After acquiring the Philippines from Spain in 1898 and pacifying the north, U.S. forces turned to the south, dominated by the Moros, unruly Islamic tribes whose culture Americans little understood. In this excellent mixture of political and military history, Arnold (Jungle of Snakes: A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the Philippines to Iraq) stresses that America hoped to improve public health, infrastructure, and education as it had done with modest success in Cuba. Since the U.S. also intended to abolish Moro piracy, slavery, banditry, and blood feuds, problems were guaranteed. The Moro wars made the career of John J. Pershing, later America's WWI commander. Arriving as a captain in 1901, he showed surprising diplomatic skill. Some successors preferred fighting, and Pershing returned as governor in 1909 to an unstable populace. He decided to disarm every Moro male; this took years but established order. 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 that America defeated but only temporarily; Moro independence movements remain a thorn in the side of the Philippine central government. 60 b&w illus.; maps. (Aug.)
Winner of the Trefry Award for distinguished writing, Army Historical Foundation
"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
For 11 years, starting soon after the turn of the 20th century, the U.S. Army fought to defeat a determined, highly religious, technologically inferior insurgency on the island of Mindanao in the Philippine archipelago, a war largely unnoted by journalists or Americans at the time. It involved an ancient Muslim culture, seen by Americans as primitive, violent, and greatly in need of Westernization. Arnold (Jungle of Snakes: A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the Philippines to Iraq) shows how the U.S. Army, new to the role of colonial overseer of the Philippines, had to figure out how to defeat the Moros (the island's Muslim inhabitants) militarily and at the same time alter the economic and social factors (e.g., slavery and factionalism) that defined the Moro insurgency. General John J. Pershing; Leonard Wood, governor of Moro Province; and many others eventually defeated the Moro rebellion, but echoes of the uprising endure with today's Muslim resistance to central government. VERDICT Using many primary sources, this concise and readable history will be accessible to nonspecialists. An excellent summary of a forgotten war that offers many parallels to the present.—Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS
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.