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JSPES, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Spring 2013)
pp. 80-98

Relevant Today: Lessons from the Spanish-American War

Dwight D. Murphey

Wichita State University, retired

Honor in the Dust: Theodore Roosevelt, War in the Philippines, and the Rise and Fall of America’s Imperial Dream
Gregg Jones
New American Library, 2012

The United States, between 1898 and 1913, actually fought three wars under the rubric of what is most often thought of as “the Spanish-American war.” One was the war with Spain, the second a war to defeat the Filipino independence movement, and the third a war to subdue the Muslim population in the southern Philippines. Honor in the Dust is an account, by a journalist who is also an historian, of all three, but with primary emphasis on the second, the Philippine-American War. We have expanded what would otherwise be a book review into a longer article because the experience of those wars raises provocative issues that have continuing relevance to American foreign policy, especially in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. A point of particular importance will be that a war to suppress guerrillas fighting with the support of a civilian population ought to be understood, in advance of undertaking the war, as one in which extreme brutality is almost certainly bound to be a feature. The argument will be made that that fact should always be taken into account in deciding whether to launch such a war.