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[[File:War_of_Frontier_and_Empire.jpg|left|250px|thumbnail|<i>A War of Frontier and Empire: The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902</i> by David Silbey]]__NOTOC__
'This article was originally published on [ http:// videri. org/ index.php? title= A_War_of_Frontier_and_Empire:_The_Philippine- American_War,_1899-1902| Videri.org] and is republished here with their permission.'' David Silbey's <i>A War of Frontier Empire</i> is a narrative history of the complexity and shifting definitions of the war between the U.S. and the Philippines in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Silbey weaves the threads of impact together, arguing that for the U.S., “It was a war that brought together the dominant American experience….the chaotic and defining expansion westward, with a new…and uncomfortable imperial ambition” (xiii). For the Philippines, the war resulted in a culturally and socially fractured collection of islands becoming a “self-conceived nation” via a shared experience of revolution, war and insurgency.
Silbey is careful to not label the conflict as just an insurgency, or a larger war, or just a revolution. Rather, he describes three distinct conflicts each with their own characterization and description. The first was the war between the Spanish and the allied U.S. and Filipino forces. The second was a conventional war between the U.S. Army and Navy and the Philippine Republic’s Army of Liberation. The third was a guerilla war fought between the U.S. forces and insurgent and disparate alliances of groups broken off from the Army of Liberation and elsewhere.
Silbey shows how and why the U.S. forces were so successful against the Filipinos in the conventional war, pointing to naval gunfire effects, differences in technology and lack of ammunition to practice with on the Filipino side. He also emphasizes that Aguinaldo’s control was limited over his forces, that Filipinos had a “different cultural conception of what war meant” and that their battle tactics, such as firing high allowed U.S. forces to get up close and personal during battle.
At home, the war was not supported by everyone (mainly eastern elites), but poems like Rudyard Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” and imperialist propaganda helped solidify support for “manifest destiny including the archipelago” (96). The capture of Aguinaldo in December of 1899 reinforced these convictions, even as the U.S. forces began to bring various Filipino factions on their side, including the hemp traders (since the U.S. helped the trade begin again), and established a more streamlined legal system that replaced the corrupt and confusing Spanish one.
In the Philippines, Sibley shows how U.S. political and military forces vied for power and control in the figures of MacArthur and Taft. Ultimately, he concludes the Filipinos themselves figured out how to adjust to the new reality, and the war came to represent a “nationalist totem” (210) that helped to unify them. He is also careful to conclude that it was not a total war by the U.S. on the Philippines – the Filipino side had some critical victories and advantages that softened their attitudes and led to an acceptance of U.S. power. Silbey describes this as a “crossroads” in which the shifting threads of defeat, unification, and imperialism reshaped both U.S. power and the Philippines as a nation in the twentieth century.
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