Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Civil insurgency, the anti-war movement, and Democratic political strategy 

More than 100 years ago, an insurgency waging war against the United States sought to bolster an American anti-war movement and the political fortunes of the opposition Democrats.

Max Boot’s very entertaining history of America’s “small wars,” The Savage Wars of Peace, contains a passage that describes extent to which the insurgency in the Philippines (1898 – 1901) understood and acted upon American presidential politics. The leader of the insurgency, a young, charismatic provincial mayor named Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, was well aware of the election of 1900:
Aguinaldo intensified his campaign in the months leading up to the U.S. election of 1900, hoping to deliver a victory for the Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan, who had proclaimed his opposition to imperialism. Some of the more outspoken American anti-imperialists even openly wished for Aguinaldo’s victory “against our army of subjugation, tyranny and oppression.” Many soldiers fighting in the Philippines were bitter about the antiwar rhetoric coming from home. “If I am shot by a Filipino bullet,” complained General Henry Lawton, who was in fact killed shortly thereafter, “it might just as well come from one of my own men … because … the continuance of the fighting is chiefly due to reports that are sent from America.”

The perceived link between the insurrectos and the Democrats backfired for both. The Republicans were able to paint their opponents as unpatriotic, and Bryan, who had actually abandoned anti-imperialism as an issue just before the election [Bryan was against the war before he was for it! – ed.], was trounced by the McKinley-Roosevelt ticket. (bold emphasis added)

There is, frankly, enough in the history of America's war in the Philippines to persuade most Americans that the "other side" has not learned the lessons of history in its conduct of or opposition to the war in Iraq. Nevertheless, the prescience of this passage is all the more remarkable in that Boot was writing in 2002, well before the present American counterinsurgency or last year’s absurd presidential campaign.


By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Tue Aug 23, 09:05:00 AM:

So let me get this straight... voicing your opposition to the war means you're helping the enemy? What if you write a piece saying the war was a stupid idea, not needed, and is being run poorly... is that helping the enemy? That's some dangerous bizarre logic going on there. So I guess when it comes to war a good American just shuts up and does what he/she's told. I don't agree. Letting a leader know he's doing something stupid, voicing that opinion, and doing something about it is what this country is all about. To me that's a true patriot.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Tue Aug 23, 10:09:00 AM:

I love it how people can rationalize that criticizing a benign government is somehow patriotic. That persons risks nothing. A patriot is somehow who puts something on the line instead of ,erely 'voicing an opinion'. We have several thousand true patriots voluntarily fighting in the ME right now.  

By Blogger Rob, at Tue Aug 23, 10:35:00 AM:

I blame Bush-Rumsfeld-Cheney. Overwhelming force was not put in place for the aftermath as the then professional soldiers demanded (the Chief of Staff and former Chief of Staff, Powell).  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Tue Aug 23, 10:44:00 AM:

I agree 100%, Rob. Powell was right on Overwhelming Force (as well as the 'Pottery Barn' rule.) The utopian vision that Iraq would quickly morph into democracy was wrong. I've supported the War, however. Saddam was a tyrant who merited removal. But that begs the question- who/what will succeed him? Probably an anti-American theocracy. We'll see.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Tue Aug 23, 10:55:00 AM:

Cakreiz, if you want to live in a country where a leader takes his country to war and any dissent is stomped out, I'm sure there are a lot of third-world countries that would love to have you as a citizen. In this one, war is debated and criticisms of the war will not be silenced by the irrational arguement that anti-war is anti-country or anti-war is anti-soldier. It is patriotic to stand up for what you believe and attempting to steer the country in the direction you think it needs to go. Sitting on the sidelines and letting the government free reign is unpatriotic. Are you suggesting that only soldiers should decided if we should go to war? Are only soldiers patriotic? What about the soldiers who are against the war? Are they unpatriotic? Putting your life on the line is not the sole requisite for being patriotic.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Tue Aug 23, 11:25:00 AM:

Which country are you talking about? (that is "where dissent is stomped out.") You're kidding, right? Exactly where is the 'stomping' occurring? I read online dissent daily. Further, there was an election held and the prez's opponent argued against the War. He lost. Was he silenced? No. Are you silenced? No. You have the right to be heard- you don't have the right to win. As for soldiers against the War, they volunteered; they weren't drafted.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Tue Aug 23, 11:55:00 AM:

You're confusing the distinction between being a citizen (and exercising the concomitant rights that go with it) and being a patriot. Don't delude yourself into thinking that carping with a keyboard elevates you to the status of patriot. It doesn't.  

By Blogger viking kaj, at Tue Aug 23, 01:23:00 PM:

Fifth columns have always been around so there should be no shock here. The Madrid bombings actually appeared to have worked on this score. And the Dems lack of a coherent policy on Iraq shouldn't surprise anyone, neither Kerry nor Gore seemed to readily distinguishable from the nearest EGGO on almost any issue. It's called leadership when you actually come up with your own ideas as opposed to reacting to the latest poll.

There is more of a problem when Republicans start to pick the failure to have a coherent exit strategy as an issue for the next election. Nixon didn't cause the issues within the Democratic party in '68, LBJ got blitzed by dissention in his own party.

Don't know if anyone caught Chuck Hagel (two purple hearts in nam) on ABC's "This Week" last weekend, but it seems Bush is increasingly vulnerable on the War in Iraq. It would appear that some of the Reprublican candidates for 2008 are starting to distance themselves from him. McCain is another you have to watch. This is probably a bigger issue for the Republicans in terms of what side of the issue you come down on.

Btw, a lot of the things I am reading and listening to these days are saying that a pluralistic democracy in a unified Iraq is probably impossible to implement. So the exit strategy, not unlike the post victory stablization strategy, has not been well thought out. Increasingly it is looking like we will have to "balkanize" Iraq if we are to obtain stable government in the three major blocs.

If anything it is the lack of a coherent, well thought out exit strategy that will kill Bush and his legacy. Keeping 100,000 Americans in Iraq for the next five years is most likely not an option.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Tue Aug 23, 01:42:00 PM:

I never said blogging is patriotic and I never referred to myself in those terms either. So the personal jab is very pathetic and unwarranted. And if you don't know of countries where dissent is stomped out you should perhaps remove your head from your ass and take a look at the world around you. And what the hell is the "they volunteered" argument come from. That's has nothing to do with what I was talking about. It's sounds like your spewing the standard "talking points" again even when they don't really make sense.

Yes, no one was silenced, it is America. But that is exactly the intent of the "anti-war is anti-American" arguement. You're trying to shut people up. I don't elevate spewing crap on the internet as being patriotic, but I do view trying to shame people into silence as being un-patriotic.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Tue Aug 23, 01:46:00 PM:

P.S. Viking I agree with your comment, and I agree with your view on the Democrats lack of a coherent policy on Iraq  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Tue Aug 23, 02:59:00 PM:

I don't spew talking points- I supported pre-war Powell's "no invasion" advice. And of course I know of countries where dissent is quashed (Saddam's Iraq, for one). Our country isn't one of the quashers. Your first comment said that someone who voices his opinion against the War is a true patriot. Now you seem to be backtracking. Which is it?  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Tue Aug 23, 03:02:00 PM:

Viking- you're correct about the Dem's division in '68. Bush isn't there yet- he's got one Rep Senator dissenting. Sen McCain hasn't come out for withdrawal. Bush has a long way to go to become LBJ. I agree that a unified Iraq is probably unlikely. Unfortunately, it's looking increasingly like an Islamic theocracy. But it's still early... we'll see.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Tue Aug 23, 03:30:00 PM:

You completely missed my point about leaders quashing dissent. I meant it in terms of not questioning your leaders.

About being a patriot, I said, "Letting a leader know he's doing something stupid, voicing that opinion, and doing something about it is what this country is all about. To me that's a true patriot."

It may be a bit overdramatic, but it's true. That was to counter the arguement that those who are against the war are unpatriotic and helping the enemy. I think supporting a war just because a Republican president came up with the idea isn't patriotic. It's putting party before country. Not questioning an administration's policy for fear of being chastised is unpatriotic.

I feel those who fight against the war are taking an unpopular stand and a hell of a lot of crap from conservatives, and they do it because they truly believe it is the best thing for our country. That is patriotic and it pisses me off when hawks call them traitors. Anti-war activists' lives would be a lot easier if they just worked their jobs, came home, plop in front of the tube, and watch it all on CNN. You may not agree, and I don't agree with pulling out immediately or even making a timetable, but to call them traitors and anti-American is incredibly lame.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Tue Aug 23, 03:36:00 PM:

I don't think that voicing an anti-war opinion makes you a traitor- that's silly. But I don't think your anti-war opinion makes you a patriot either. Since Bush's polling has fallen below 40%, I seriously doubt if anti-war opinions are jeopardizing people's lives. Frankly, much of your argument sounds hysterical. Folks aren't being rounded up and prosecuted... everything's okay.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Tue Aug 23, 03:56:00 PM:

Whauuut? Dude have you been reading what I've written? That's not at all what I have said.

In my original comment I said, "if you want to live in a country where a leader takes his country to war and any dissent is stomped out, I'm sure there are a lot of third-world countries that would love to have you as a citizen." That was a snippy way of saying in America we can question a president during war. I wasn't saying that America is quashing anti-war protestors rights.

Folks aren't being rounded up and prosecuted. But anti-war activists are being constantly labeled as traitors and tools by conservatives, for being outspoken against the war. Someone who truly cares about his country questions his govornment even in a time of war. That's all.

Branding anti-war activists as traitors is what started this whole thing. Read Tigerhawks post. It's about how insugents used anti-war activists as political tools as if they're stupid or hate this country. . Ugh... all I was trying to say is that it's wrong.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Tue Aug 23, 04:00:00 PM:

Guys - Bush isn't running for office anymore. He needn't give a hoot about polls. I have no idea why anybody cares. He's not going to be run out of office.

Opposing a war once it starts is, frankly, unpatriotic. Once the argument has been decided, by Congressional authority, by elections, the carping should stop. Once the fighting starts, a patriot supports victory, period. Everybody else is full of it. You want to oppose the US war in Iraq? You don't merit being lauded for patriotism...sorry. That's completely asinine. Those who want to whine on in endless debate about the onset of war, get on with your life. Do something productive. Many are rank pacifists who oppose any and every war. Fine. Whatever.

But please, don't oppose our efforts in Iraq to remove a brutal tyrant and stabilize the country in the war's aftermath and then try to claim the mantle of patriot. Chutzpah of the highest order.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Tue Aug 23, 04:09:00 PM:

Cardinalpark, that's exactly the attitude that worries me. War supporters don't have a monopoly on patriotism. Blindly following a president into a war, not questioning how he's handling it, not questioning the "reasons" for going to war doesn't make you a patriot. It makes you a sucker. It's easy to slap a yellow ribbon on your car and pretend you're more than you are, but you're no patriot either. You're a Republican lackey, and that attitude is what's going to allow this president or any future president to steer our country off a cliff.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Tue Aug 23, 04:15:00 PM:

So I go off for eight hours wandering around the Adirondacks and buying factory outlet duds in Lake Placid, and all heck breaks loose. Heh.

Catchy, I love you like a brother, but you jumped to a heck of a conclusion in your first comment. I actually said nothing about Iraq, other than to observe that each side in the debate is likely to accuse the other of ignoring the lessons of history. I simply thought that the interaction between the political strategy of the insurgents and the Democrats shifting position in the election of 1900 was interesting, in light of what happened in 2004. Boot's observations might have been dismissed as cherry-picking of the historical record had he written them in 2005, but quite remarkable for 2002.

All of this has inspired me to write a post on the propriety of different types of dissent during war. That should be grist for the comments thread. Coming soon.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Tue Aug 23, 04:25:00 PM:

Sorry Tigerhawk, I alway assume the worst. Just stirring up trouble here at your blog. Regardless of how I sound on my comments I do enjoy reading it and discovering that I probably have more in common than not in common with most of your bloggers. I just always seem impelled to comment about the not-in-common parts.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Tue Aug 23, 04:34:00 PM:

I got sidetracked on catchy's first comment on a "real patriot" as well. Now that I've finally read Tiger's original post (it took a while), I want to read that book. Sounds interesting.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Wed Aug 24, 08:44:00 AM:


Since so much of this comment thread is devoted to dissent and patriotism, allow me to ignore the content of your post and carry on the conversation.

The demonization of dissenting voices by the right wing smear machine is a large part of this conversation. Aside from fringe-folk like CardinalPark, most Americans agree that we can disagree and still be patriotic. However, those with loud voices and big microphones (Limbaugh, Hannity, Malkin, Coulter, FoxAnchors, and the President of the United States) continue to assert that those against the Iraq War are anti-soldier, anti-American, and pro-terrorist. This is the effort to quash dissent that Catchy's referring to. The extremist rhetoric against those who oppose(d) the War in Iraq is dangerous in that it demonizes normal, mainstream Americans who are just trying to make sense of the mess they see before them.  

By Blogger viking kaj, at Wed Aug 24, 11:49:00 AM:

The role of citizens in a democratic republic is to always be informed on the issues and to question the leadership. If we don't, the republic fails. In my book, anything less than this is unpatriotic.

Wars are always bad, but can be fought for "good" causes. The stated causes for this war according to the present administration were 1) to eliminate WMD (and coincidentally Saddam) and 2) to establish a "stable" democracy in Iraq. It seems we failed on the first count, since there weren't any. We may also be failing on the second count, since modern day Iraq is actually a fictitous country which sprang from the Post WWI manipulations of Churchill and the French using a red crayola on a map of the Middle East. Sometimes you are better off not trying to put people together in the same country who do not historically mix well, even if it is cartographically convenient. The former Yugoslavia is the most salient example. At this date, I am sure no one would suggest that Yugoslavia should continue as a single country.

I think Bush is, and should be, worried about his legacy. My best guess is that he wants to continue to be welcomed in Republican circles and to exercize influence for some time to come. Getting tarred with an unpopular war could make him a pariah for the next 20 years, especially since it is becoming clearer that he was the person who clearly made the go decision here. As a lame duck president after the 2006 midterm elections his ability to move Congress may be limited, absent further attacks on US soil. And I think Congress is starting to look seriously at the price tag for this war. We need to have a coherent strategy for getting our boys out of Indian Country, long term occupation is not a viable option here.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Wed Aug 24, 12:21:00 PM:

One of the primary causes of the "War on Terror" was the faith that Osama and his people had that the American left would keep the US from responding. After an honest effort in Afghanistan and Iraq America will be a safer place. Lets just win the war and then worry about the politics. If the Democrats came out with a plan that would lead to victory I would vote for it.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Wed Aug 24, 12:36:00 PM:

I am sure you are aware that there were many reasons we went to war. This is not a one issue operation and no amount of "framing" can change the truth, just the perception.

Go ahead, question the government, just make sure you don't hand propaganda victories to the other side. Read the histories, Walter Cronkite did more to hand victory to the Communists in Vietnam than many of their soldiers did. I am not saying he didn't have the right to speak out, I am saying that 3 million people were killed when the left wing forced us out, and kept us from returning when the Communists broke the treaties. I live in a area with a large number of citizens who were Vietnamese refugees. They voted over 80% for the "draft dodger" over the "war hero". Free speech can be put to bad purposes.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Wed Aug 24, 01:28:00 PM:

tryee- I'm sympathetic to your viewpoint- there's no doubt that Americans defeated ourselves in Vietnam, not the NV military. Here's the reality however. In today's world, everyone knows that Americans have little stomach for an extended conflict. Whether that's good or bad is immaterial; it's reality. So it's paramount to factor in this reality pre-engagement. That's why I'm a Colin Powell guy- he recognizes this and says, in effect, "if we go in, we'll use overwhelming force with an eye toward a defined exit strategy. Fortunately, we pulled off a quick victory in the Gulf War. We haven't been as fortunate this time.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Wed Aug 24, 02:02:00 PM:

I always liked Powell. I wished someone would have listened to him.

I think if the war is clearly defined and there is an unmistakeble need to go to war, the majority of Americans will support it and see it through no questions asked. There will always be a pacifist minority that will oppose war. War may never be the answer, but I've never seen pacifism stop an invading army or a terrorist with a bomb. But when a cause is just, most Americans would be behind it completely. You didn't see this amount of anger over Afghanistan, because there was a distinct reason and goal that most Americans understood: Get bin Laden, and while we're at it take out the Taliban. I can't say it's the same way for Iraq. Though I know many disagree.

If the war is murky in definition and if it's fought over something that doesn't appear to be a direct threat, more people are going to be intolerant of high body counts and mismanagement. The Iraq war was met with a lot of skepticism from the beginning, and it's grown. It doesn't surprise me that the American public's support is down.

But I think if bin Ladin is betting on the left to stop our country from defending itself, he's making a bad bet. The majority of the left won't take being attacked sitting down either, but we aren't for blowing our military wad in uneeded mismanaged wars.  

By Blogger Catchy Pseudonym, at Wed Aug 24, 02:21:00 PM:

"If the Democrats came out with a plan that would lead to victory I would vote for it."

That's something I'm not proud of about the Democrats. They have offered nothing as far as a plan and not even a clear statement on where they stand on the war. They are too reactive. I want to hear some ideas from my own camp.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Thu Aug 25, 07:51:00 AM:

The sad thing about the Americans propensity against extended conflict is that sometimes wars are difficult to win, though necessary. Our enemies know that we dislike protracted conflict and play toward this weakness. It's definitely our Achille's heel. In an odd way, President Bush's persistence (also referred to as stubborness) bucks this trend. It's kiling his party politically- but it may be the right strategy to win the war.  

By Blogger viking kaj, at Thu Aug 25, 12:13:00 PM:

Propaganda, schmopaganda, we hand no victories to the other side whatsoever. My brother is in Iraq right now training the jundees on what to do after they forget to put their weapons on safe and shoot their neighbor.

The problem with being the world's sole superpower is that we have to use our power wisely. Squandering vast amounts of time and treasure on a war where our exit strategy (victory?) is ill defined is not a wise use.

Too often we attribute the same wants and desires to citizens of other countries who have neither the background nor the education to understand how to be able to govern themselves. Thirty years of absolute dictatorship stacked on several hundred years of an indifferent and capricious caliphate does not necessarily educate the population on how to be good democratic citizens.

Failing proper democratic precedents, people tend to fall back on tribal and religious loyalties for support. And that is exactly what is happening in Iraq. Remember that the Kurds, the Shias and the Sunnis hate each other's guts more than you guys hate liberal democrats, since even Buchanon and Robertson in their most brain dead moments would never advocate political murder of Ted or Hillary.

Instead of remaining committed to a unified, but politically unstable Iraq, we need to be flexible to partitioning the country. Perhaps a referendum on whether the "Iraqis" themselves want to stick together is in order. It seems that the constitutional convention is failing for precisely the issues of the fundamental divisions in the country.

Winning the war doesn't count if we can't set up a stable self government that can manage the peace. It is unrealistic to expect that we continue military occupation in Iraq for as long as the Brits had to occupy Northern Ireland for example.

We need to have a coherent, well thought out exit strategy for our troops. Leaving them there as a target for terrorists for an exended period of time is not an option, it will only strengthen Al Al Quaeda's ability to obtain new recruits, since armies of occupation are seldom popular over the longer term, even with those elements of the population who intially support them.

As a libertarian I am all for liberating the "Iraqis" but only under the terms that they themselves seem willing to accept. And increasingly to me this is looking like three countries.  

By Blogger cakreiz, at Thu Aug 25, 01:20:00 PM:

Of course domestic political unrest can undermine a military effort. Had Lincoln not found Grant and Sherman, the North was well on its way to declaring a stalement in the Civil War. We didn't lose Vietnam militarily; we lost it on the domestically. Now, the world's most potent military force has incurred 1,800 deaths (miniscule by historic standards) and many are poised to declare defeat. We are in the middle of a religious civil war of sorts, I understand that. I'm saying that we cannot be defeated militarily, that's all. The defeat will come from domestic pressure (as suggested with England and Northern Ireland). On a personal sidenote- I don't hate liberal Dems- I happen to be prochoice, e.g. Merely supporting the president's Iraq effort doesn't make one a liberal hater.  

By Anonymous a Filipino, at Sat Nov 12, 03:22:00 PM:

The original post was about the Filipino 'insurgency' against the American occupation in 1898 (to 1942, in fact). I find it truly remarkable that no one even mentioned what that occupation was like to warrant the 'insurgency'. This is an American blog, fair enough, and that occupation was over 100 years ago. But, wow, I have never observed anything so self-involved.

For those curious enough to draw parallels between Iraq and the Philippines, try looking up Balangiga, Jolo and (US) Generals Pershing and Smith. Tens of thousands of Filipinos were killed between these two places and two generals. But of course your main concerns are your elections.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Mon Sep 11, 10:02:00 AM:

Catchy say...
"So let me get this straight... voicing your opposition to the war means you're helping the enemy? What if you write a piece saying the war was a stupid idea, not needed, and is being run poorly... is that helping the enemy?"

Well, when the American leaders of the anti-war movement (Michael Moore) are prominently used in Islamist propaganda films as supporting their side, then yes, yes you are indeed helping the enemy. Like it or not, and I don't like it, this war is being waged in the newsrooms and political offices all over the world. The bombs in Spain were set to explode in order to affect the national elections. I didn't care for President Carter, but I never screamed that he was worse than the Ayatolla from the street corner. I thought President Clinton mismanged Somolia (we had to borrow armored vehicles from the Belgians?) but I didn't put mock graveyards outside military hospitals.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Mon Sep 11, 10:12:00 AM:

Filipino says...
"of course your main concerns are your elections"

You have no idea how wrong you are. Here in Southern California where there is a large immigrant Filipino population we know a great deal about the history of your country. This discussion is only about one aspect of the insurgency and in no way reflects a lack of understanding of the entire situation.


By Anonymous tyree, at Mon Sep 11, 10:29:00 AM:

Catchy says...
"Blindly following a president into a war"

There were months of debate in Congress and the Sentate about going in to Iraq. Many of the Senators in both parties (including Rockefeller) has access to the same data the President had access to. After long and hard consideration our democracy went to war. Before and after any war is started there will be mistakes (see Pearl Harbor). The blame for those mistakes, in this case, rests on the people who support terrorism all over the world. Had they not killed thousands of Americans over four decades, we would not be in this position. We need to win this war and let the historians worry about who to blame for the mistakes. There will be enough Churchills and Chamberlains to fill a book. Admitting we were "wrong" and pulling out of Iraq will not lead to peace. Victory will, for a time.  

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