were eager to write about it. In the decades following the war, the anti-imperialists crafted their version of the war’s history. In it the U. S. Army engaged in a brutal subjugation of the Philippine people using a scorched earth policy to pacify them, and that anti-imperialist interpretation has dominated the history of the war ever since.
Overshadowed by the First World War and affected by a lingering American embarrassment over colonialism, the Philippine-American War soon faded from view. Interest in the conflict did not revive until the United States became involved in a seemingly similar conflict in Vietnam in the 1960s. At that point, a number of scholars, myself included, began to study the conflict anew. Although a number of authors accepted the prevailing anti-imperialist view of the war, my own research indicated that the traditional interpretation needed significant revision. In general, however, the war has continued to be overlooked, with only a few lines devoted to it at the end of sections devoted to the Spanish-American War, even in relatively recent works purportedly dealing with "The American Experience at War."3
The conflict between Filipinos and Americans came as a result of hostilities between the United States and Spain. Many Americans were disturbed by the disastrous war for independence in Cuba and what they perceived to be the inhumane actions undertaken by the Spaniards to end it. In an attempt to solve the problem in Cuba, some 100 miles off the Florida coast, the United States Congress gave President William McKinley the authority he requested to use military force. That happened on 19 April 1898, and war with Spain was the immediate outcome. One result of that action was a successful attack on the decaying Spanish fleet in Manila by the Asiatic Squadron of Commodore George Dewey on 1 May.
Dewey’s victory provided President William McKinley with both a problem and an opportunity. The problem was the need to support Dewey’s victorious fleet, which controlled the waters of Manila Bay but very little of the land surrounding it. The solution to the problem was the dispatch of an American expeditionary force of some 20,000 troops to lay siege to Manila.
The opportunity was the chance to establish a permanent American base in the Far East. The opportunity came at a time when many influential individuals in the United States had been stressing the importance of overseas expansion for economic, strategic, and ideological reasons. At the time of the Spanish-American war, European nations were expanding throughout the world in a wave of imperial competition, and for some Americans the only alternative to expansion overseas appeared to be stagnation, followed by national decline. Expand or die seemed to be the only choices.
McKinley, however, was reluctant to move too quickly, for he knew that many other Americans rejected the colonial ambitions of their compatriots. Thus, although he dispatched troops to the Philippines, the President did not have a firm policy regarding the disposition of the islands. He might take a naval base and leave the Philippines in Spanish hands; he might become the champion of Philippine independence; or he might take the entire group of islands as an American colony. Much depended on the response he received from the American electorate regarding the various options.
Unfortunately for McKinley, he did not have the luxury of time in which to make a decision on the Philippines unhindered by events in the islands themselves. The War with Spain had revitalized a Filipino revolution that had only recently been thwarted by Spanish military action. In the last half of the 19th century, as a developing export economy spread through the Philippines, members of the local Filipino elite, particularly individuals educated in Europe or Manila (frequently referred to as ilustrados) had begun to agitate for reform, stimulated by the resurgence of liberalism in Spain as well as a budding Filipino nationalism.
The growing assertiveness of the ilustrado elite directly threatened Spaniards in the Philippines who benefited from their favored position as the dominant group in the colony. Particularly threatened were the members of the Catholic religious orders who had held land and exerted power in the countryside for over three centuries. As the cries for reform grew, so did Spanish attempts to suppress them.
One can only guess at the effect of social and economic change on the Philippine peasantry. The Hispanization of the Filipino elite probably increased the gulf between social classes, and the stress created by the change from a subsistence, rice-growing economy to one based on the cultivation of crops for export must have been tremendous.
Convinced that the Spanish government was not willing to undertake widespread reform, Filipinos in the Manila area began organizing themselves in a secret society, the Katipunan, hoping to achieve independence and reform through revolution. Revolutionary war began in August 1896, and when a Spanish offensive nullified early Filipino success in the area surrounding Manila, the Filipinos embarked upon a guerrilla war. Within a year, however, both Spaniards and Filipino revolutionaries were ready to negotiate a peace. As a result, Aguinaldo, who had risen to the leadership of the revolutionary movement, left for Hong Kong at the end of 1897 with a number of his associates.
As tensions between the United States and Spain mounted, revolutionary activity resurfaced in the Philippines. Dewey’s victory stimulated it further, as did his transportation of Aguinaldo back to the islands. By the time the American expeditionary forces arrived, Aguinaldo had already established a revolutionary government, with himself at its head, and had an army of some 30,000 men surrounding Manila. Filipino revolutionaries had also seized control elsewhere in the islands.
The Americans, having entered into an uneasy informal alliance with the Filipino revolutionaries, landed on June 30 and joined with Aguinaldo in the siege of Manila. Acting without Aguinaldo’s knowledge, they attacked the city on August 13, and, with the cooperation of the Spaniards who surrendered the city, the Americans occupied it, leaving Aguinaldo and his men in their trenches surrounding the city. The American action worked to further the growing suspicion and tension between the United States and Filipino forces, as did the mounting evidence that President McKinley intended to keep the Philippines.
Aguinaldo had hoped that the United States would champion Philippine independence. When Spain ceded the islands to the Americans, however, he knew that his hopes were misplaced. At the same time, however, the forces of the Filipino revolutionaries had gained control over most of the islands while the Americans held only Manila.
Although many Filipinos had already demonstrated in their fight against the Spaniards that they were willing to risk their lives for independence, the United States government was determined to establish its sovereignty over the Philippines. When neither side would compromise, tensions mounted, and on February 4, 1899, an armed clash took place between Aguinaldo’s revolutionary army and the American force occupying Manila.
A bloody battle followed in which the Filipinos suffered high casualties (perhaps as many as 3,000 killed) and were forced to withdraw. The Americans, hampered by a shortage of troops and the coming of the rainy season, could do little more than improve their defensive position around Manila and establish a toehold on several islands to the south. Although Malolos, the seat of Aguinaldo’s revolutionary government, fell to the Americans in March, major offensive operations could not begin until the end of the rainy season in November. Then, in a well coordinated attack across the central Luzon plain, American units dispersed the revolutionary army and barely missed capturing Aguinaldo.
Seeing no obstacles remaining to their occupation of the rest of the Philippines once further reinforcement arrived from the United States, the Americans concluded that the war was at an end, but when they attempted to organize and administer the territory coming under their control, they soon realized that the Filipino army had not been defeated. It had only changed its strategy. A period of extremely difficult guerrilla warfare followed in which the American hope of using the good works of an enlightened colonial government to complete the process of pacification was shattered when revolutionary terror and propaganda persuaded potential collaborators to withhold their support. Although some Filipinos cast their lot with the American invaders despite the dangers, most did not, and as the frustrations of the guerrilla war mounted, some Americans resorted to torture and brutal retaliatory measures in an unsuccessful attempt to bring a swift end to the conflict.
The guerrillas were fighting hard to influence the forthcoming presidential election in the United States, and the army could make little progress against them as long as the future of McKinley’s Philippine policy remained in doubt. Focusing on the anti-imperialist rhetoric of McKinley’s opponents, the revolutionaries concluded that William Jennings Bryan and the Democrats stood a good chance of defeating the imperialistic Republican incumbent if the war in the Philippines continued. Aguinaldo urged his followers on in the hope that an all out effort by the revolutionaries might help achieve a victory for Bryan in November.4
President McKinley’s reelection victory dealt a severe blow to the morale of the revolutionaries and provided a perfect opportunity for the implementation of a new approach to pacification. Although the army would continue to use the carrot of a reform oriented military government to persuade Filipinos to accept American rule, more emphasis would also be given to the stick. From December 1900 onward, revolutionaries captured by the Americans could expect to face deportation, internment, imprisonment, or execution. Where necessary, population would be reconcentrated around American garrisons to separate the guerrillas from the civilians aiding them. An increase in the number of American garrisons throughout the islands would improve the army’s ability to protect townspeople from guerrilla terror and intimidation, creating a climate in which Filipinos inclined to show support for the Americans could do so with greater confidence, and active patrolling by American units in the field would keep the guerrillas on the run. Swift action by military courts against the supporters, agents, and terrorists of the revolution would force Filipinos to choose between the Americans and their guerrilla opponents.
The success of the American pacification campaign was apparent almost immediately. Kept off balance, short of supplies, and in continuous flight from the army, many guerrilla bands, suffering from sickness, hunger, and decreasing popular support, lost their will to fight. By the end of February 1901, as revolutionary morale sagged, a number of important leaders surrendered voluntarily, signalling that the tide had finally turned in favor of the Americans. In March a group of Filipino scouts commanded by Frederick Funston captured Aguinaldo by a wily stratagem considered unsportsmanlike by the army’s anti-imperialist critics at home.
Funston’s triumph added momentum to the Filipino collapse and brigadier general’s stars to Funston’s shoulders. As in the past, however, American optimism was premature. Although a civilian commission headed by William Howard Taft took control of the colonial government from the military in July 1901, the army’s pacification operations continued. The massacre of forty-eight American soldiers on the island of Samar precipitated a harsh campaign there at the end of the year, and guerrillas in Batangas Province were not brought to heel until much of the area’s population had been reconcentrated and its hinterland scorched. Even after the Secretary of War declared an official end to the conflict in July 1902, Filipino guerrillas remained in the field.
The actions of guerrillas, bandits, and agrarian rebels in the years after 1902, however, never presented the colonial government with a challenge comparable to that of Aguinaldo. While units of the army worked to bring the warlike Muslims of the southern Philippines under American control, the civil government’s security force, the 5,000 man Philippine Constabulary, maintained a fitful peace throughout the islands, with only occasional aid from the army’s Philippine Scout units (totaling 5,000 men) and even less frequent help from the army’s American units (some 15,000 men). The campaign to defeat the Filipino revolutionaries and secure the Philippine colony for the United States had clearly succeeded.
How is the success to be explained? For years, most commentaries on the war focused on the atrocities committed by American soldiers. During the war, anti-imperialists accused the army of having embarked upon "a perfect orgy of looting and wanton destruction of property"5 and spoke of the "devastation of provinces, the shooting of captives, the torture of prisoners and of unarmed peaceful citizens."6 Long after the war, even highly abbreviated textbook accounts of the Philippine campaign invariably included a reference to the army’s "brutalities," and a popular history published in 1989 made the exaggerated claim that "the U. S. conquest of the Philippines had been as cruel as any conflict in the annals of imperialism."7 Descriptions of the water cure, in which the victim is held down and forced to swallow suffocating quantities of water until the desired confession or information is forthcoming, or until the victim dies or becomes too weak for the torture to continue, can be amazingly vivid, and few authors could resist the temptation to include at least a general description of the atrocity if they had the space.
During the Vietnam War a number of articles appeared which reiterated earlier anti-imperialist criticism, with references to the army’s "policy of terror" or its "standard extermination policies."8 One author even claimed that "in some applications" the American approach to pacification was "genocidal."9 While such statements highlighted the unscholarly and polemical nature of much that has been written about the Philippine war, they also gained considerable acceptance. As a result, to the extent that the educated public has any view of the war at all, it is undoubtedly that of racist American soldiers subjecting innocent Filipinos to the water cure or marching along singing, "Damn, Damn, Damn the Filipinos."10
Considerable evidence exists, however, to support the argument that atrocious acts of war, for all their widespread publicity, were neither the major nor the most important feature of the army’s approach to pacification, as the leaders of the Philippine revolution recognized at the time. They feared what they called the army’s "policy of attraction," the term used to describe such army activities as the establishment of schools, municipal governments, and public works projects. The leaders of the revolution feared that the Americans would succeed in winning Filipino acceptance of American rule through such an enlightened policy, and many guerrilla leaders ordered acts of terrorism against their own people in an attempt to counter it. Terror, however, did not prevent all Filipinos from collaborating with the Americans as the army created a positive image of the benefits of colonial rule by the reforms implemented in the occupied towns.
The reform orientation of the army’s leaders, not brutality, was the most significant element in the American approach to pacification. Literally from the moment they occupied Manila, American officers had begun efforts to reform the city’s government and improve the lives of the people in their charge, initiating their work at a time when many of them assumed that the United States would not be retaining the islands. Later, as tension between the Americans and the Filipino revolutionaries mounted, General E. S. Otis, the second commander of the expeditionary force, hoped that many of the reforms implemented by his military government would obtain Filipino acceptance of American rule and avoid war by demonstrating the sincerity of McKinley’s pronouncements stressing America’s benevolent intentions in the islands. After hostilities began, Otis continued in his belief that enlightened government was a more important tool of pacification than forceful military operations. Even when condemned by some of his own men for being too cautious, Otis persisted in a policy of pacification emphasizing good works instead of more draconian measures, leading one correspondent to remark that the Americans were "humane to the point of military weakness."11
A number of officers shared the General’s views, and as units of the army occupied territory outside of Manila, commanders organized public schools, municipal governments, public health measures, and many other projects with a reform orientation. General Arthur MacArthur, who succeeded Otis in May 1900, continued the commitment to a pacification policy relying upon the good works of the military government to bring an end to the war by convincing Filipinos that an American colonial government would have a sincere interest in their welfare and could be trusted. MacArthur consistently rejected the recommendations of those subordinates who urged him to adopt a highly repressive policy, even after he concluded that some harsher measures would be needed to break the link between the guerrillas and their noncombatant supporters. Fortunately for MacArthur, a number of officers in the field took a similar view, and during even the most frustrating period of the guerrilla war, at a time when some Americans were engaging in deplorable acts of brutality, others continued the reform-oriented work of the military government.12
Many accounts of the Philippine campaign have erred in giving the civil government of William Howard Taft credit for winning Filipino acceptance of American rule.13 In reality, although MacArthur relinquished control over the insular government to Taft in July 1901, the policies followed by the Taft government after that date were in most cases little more than a continuation of efforts initiated by the army in the previous two and a half years. The work of the civil authorities did help bring about conciliation between Americans and Filipinos, and the lure of civil government was a powerful incentive to Filipinos who wanted to be free of the restrictions of martial rule, but stories of Taft saving his "little brown brothers" from the harshness of military rule are mythical. In fact, Taft advocated a more repressive policy of pacification than that conceived by MacArthur.
Taft, not the military, pushed for the deportation of captured revolutionary leaders to Guam, and Taft, not MacArthur, wanted Filipinos refusing to lay down their arms to be "treated as outlaws and subject to the severest penalties."14 Taft even criticized MacArthur for being "much too merciful in commuting death sentences" of convicted terrorists,15 and in his private correspondence Taft showed little respect or liking for the Philippine people.16 To the extent that Filipinos were won over to the American side by the work of enlightened or shrewd colonial government, in the period before 1902 the officers of the U. S. Army deserve far more credit for the accomplishment than William Howard Taft.
Although the author of a 1980 study of American Social Engineering in the Philippines stated emphatically that "there was little relationship between the progressive movement in the United States and the policies introduced in the Philippines,"17 the work of the military government would seem to offer numerous examples of the political and humanitarian reforms that were the essence of progressivism in America. The basic assumption underlying the military government’s emphasis on education, for example, was that Filipinos must be prepared to participate in the democratic political structure that officers assumed would be established in the islands. Furthermore, the reform orientation of the army’s officers was evident before McKinley’s decision to take the Philippines and before the outbreak of war. The reform activity of the military also began too early to represent either an insincere or pragmatic response to the demands of pacification or colonial government. Instead the urge to engage in progressive reform, covered in greater detail in the following chapter, was something that the officers had brought with them from home.
That the army’s pacification efforts in the Philippines succeeded seems beyond doubt, although there remains considerable disagreement among historians regarding how those efforts should be characterized. As the war proceeded, Filipinos in all parts of the islands changed their minds and their allegiance, until finally, as one historian has observed, "virtually every member of the resistance cooperated with the Americans."18 Unfortunately, the Filipino side of the process that eventually led to such widespread collaboration is not yet fully understood, although it seems clear that the Filipino response varied considerably depending on time, place, and circumstance.
Many of the conservative Filipino elite, fearing that an independent government might be dominated by military opportunists or radical representatives of the masses, supported the Americans, in some cases beginning their collaboration even before the outbreak of hostilities. Stability and order seemed more important to them than independence. Other Filipinos, believing that successful resistance was impossible, resigned themselves unenthusiastically to an American victory. In places, members of the elite tried to maintain a posture of watchful neutrality, choosing sides only when the threat of revolutionary terror or, particularly after December 1900, of American retaliation forced them to commit themselves. Elsewhere, the desire for independence and an embryonic sense of Philippine nationalism motivated elite leaders to continue fighting against the Americans long after most Filipinos had accepted defeat.19 In general, however, members of the elite recognized that the gulf between them and their less educated, impoverished countrymen was much more difficult to bridge than that between them and their American conquerors. One by one they concluded that acceptance of an American colonial government would do more to help them retain or enhance their power and position within Philippine society than the continuation of a resistance that seemed increasingly futile.20 For dedicated revolutionaries the task of collaboration was made easier by the extremely high correlation between the reforms implemented by the Americans and those demanded of Spain by the intellectual spokesmen of the revolution. Only the Filipino desire for complete independence and the immediate expropriation of the estates of the Catholic religious orders had been ignored.21
An undeniable element of opportunism existed in the positive response of many Filipinos to the Americans. People who had sought political power or increased status in the struggle for independence and the development of Philippine nationalism found that such self-serving goals could also be achieved by cooperating with the American colonial government. Filipinos who had joined the revolution for economic reasons soon saw that collaboration with the Americans could also bring material benefits or upward mobility. As the army’s military success and the pressure of the pacification campaign increased, so did the number of opportunistic Filipinos willing to cast their lot with the Americans. Other Filipinos undoubtedly abandoned the revolution because they had grown weary of war or feared the consequences of further resistance.
The considerable friction apparent within the ranks of the revolution proved to be an important ally of the Americans in their campaign of pacification. The fragmentation within the revolution began as early as 1897, when Aguinaldo seized control of the movement from its founder, Andres Bonifacio, whose death at the hands of Aguinaldo’s supporters created the first serious division among the revolutionaries. The death of General Antonio Luna under similar circumstances in 1899 added to the tensions, as did ethnic and socioeconomic divisions within Philippine society. The arbitrary rule of Filipino military commanders in areas under their control demonstrated that a Philippine republic under Aguinaldo and his lieutenants, many of whom were from the Tagalog speaking region of Luzon, might prove no more democratic than an American colonial government. Peasants or other Filipinos expecting a social revolution were alienated by the tendency of Aguinaldo’s government to support local elites, many of whom had joined the revolution only after its success over the colonial regime of the Spaniards had been assured.22
Although tensions within the revolution were heightened by the American presence, one important division in Philippine society was masked by it, that between liberal revolutionaries seeking to enhance their political and economic power in a modernizing Philippine state and peasants longing for the stability and continuity of traditional village life. While many leaders of the revolution and their elite supporters saw themselves engaged in a forward-looking movement having as its goals such "modern" objectives as economic development, increased world commerce, and the creation of a unified Philippine state, the peasant guerrillas who followed them often sought a far different world, one rooted in a seemingly utopian but probably mythical past where life was less complex and free from the pressures and insecurities of an expanding commercial agriculture and money economy. At times the goals of the Filipino peasant, whether social revolutionary or reactionary, had little in common with the revolution of the elite, the Western educated intellectual, or the opportunist.23
As the pressures of the modern world and expanding metropolis intruded on their lives, peasants fought back, not only enlisting in the revolution against Spain and then against the Americans, but also participating in highly spiritual millenial movements or engaging in social banditry, two very common forms of resistance where peasants under stress are finally pushed to action. In the Philippines such responses had begun long before the revolt against Spain, and they continued long after the revolutionary leaders of 1896 and 1898 had joined with the Americans in the administration of the colonial government. During the Philippine-American War, the clash between tradition and modernizing tendencies, as well as that between elite and mass, formed strong undercurrents that were little understood but of great significance in undermining the strength of the Philippine revolution. The Americans, with their emphasis on progressive reform and their tendency to support the interests of the Filipino elite in its clash with the more traditional or radical peasantry, represented a haven from the vagaries of revolutionary fortune for many Filipinos.
American goals for the world in 1900 were not totally incompatible with many of the desires of the liberal revolutionaries in the Philippines, although the United States was clearly a threat to their nationalist aspirations. The intellectual roots of the Philippine revolution were in Europe, and the liberal vision of many Filipinos was shared by a number of the Americans who would eventually fight against them. That made the American task of conquest easier and the Filipino task of resistance much more difficult. The Americans could co-opt the Filipino revolutionaries because in so many areas, such as education and municipal government, American and Filipino goals were compatible.
In the 20th century, when Marxism and, later, Islamic fundamentalism replaced liberalism as the dominant ideologies of revolution throughout the world, the possibilities for cooptation decreased significantly, making successful campaigns of the kind undertaken by the Americans in the Philippines much more difficult, if not impossible. By the time of the war in Vietnam nations such as the United States would have far less in common than they once did with the revolutionaries of the world.
A second important point concerns the nature of the U. S. Army’s campaign of pacification. It was not based upon a policy of terror or brutality; it was not "genocidal." Instead, it stands as an example of an approach to counter-revolutionary warfare that seemed to have been all but completely rejected less than a century later.
Many American commanders in the Philippines never lost sight of two things. First, their goal was to obtain Filipino acceptance of American rule in a way that would gain the cooperation of the Filipino people and prevent the need to hold the Philippines through the continued use of military force. Second, to accomplish that goal the army and the colonial government had to provide acceptable political, economic, and social alternatives to those put forth by the revolutionaries. Both the compatibility of American and Filipino liberalism and the progressive orientation of the army’s officers helped the Americans accomplish their goal of gaining Filipino acceptance of American sovereignty.
Unfortunately, these two conclusions point to an interesting contradiction. If countries such as the United States have nothing in common with Marxist revolutionaries or Islamic fundamentalists, then policies such as those followed in the Philippines would appear to have little value. But the alternative–brutal repression and the attempt to solve what are really political, economic, and social problems by the exclusive use of military force–raises a serious moral problem for anyone committed to the traditional liberal vision. Can the end justify the means if the means are so violent that the end itself is destroyed in the process? The question highlights the primary dilemma facing people who would attempt to thwart revolution by any means necessary.
The Americans in the Philippines were lucky; they did not have to make the difficult choice. What they stood for, although it had its sordid racist and imperialist elements, was in sufficient harmony with the desires of many Filipinos to make their conquest and pacification possible, if not easy. Great powers seeking such ends are seldom so fortunate.
1 John M. Gates, Schoolbooks and Krags: The U.S. Army in the Philippines, 1898-1902 (Westport, 1973).
2 John M. Gates, "The Pacification of the Philippines, 1898-1902," in Joe E. Dixon, ed., The American Military in the Far East: Proceedings of the 9th Military History Symposium, U.S. Air Force Academy (Washington D.C.,1982), 79-91 & 261-264.
3 See, for example, p. 368 of Dennis M. Drew & Donald M. Snow, The Eagle’s Talons: The American Experience at War (Maxwell Air Force Base: Air University Press, 1988).
4 For a more detailed overview of the revolutionary strategy and its failure see John M. Gates, "Philippine Guerrillas, American Anti-Imperialists, and the Election of 1900," Pacific Historical Review, 66 (1977), 51-64.
5 Moorefield Storey and Julian Codman, Secretary Root’s Record: "Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare (Boston, 1902), 11.
6 Statement of Senator George Frisbie Hoar, quoted in Richard E. Welch, Jr., "American Atrocities in the Philippines: The Indictment and the Response," Pacific Historical Review, 43 (1974), 233.
7 Stanley Karnow, In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines (New York, 1989), 196.
8 Stuart C. Miller, "Our My Lai of 1900: Americans in the Philippine Insurrection," Transaction, 7, (1970), 19, and Luzviminda Francisco, "The First Vietnam: The U.S.-Philippine War of 1899," Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, 5 (1973), 12.
9 Daniel B. Schirmer, Republic or Empire: American Resistance to the Philippine War (Cambridge, Mass, 1972), 256.
10 The text this author read as an undergraduate contained such a view. See Thomas A. Bailey, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic (Boston, 1956), 629.
11 Frederick Palmer, "White Man and Brown Man in the Philippines," Scribner’s Magazine, 27 (1900), 85.
12 For both evidence of the reform activities of army officers in the provinces and the supreme importance of the individuals concerned see Brian McAllister Linn, The U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War, 1899-1902 (Chapel Hill, 1989). See also Gates, Schoolbooks and Krags, esp. 54-155. Attempts to demonstrate that the Army’s work was unsuccessful or not oriented toward reform are sometimes undermined by their own data. See, for example, Virginia Frances Mulrooney, "No Victoy, No Vanquished: United States Military Government in the Philippine Islands, 1898-1901" (Ph.D. Diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1975), chap. 5.
13 See, for example, William J. Pomeroy, "’Pacification’ in the Philippines, 1898-1913," France-Asie, 21 (1967), 444, and David Joel Steinberg, "An Ambiguous Legacy: Years at War in the Philippines," Pacific Affairs, 45 (1972), 170.
14 Taft to Root, 21 Sept. 1900, Elihu Root Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
15 Taft to Root, 31 Oct. 1900, Root Papers.
16 Peter W. Stanley, A Nation in the Making: The Philippines and the United States, 1899-1921 (Cambridge, Mass., 1974), 64-67.
17 Glenn Anthony May, Social Engineering in the Philippines: The Aims, Execution and Impact of American Colonial Policy, 1900-1913 (Westport, 1980), xvii.
18 Glenn A. May, "Filipino Resistance to American Occupation: Batangas, 1899-1902," Pacific Historical Review, 48 (1979), 554.
19 For a detailed analysis of the role of the local elite in the war see Glenn Anthony May, Battle for Batangas: A Philippine Province at War (New Haven, 1991).
20 The variation in the elite response may be seen in a comparison of Teodoro A. Agoncillo, Malolos: The Crisis of the Republic (Quezon City, 1960), 636-653; John A. Larkin, The Pampangans: Colonial Society in a Philippine Province (Berkeley, 1972), 126-127; May, "Filipino Resistance," 554-556; and Norman G. Owen, "Winding Down the War in Albay, 1900-1903," Pacific Historical Review, 48 (1979), 564-569 and 581-589. Jane Slichter Ragsdale, "Coping with the Yankees: The Filipino Elite, 1898-1902" (Ph.D. Diss., University of Wisconsin, 1974) stresses the diversity of elite participation in the Philippine revolution. For an insightful look at the long-term effects of elite collaboration with the Americans see Steinberg, "Ambiguous Legacy," 165-190.
21 A summary of the demands of the opponents of Spanish colonial rule appears in Teodoro A. Agoncillo, The Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan (Quezon City, 1956), 18-31 and James A. LeRoy, The Americans in the Philipines, I, 63-73.
22 On the death of Bonifacio see Agoncillo, The Revolt of the Masses, chaps. 14 and 15. On that of Luna see Agoncillo, Malolos, 498-539. The split between peasant social revolutionaries and the more conservative revolutionary movements headed by Aguinaldo is covered in detail in Milagros Camayon Guerrero, "Luzon at War: Contradictions in Philippine Society, 1989-1902" (Ph.D. Diss., The University of Michigan, 1977).
23 David R. Sturtevant, Popular Uprisings in the Philippines, 1840-1940 (Ithaca, 1975), focuses on the millennial aspects of the peasant response to the revolution. See esp. chaps. 5 and 6. Guerrero, "Luzon at War," 164-168, specifically rejects Sturtevant’s interpretations and argues that the peasants were social revolutionaries.
Last updated: Nov. 2002
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