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.
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About 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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
This book about America's first extended ground conflict with a Muslim society can't fail to resonate with current events, and Arnold seems to do a fine job of capturing the ebb and flow of how policy drove whether the American army undertook aggressive moves or not. While certainly not written to point fingers, the governorship of Leonard Wood can't help but to compare unfavorably with that of, say, John J. Pershing, if only because of Wood's grand-standing drive for distinction led him to sanction acts that are hard not to describe as genocidal.As for what would have been the other option, apart from not getting involved in the Philippines in the first place, Arnold suggests that the American invaders failed to recognize that there was more of a social structure to work with than they cared to admit. Of course, this would have meant a tolerance for the superficially Islamic tribal culture of Mindano and the Sulu Archipelago that was unlikely in an army and government in a hurry to impose order and commercial development, and had absolute conviction that they were in the right.
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