View Full Version : A Century of Small Wars Shows They Can Be Won

01-15-2006, 03:51 PM
Found this copy of a Max Boot NYT article (July 2003) on the USMC Small Wars Center of Excellence web page - http://www.smallwars.quantico.usmc.mil/search/BootMax.pdf.

After a series of smashing military victories, the president declared the war over. Yet far from giving up, the forces resisting American occupation switched to guerrilla tactics.

Isolated sentries were killed by assailants who pretended to be friendly civilians. Patrols in the countryside ran into booby traps. One carefully staged ambush wiped out half an infantry company. American forces responded with harsh countermeasures that led to charges of brutality.

That may sound like a portrait of today's Iraq, but it actually describes the Philippines a century ago. Having kicked out the Spanish in 1898, the United States decided to keep the archipelago for itself. Many Filipinos resisted American rule. President William McKinley thought the struggle was over by early 1900, when the regular Filipino armed forces were routed, but the resilient insurrectos proved him wrong.

The United States eventually won, but it was a long, hard, bloody slog that cost the lives of more than 4,200 American soldiers, 16,000 rebels and some 200,000 civilians. Even after the formal end of hostilities on July 4, 1902, sporadic resistance dragged on for years.

There is no reason to think that the current struggle in Iraq will be remotely as difficult. But the Philippine war is a useful reminder that Americans have a long history of fighting guerrillas — and usually prevailing, though seldom quickly or easily...

It appears Boot was off on his 2003 call that Iraq would not even be remotely as difficult as the Philippines. Still, there are lessons in each Small War we have participated in and as Max points out, they can be won.