An unanticipated byproduct of the Spanish-American War, the task of subduing and then “civilizing” the “Land of the Moros” was delegated to the U.S. Army. Working through the traditional ruling hierarchy and respecting an ancient system of laws based on the Qur’an, “Moro Province” became an autonomous, military-governed Islamic colony within a much larger, overwhelmingly Christian territory, the Philippine Islands. An initially successful occupation, it transitioned to a grand experiment: an audacious plan to transform and remake Moro society, values, and culture in an American image; placing the Moros on an uncertain and ill-defined path towards inclusion in an eventual Western-style democracy. But the Moros reacted with obstinate and unyielding resistance to what they perceived as a deliberate attack on the religion of Islam and a way of life ordained by God. This ignited a constant stream of battles and expeditions known in U.S. Army history as the “Moro Campaigns” and lasting more than a decade. In violence and ferocity they may have equaled, if not surpassed, the more famous late-19th Century Indian Wars of the Great Plains. It also led to the creation of the fabled Moro Constabulary, small contingents of native troops led by American, European, and Filipino officers. The text is supplemented by an extensive photographic gallery from the period, available for viewing online at www.morolandhistory.com.
The backdrop is a bustling, raucous, newly-prosperous nation finding its way as a world and imperial power. But with this new-found status came a near-religious belief that the active spread of America’s institutions, values, and form of government, even when achieved through coercion or force, would create a better world. A subtext is a deep and bitter rivalry between two of its most prominent players, Capt. John J. Pershing and General Leonard Wood, born only one month apart, each championing markedly opposed military philosophies. Eventually they would compete to lead one-million American “doughboys” into the cauldron of the world’s first Great War.
Few Americans are aware that a century later the U.S. military has quietly returned to Moroland, to battle “radical Islamist terrorism”; using Army Green Berets, Navy Seals, and other elite forces. It is the smallest of the fronts of the “global war on terror” and the least-covered or critically examined. It leads the reader to an obvious question: are we avoiding or are we repeating our own past?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As a person with minimal awareness of the Phillipines, apart from recent media coverage of kidnappings by Muslim extremists, I found the title of this book particularly intriguing. I wondered about the parallels that might exist between our nation's efforts in the early 1900's and what appears to be a similar quest in Iraq today so I was drawn to the topic. Having read historical fiction by Leon Uris and history by Stephen Ambrose, I found this book to be remarkably engaging. It is clear that Robert Fulton has done his homework but a fistful of facts and photographs does not a good read make. In the first of two books chronicling our involvement from 1899 to 1920, Fulton brings the characters on all sides of the story to life in a way that consistently holds the reader's attention and keeps them wondering what's coming next no small feat for a historical work. He reports a myriad of details without burying the reader in an avalanche of words and brings color to what could be considered a relatively black and white topic. Fulton's ability to observe without over editorializing was refreshing and I was able to enjoy the characters and events without having to filter through too much opinion. I also found Fulton's use of the supporting website 'morolandhistory' particularly effective. I believe this is the shape of things to come in publishing. There's so much more material that enhances what's been written in the book and I found myself rereading parts while looking at the website. This is a great idea. I hope others follow suit. Education and entertainment don't often meet but Moroland was an excellent combination of both and now I find myself looking forward to the past as I await Fulton's next offering.
The events of an insurgency from 100 years ago are captured by an author who has the talent to take historical facts and the smallest of details and transpose them into living events and characters that any lay historian can appreciate and thoroughly enjoy. Given a modern day lack of understanding of Islamic culture, the same political and military pitfalls found in Moroland are alive in today's conflicts. The interactive web site containing maps and photographs (with prompts in the text) expands each historical situation. Short explanations of weaponry and tactics are a welcome surprise to nonmilitary readers and bring them up-to-speed right when they need it. Use of current American idioms gives the narrative present day flavor and allows personal identification with historical situations. Yesterday's history has application today. A timely book!