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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.
These tumultuous events were set against the political background at home in the U.S., including the Election of 1900, McKinley’s assassination and Roosevelt’s new influences on the presidency. Perceptions of race, the rise of Jim Crow, the impact of black soldiers, and white views of Filipinos also play a part in this discussion.
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.