The Moro War: How America Battled a Muslim Insurgency in the Philippine Jungle, 1902-1913by James R. Arnold
As the global war on terror enters its second decade, the United States military is engaged with militant Islamic insurgents on multiple fronts. But the post-9/11 war against terrorists is not the first time the United States has battled such ferocious foes. The forgotten Moro War, lasting from 1902 to 1913 in the islands of the southern Philippines, was the first… See more details below
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As the global war on terror enters its second decade, the United States military is engaged with militant Islamic insurgents on multiple fronts. But the post-9/11 war against terrorists is not the first time the United States has battled such ferocious foes. The forgotten Moro War, lasting from 1902 to 1913 in the islands of the southern Philippines, was the first confrontation between American soldiers and their allies and a determined Muslim insurgency.
The Moro War prefigured American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than superficially: It was a bitter, drawn-out conflict in which American policy and aims were fiercely contested between advocates of punitive military measures and proponents of conciliation.
As in today's Middle East, American soldiers battled guerrillas in a foreign environment where the enemy knew the terrain and enjoyed local support. The deadliest challenge was distinguishing civilians from suicidal attackers. Moroland became a crucible of leadership for the U.S. Army, bringing the force that had fought the Civil War and the Plains Indian Wars into the twentieth century. The officer corps of the Moro campaign matured into the American generals of World War I. Chief among them was the future general John Pershing-who learned lessons in the island jungles that would guide his leadership in France.
Rich with relevance to today's news from the Middle East, and a gripping piece of storytelling, The Moro War is a must-read to understand a formative conflict too long overlooked and to anticipate the future of U.S. involvement overseas.
"Although The Moro War covers events a century ago, those seeking to wield influence in an Islamic land today would do well to study its lessons."—Wall Street Journal
"Drawing upon contemporaneous official U.S. sources and on participants’ letters and memoirs, [Arnold] skillfully weaves riveting and vigorous descriptions of the ferocious U.S.-Moro engagements"—Journal of Military History
"The story of this relatively unknown epoch in American history has long echoes."—Shelf Awareness
“[A] lucid political and military history … a fine history of an obscure colonial war in which both sides fought bravely, suffered cruelly, often behaved horribly and accomplished little.”—Military History
“[An] excellent mixture of political and military history…Highlighting the missteps of the U.S. counterinsurgency in Moroland, Arnold offers sharp lessons for today along with an insightful, often gruesome, and timely portrait of an insurgency.”—Publishers Weekly
"A lively, well-told chronicle of a conflict that commanders in more recent conflicts could well have [learned] from studying."—Kirkus
"[A] concise and readable history...An excellent summary of a forgotten war that offers many parallels to the present."—Library Journal
“The Moro War is a superb depiction of a small war of the past that is decidedly relevant to the present. James R. Arnold is a brilliant story teller who captures the gritty reality of this forgotten war along with fascinating portraits of leaders like Leonard Wood and John J. Pershing. All of this is enhanced by vintage photographs throughout the book that illustrate Arnold's prose. Although there are few tactical lessons from this war that are applicable today, the operational lesson of putting the force out with the population to provide security was crucial to the Iraq "surge" and is at the heart of today’s campaign in Afghanistan.”—John T. Fishel, Emeritus Professor, National Defense University, co-author of Uncomfortable Wars Revisited
The United States' war in the Philippines is largely forgotten; this account, drawing parallels with more recent conflicts, should help bring it back into focus.
Military historian Arnold (Jungle of Snakes: A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the Philippines to Iraq, 2009, etc.), begins with the arrival in Manila of Gen. Leonard Wood, who had been appointed governor of Moro Province, the southernmost portion of the Philippines. The Spanish, who had governed the islands for nearly 500 years, had been able to do little with the province, where a predominantly Muslim population refused to be assimilated. Wood, like most of the Americans who would serve there, arrived with very little knowledge of his new post. The Moros, whose history was one of conflict between local leaders called datus, were wily close-range fighters whose chosen weapons were a variety of wicked blades, notably the kris, which every male carried in his sash. The American troops' superior firepower made it an unequal fight, but the intractable jungles often nullified that advantage. Arnold recounts how for 10 years, Wood and his successors, John J. Pershing and Tasker Bliss, searched for ways to pacify the Moros. The author also gives detailed accounts of the many battles. American troops faced violent attacks by individual Moros who had decided to become martyrs, killing as many Americans as possible in the process. But the Americans gradually began to gain control of the province, partly by enlisting both Moros and northern Filipinos as auxiliary troops, or "scouts." While the war as a whole was not a matter of set battles, the futility of the Moro resistance was most clearly shown in two actions—massacres, really—at Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak. Ultimately, the Moro War became the main training ground for the officers who went to France in World War I, and Arnold concludes by tracing their subsequent careers.
A lively, well-told chronicle of a conflict that commanders in more recent conflicts could well have from studying.
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Meet the Author
James R. Arnold is the author of more than twenty books, including Jungle of Snakes: A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the Philippines to Iraqknl (named one of the Best Books of 2009 by the St.Louis Post-Dispatch). He lives on a farm near Lexington, Virginia.
James Arnold is a Civil War and military historian and author of Tet Offensive 1968: Turning Point in Vietnam.
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Our book club selected this book for February and it was generally agreed to have been a good choice. I knew nothing about the Moro War before reading the book, but now have a good over view of the events and personalities involved. Many of them are to be heard of again during World War 1 and later. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in military history.
I live on the island of Mindanao so this was especially informative. The Moros have not changed all that much in the last 100 years. They do have better weapons now. The Sulu islands are still a major trouble spot. A peace agreement was signed with the government recently (again) which will grant the Moro some autonomy. I still don't go to the part of island that is mostly Muslim for safety reasons. The book is easy to read and not dull as many historical books tend to be. I read the entire book in one day