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Thread: Iraq Isn't the Philippines

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    Default Iraq Isn't the Philippines

    30 August Los Angeles Times commentary - Iraq Isn't the Philippines by Jon Wiener.

    Does History provide any models suggesting that the unhappy war in Iraq might have a happy ending? Journalists and military experts are pointing hopefully to the U.S. war in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century as an example of how Americans can fight a tough guerrilla insurgency and eventually win.

    Max Boot, an Op-Ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times, has written that the U.S. victory in the Philippines provides a "useful reminder" that Americans can prevail in Iraq. Similar arguments have been made by Robert Kaplan in the Atlantic Monthly and by the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute.

    But the same suggestion is also made by writers who are not pro-war Republican pundits. The most prominent exponent of the Philippines model for Iraq is Thomas E. Ricks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post, whose new book, "Fiasco: The American Military Misadventure in Iraq," has been at or near the top of the bestseller lists this month. "Fiasco" shows that the war has been a disaster, but Ricks is nevertheless against pulling out American troops — because, he says, the Philippines example proves that a long occupation beginning in military disaster can end with the creation of a democratic and stable state...

    The Philippine war was part of the Spanish-American War of 1898, in which the U.S. promised to bring democracy to the Filipinos by freeing them from the Spaniards. But, as Ricks says, things there "began badly" when a powerful Philippine resistance movement challenged U.S. troops — "like Iraq in 2003." In 1902, after three years of guerrilla fighting, the United States declared victory, although American forces remained in the country for decades, administering it first as a colony and then as a commonwealth. The Philippines was granted independence in 1946 — after almost five decades of U.S. military occupation (interrupted by World War II). Today it's a functioning democracy.

    The problem with this version of history is that it doesn't look closely enough at what happened in the Philippines.

    First, it neglects the massive differences between the Philippines in 1900 and Iraq in 2006. The guerrillas in the Philippines fought the Army with old Spanish muskets and bolo knives; today's insurgents in Iraq employ sophisticated improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles that can shoot down helicopters. And combat in Iraq takes place in a fully urbanized society where "pacification" is much more difficult than in the mostly rural islands of the Philippines.

    Also, the Filipinos who fought the U.S. Army at the turn of the 20th century had no outside allies or sources of support. Today's Iraqi insurgents are at the center of a burgeoning anti-Americanism that has spread throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, with supporters in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

    And of course today there's also the media. Images of resistance fighters in Iraq, and of the victims of American attacks, are broadcast hourly throughout Iraq, Arab and Muslim countries and the rest of the world. Compared with the Philippines guerrillas of 1900, the Iraqi insurgents are much stronger and more capable and have a much broader base of support that extends beyond national boundaries...

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    Default It most certainly isn't

    Interesting op-ed, and right on the money. Trying to compare the two situations is like apples and oranges. I'm going to dig up what Kaplan has to say.

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    I tend to consider these sorts of pieces to be rather disingenious in that they always try to deny the use of any lessons that happen to predate Vietnam. There are always techniques that can be taken from earlier experiences. It's this mentality of "no old lessons are useful" that leads to the Army losing track of skills or experiences that would be useful today.

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    Default Selective History

    The professor makes many valid points, and I don't agree that the intent is to neglect the military lessons of the past, as many of the TTP from several different conflicts may be viable in Iraq. I think the key take away is that you can't compare Iraq and the Philippines; they were two completely different problem sets. You design a strategy to solve a problem based on that problem and all the factors influencing that particular problem set. I think what he is saying is that you can't blindly template the tactics used in Malaysia, Nigeria, or the Philippines because they worked there and expect them to work in Iraq. Our strategy in Vietnam was flawed, but I laugh when I hear so called experts state that the British approach in Malaysia would have been a better approach. We were not only fighting insurgents, but NVA regulars. The insurgents were more of a fifth column. A Malaysian type strategy would have been doomed to failure in Vietnam, but it was a perfect strategy for the problem in Malaysia.

    The author’s last paragraph is misleading and out of character with the rest of the article. I won't touch Iraq, but will revisit Vietnam as an example. I think we should have learned our lesson about limited wars during the Korean War, and if we weren't prepared to do all that was necessary to win in Vietnam, then we shouldn't have engaged there. I think limited war briefs well within the halls of Congress where hand wringing bureaucrats are willing to play at war, but not courageously commit. I believe in limited objectives, but not limited war. Going into Iran to rescue the hostages was a limited objective (it failed, but it still illustrates a limited objective). Going into S. Vietnam, but not being willing to defeat the state sponsor N. Vietnam was a limited war. What did President Johnson say, "they don't bomb an outhouse unless they have my permission"? We lost over 50,000 men, billions of dollars, national prestige, and the Vietnamese lost millions of people. As the author stated Vietnam is a better place now, but what he didn't say was how many thousands of S. Vietnamese were brutally murdered or put into reeducation camps, and millions opted to risk their lives to flee S. Vietnam under communist rule. Yes, S. Vietnam was not a nice place to be when we were there, but it was a hell of lot worse when we left. I think we should consider the words of a former CEO of Coca Cola who felt we could have converted Cuba and Vietnam over time, among other hostile communist nations at the time, by engaging them with trade and other business ventures. They may still call themselves communists, but in reality they would be capitalists and have a much better quality of life, a quality of life they wouldn't give up easily, meaning at that point we could have real influence without killing anyone. We would have common economic and social interests. Maybe our DIME is broke, but America's ideas are not, they work if given a chance.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 08-31-2006 at 04:50 AM.

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    Default Iraq Isn't the Philippines

    Hi:

    Greetings from the Philippines.
    And my apologies to the Mod for trying to send a reply through the report command.

    Yes, the Philippines is not Iraq.

    But some lessons can be learned from the US victory in the Philippine-American War. I am a Filipino and hence, I will never call this an insurrection.

    One factor causing the US victory was because Americans successfully won over much of the middle class at that time, who were then called the Ilustrados or "Enlightened Ones", because they were privileged enough to have been educated all the way to college--many even in Europe.

    There were many other factors, of course. But space constraints confine me to this comment for now.

    Incidentally, the Philippine revolutionary army was not that all poorly armed. It had a sizeable stock of Mausers--state of the art then and much better than the Krag. This German model served as the model for the Springfield '03.

    As they say in my country, Mabuhay, which in Spanish means "Viva"

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    Parameters, Spring '05: Lessons from a Successful Counterinsurgency: The Philippines, 1899-1902
    ...No diplomat, soldier, or pundit can know with total accuracy which
    tactics, techniques, and procedures will succeed in quelling a given insurrection. What is clear is that the odds of success decrease the further one strays from the basic, oft-tested principles of counterinsurgency: separate the population from the insurgents, give them more reasons to support the counterinsurgents, and deny the insurgents safe haven or support from any quarter. Having empirically shown these lessons in the Philippines, one might add another: empower leaders with the freedom to experiment with tactics, techniques, and procedures that achieve the mission while adapting to local conditions. It was the initiative by soldiers at different levels that derived the principles and techniques that won America’s first victory in quelling an overseas insurrection....
    Military Review, May-Jun '05: Pacifying the Moros: American Military Government in the Southern Philippines, 1899-1913
    ...Understanding past U.S. actions in the southern Philippines is important because of the region’s status as a front in the current war on terrorism. The terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf has its refuge there, and U.S. Special Forces advisers have helped the Philippines Armed Forces operate against the group. In fact, in early 2002, a joint U.S.-Philippine action on Basilan drove the Abu Sayyaf from the island, but the group remains active...

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    Hello:

    Maybe so, as Mr. Jedburgh quotes two respected military journals.

    But the Fil-American War could have lasted longer if much of the middle class then did not go over to the American side. This the Americans did by promising this class a chance to participate in the governing of the Philippines.

    The Americans also promised universal education, which they in good part fulfilled through establishment of a public school system. Spanish friars, BTW, considered educated Filipinos as threats to the established order, and caused the political persecution of many of them. This included the family of Jose Rizal, the country's national hero whose two novels and whose execution sparked the revolution against Spain.

    During the Spanish period, the highest Filipinos could go in running local affairs was forming part of the Comite de Festejos during the annual town fiesta. This was always made up of the town's leading citizens.

    Once more Filipinos prospered during the late 19th century and were able to get educated--many in Europe--such an arrangement became intolerable.

    Fast forward now to the early to mid-1980s. Without the sympathy of a significant number of the middle class--the Maoist New People's Army--which then posed as freedom fighters against the Marcos dictatorship--could not have gone that far.

    It is an open secret that a significant number of doctors and other health professionals at that time formed part of the NPA's medical corps. Lawyers helped defend captured Communists. Engineers also contributed technical skills.

    Meanwhile, Filipinos with professional skills in journalism, advertising, and PR also helped the NPA propaganda effort. After 1986, however, such support dwindled.

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    Default Thanks!

    I just wanted to thank pinoyme for bringing a local perspective to the discussion of the Philippines. If memory serves, winning the middle class (or at least trying to when one was present) was also important in many of the Marine Corps efforts in Central America in the 1920s.

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    Default Ditto...

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    I just wanted to thank pinoyme for bringing a local perspective to the discussion of the Philippines. If memory serves, winning the middle class (or at least trying to when one was present) was also important in many of the Marine Corps efforts in Central America in the 1920s.
    Same - Same in thanking pinoyme...

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    Default The Philippines: The First Iraq

    Post at the Belmont Club blog - The First Iraq:

    Although history never quite repeats itself, current events often resemble earlier occasions so closely there is a temptation to draw lessons from them. Imagine a time when America found itself in a war against a foreign foe whose strategy was to inflict a constant rate of loss on the army; invited US and British reporters to feed antiwar elements with atrocity stories; when US commanders who expected a quick war against a corrupt and oligarchic native elite found they had roused the countryside against them. Imagine a time when the issue of this war was central to an American Presidential election, caused a split in one of the major parties and planted the seeds for a world war. Not Iraq. The war was Philippine-American War and the election of 1912.

    According to the McKinley administration the enemy was not the Filipino population. It was the Spanish oppressor and later, the perfidious and parasitical indigenous landed elite. At the opposite end, "the goal, or end-state, sought by the Filipino Republic was a sovereign, independent, socially stable Philippines led by the illustrado oligarchy. ... The peasants, who provided the bulk of guerilla manpower, had interests different from their illustrado leaders." What flung the oligarchy and the peasants together momentarily was common opposition to the invading US Army. Far from being unsophisticated yokels, the strategic goal of Philippine Republic generals was to send home enough body bags to persuade the mainstream media of the day to electorally repudiate the Republican administration in Washington...
    Much more at the link...

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    Hi:

    Is it possible to delete my initial reply to the Belmont blog?

    I had done so previously while filing the earlier post in a noisy hole-in-the-wall cybercafe full of kids screaming while playing online games.

    I had realized that the post was off tangent vis-a-vis what the author truly posted.

    But what was the point of his post really?

    His dismissal of the ilustrado class--now, the Filipino middle, upper middle, and upper classes is too sweeping.

    A few corrections regarding the Filipino-American War:

    With the transfer of allegiance of most among the ilustrados to the American side, the Filipinos who remained fighting degenerated into millenarian groups.
    There no longer was a rational, coherent political philosophy to guide them against the Americans.

    When Aguinaldo was still in command, it was the ideals of the French revolution that drove the Philippine revolutionary army.

    Not too long afterwards, those who remained fighting broke up into several millineriann groups with religous overtones. Most of these groups wanted to set up a heaven on earth here in the Philippines. A good number of their leaders styled themselves as "Popes".

    How this is similar to Iraq today, I do not know. Does anybody in this newsgroup know if there are any similarities?

    Incidentally, the Belmont blogger quoted Dean Bocobo as source for some of his facts on the Philippines. He is the grandson of Dean Jorge Bocobo, first Filipino dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law.

    Bocobo's grandfather is an example of the opportunities Americans gave to Filipinos with talent. That's why many among the middle class were won over.

    Nevertheless, there is one fact I must admit. The "rough tactics"--and I am trying to be very polite-- the American Army employed against the Philippine revolutionary army would never work today if the Fil-Amercian War had been fought now, instead of a century earlier.

    And incidentally, learning about these "rough tactics" often served as the gateway to the radicalization of Filipino college students during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Among these was Dean Bocobo.

    Fortunately, he has seen the light now.

    Cheers.

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    Default Philippines vs Iraq

    Could you tell me if the Filipinos were divided or united? Could division be a factor in converting the locals in Iraq?

    I think this is why it has been so difficult in turning the middle class, or for that matter anyone in Iraq.

    Hernan

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    Default philippines is not iraq

    Hi Mr. Victory:

    The objective truth is that the Filipino leaders were divided.

    One group led by Aguinaldo and Apolinario Mabini wanted to press on. Others such as Pedro Paterno believed in going over to the American side. Paterno's group wanted annexation of the Philippines and the possibility of the country becoming a state of the United States over time. This even if it took decades.

    One word of caution. As with most Filipinos, I find it rather difficult to discuss the Filipino-American War with Americans.

    The issue that really makes me uncomfortable is that the Filipino-American War was a war of imperialistic conquest. But then, this was the Age of Imperialism.

    And, Yes, the Americans then were "naive imperialists" as one historian (or is it economic historian?) has put it. That's why Americans still enjoy plenty of goodwill here in the Philippines.


    Cheers.

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    Default Why is the NPA getting stronger

    Pinoyme,

    First I like to join the others in thanking you for sharing your perspectives with the council. Second, I would like you to share your opinion on why (according to a couple of articles I have read in the past few months) the New People's Army (communist insurgent group) appears to be gaining strength? What is their appeal to the Philippine people? Has the NPA's objectives changed over the years? Do their leaders still believe in communist economic models?

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    Default in my own opinion

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Moore View Post
    Pinoyme,

    First I like to join the others in thanking you for sharing your perspectives with the council. Second, I would like you to share your opinion on why (according to a couple of articles I have read in the past few months) the New People's Army (communist insurgent group) appears to be gaining strength? What is their appeal to the Philippine people? Has the NPA's objectives changed over the years? Do their leaders still believe in communist economic models?
    some times we are thinking of what the NPA's oblective as of now, cause we can read in some news that makes our mind think... if what is the aim of this communist group... in my own opinion, it may be depend on the leaders,

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    Default Anatomy of a Successful COIN Operation: OEF-P and the Indirect Approach

    From the November - December issue of Military Review - Anatomy of a Successful COIN Operation: OEF-P and the Indirect Approach by Colonel Gregory Wilson, U.S. Army.

    The history of insurgent conflict during the Philippines Insurrection (1899-1902), Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), and Hukbalahap Rebellion (1946-1954) shows that successful COIN operations are protracted efforts that rely heavily on indigenous security forces. Therefore, the U.S. WOT strategy should emphasize working indirectly “through, by, and with” indigenous forces and building their capacity to conduct effective operations against common enemies.

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    Default the people, not the leaders

    hackerfin,

    Thanks for your initial response, but I have read what the leaders of the NPA have stated, now I would like an insiders view (a Filippino's) opinion on why the communist doctrine is attractive? The Filippinos as a whole are well educated and worldly people, so I would assume the short falls of communism are well known, and thus relatively easy to counter with good PSYOP, yet the reports I read in one of the Asian journals stated the NPA was growing in strength.

    Admittedly the government there has done little (for numerous reasons, but primarily corruption) for their people, poverty is wide spread, and change is needed, but a communist insurgency?

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    Default regarding the npa

    Hi Mr. Bill:

    The NPA getting stronger?
    I doubt it.

    In most cases, the NPA is now more of an extortionist organization--perhaps one of the world's largest. If it can be strictly classified as a Communist insurgent group, then so can the Cosa Nostra. :=)

    Yes, it is true that there still are pockets of Maoist insurgency--particularly in
    the most depressed areas of the Philippines. And their infrastructure has taken deep roots.

    Nonetheless, several parts of the Philippines are growing economically. This is due to the fact that the country has become India's most formidable competitor with regardsto offshoring. And the remittances of Filipino guest workers abroad--Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs in local parlance--are keeping most of the masses from getting restive.

    My personal take on the situation is that the NPA insurgency should be treated as similar to diabetes. Manage it well for now with the hope that inevitably something will happen to have it cured.

    Continued economic growth will take away the NPA's appeal.

    Anyway, the Philippines has a long tradition of rural banditry--both of the social and brigand type. It has also had a long history of failed peasant revolts stretching back to the 17th century.

    It is perhaps because of this that the NPA lives on for now.

    But unlike in the 1970s and 1980s, it now has very little appeal to today's students. The middle class too is indifferent to the Maoist cause.

    Cheers and Belated Happy Thanksgiving.

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    Hello Mr. Pinoyme,

    Don't be afraid to share your knowledge. I can understand how uncomfortable it could be for Filipinos.

    Going back to the subject, were the Filipinos ethnically divided? (Absent US intervention)

    In reading America and Guerrilla Warfare from Anthony Joes, it seemed as Filipinos were not as divided as Iraqis are now and that religion was not a central problem. My point here is that despite the similarities, we can't rely completely on the Philippine-American model because of these factors.

    PS: I visit manila

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    Victory,

    I don't think you can ever rely completely on ANY comparison, since each historical event is going to have its own unique components. But it is possible (in my view) to examine a number of situations and extract things of value. For example, I think there are still lessons to be learned from Vietnam regarding ethnic divisions and the success (or failure) of COIN. And with the Philippines, we could still learn much about dealing with a hostile (generally speaking) population and ways to break up that hostility based on class.

    And pinoyme, keep posting! I find your posts very insightful regarding the Philippine experience and hope to see more of them.

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