Archive for Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Military Matters — Fort Leavenworth scholar: Army can use lessons of Philippines in Iraq

August 22, 2007

Consider the following: The United States is engaged in what some political and media leaders call an immoral war, a war that did not have to be fought. After a relatively easy initial conquest, the U.S. Army finds itself faced with armed resistance to U.S. occupation. U.S. strategic goals have changed since the war began; domestic political opposition increases as insurgent activities prolong the war. Insurgent leaders monitor U.S. domestic politics and adjust their strategy accordingly. U.S. Army Soldiers adapt to the uncertainty and employ novel techniques to complex military and nonmilitary problems in a land where they are strangers and about which they have little understanding. Does this sound familiar? It should, but this description does not depict events from 2003 to 2007 in the Middle East-it describes events from 1898 to 1902 in the Philippines.

Those are the opening lines of the foreward to a new publication out of Fort Leavenworth's Combat Studies Institute, called "Savage Wars of Peace: Case Studies of Pacification of the Phillipines, 1900-1902" (PDF) - part of a series of papers about what the Army now calls "The Long War."

Here's the synopsis:

Robert Ramsey analyzes case studies from two key Philippine military districts and highlights several themes that are relevant to today's ongoing operations in the Long War. Between 1899 and 1902 the U.S. Army was successful in defeating Filipino resistance to American occupation using what military leaders at the time called a combination of attraction and coercion. However, success came only after initial setbacks, disappointments, and significant changes in leadership, military strategy, and political adaptation.

Ramsey, a historian at CSI, offers some lessons learned in the Philippines that could be applied to the American experience in Iraq:

  • The American approach to pacification evolved during the war.
  • Nonmilitary factors proved as important as military operations.
  • Understanding the local situation was the critical problem faced by American commanders.
  • Just as many Americans did not initially understand the relationship between the guerrilla bands and the towns, many commanders found it frustrating to attempt to pursue civil affairs work in pursuit of the policy of attraction while chasing armed insurrectos and trying to create a secure environment.

Ramsey notes that Americans have tended not to learn lessons from the Philippine insurgency. He writes: "Brigadier General James L. Collins, Jr., a former Army chief of military history, believed that if there had been organized material on the Philippine Insurrection, 'we could have saved ourselves a good deal of time and effort in Vietnam.'"

The book will be used as part of the curriculum at the Command and General Staff College - the Fort Leavenworth school in charge of training the Army's majors.

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