Monday, July 14, 2008

Its a Small World After All

Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama told a group in Georgia this past Tuesday that American's need to learn a foreign language before graduating school. Predictably, the Right jumped all over Senator Obama for this remark. The arguments range from surrendering to illegal immigrants by forcing Americans to learn Spanish to our country to exponentially bigger than Europe so we don't need to learn foreign languages to go from one end of the country to another.

So far all the arguments don't cut it. I have lived in Europe for two years and seen how Americans act when they travel abroad. It is not pretty and can be insulting. We sit back and say that people who come to our country should learn English because that is the (unofficial) language of the United States. However, Americans travel abroad and expect everyone they meet should speak English and are usually catered to. Many times I tried to perfect my German in shops, restaurants, and biergartens only to have to employees reply back in English.

Changing economic fortunes and changes in communications technology have Americans interacting with people from other countries more than ever before. More and more Americans are working for companies based in Japan, Korea, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. American companies such as Chrysler and Anheuser-Bush are owned by European companies. Chances are Americans will need to communicate with their bosses who might like it if their employees learned the language of the company. Internet applications such as Skype allows people to contact anyone around the world for free if you call a computer.

Senator Obama is just saying something I have been saying for years so I have to give him his due. If Obama's idea of teaching foreign languages to American students is all the Right have to attack him on then Senator McCain may be in serious trouble in November. Of course if all the Left has to attack McCain is their version of Swift Boating claiming the Republican nominee was a bad pilot and got special treatment in the Hanoi Hilton while a POW they have problems too but that is a story for another day.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

John McCain and the Right Wing Conspiracy

Don't blame liberal media bias on the publishing of the New York Times article claiming Republican presidential hopeful John McCain had an illicit affair with a lobbyist. There have been claims the NYT had sat on the story, waiting until McCain was clearly the winner of the Republican nomination to attack him. In my opinion, the people who "leaked" where part of Hillary Clinton's vast Right Wing Conspiracy who wanted this information to come out earlier.

The reason this is not a liberal attack is because they would be throwing stones in their glass house. First, Gary Hart's 1988 presidential ambitions were sunk as if the Monkey Business were torpedoed by the Donna Rice affair. By 1992 Bill Clinton was hit with a scandal about an affair with more substantial evidence than the McCain accusation. Hillary Clinton announces she will
"stand by her man" and all was forgiven. Later, the majority of the country said it was none of their business when details of Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky led to the second impeachment of a president in United States history. The American people would probably now "say so what, they all do it." Another reason it could not be the liberals is because the party is currently in a heated battle between factions of the old guard backing Hillary Clinton and new elements who are supporting Barak Obama and are too distracted with each other to start in on McCain.

It is no secret the conservative wing of the Republican Party do not like McCain and wished Mitt Romney or even Mike Huckabee became the party's standard bearer. Unlike the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party, who will hold their nose and support whoever the Democratic nominee is, the right wing would rather see the Republican Party destroyed in order to save it. Unfortunately, the right wing have never been able to tolerate the gray playing field that national politics plays in. To the extreme right you must be 110% conservative or they will have no use for you. Whoever leaked this story probably wanted to discredit McCain so a proper Conservative would gain the nomination. However, the New York Times did not run the story to suit the timetable of this story's architect.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Iraq and the Phillippine Insurection

Currently American and allied troops are battling sectarian violence in Iraq after deposing the regime of Saddam Hussein and the Baath party in 2002. With over 3,000 American troops killed and counting, many Americans back home are calling for a pull-out of all U.S. military forces. The reason for this call is a perception among Americans that why should American troops shed blood trying stop violence if the Iraqis are unwilling to stop it themselves. Like the our involvement in Vietnam, we are in a civil war that must be decided by the people of Iraq. The conclusion is insurgencies are essentially unwinnable wars that prove too costly for too little gain.

The overall objective in war is to produce enough pain and suffering upon the enemy to force them to give up armed conflict and sue for peace. Insurgents know they can never stand-up to a strong military power in a conventional fight, so they decided on a strategy of terrorism along with hit-and-run raids then blend in with the local population designed to produce casualties and frustration among the enemy. Eventually, the enemy will strike at the civilian population hiding insurgents, producing civilian casualties and giving the insurgency a propaganda weapon to draw public support to their side. It was used masterfully by the Viet Mihn and Viet Cong against France and the United States respectively.

So with the lessons of Vietnam and later Somalia, can the U.S. win a war against the Iraqi Insurgency? The answer is yes and the United States has done it, twice. The first case was against the Native American tribes in the west during the last half of the 19th Century. The second case was the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902?)

Commodore Thomas Dewy was ordered by then Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt to commence offensive operations against the Spanish in the Philippine Islands at the outset of the Spanish-American War of 1898. Dewy accomplished his mission by destroying the Spanish fleet in the Battle of Manila Bay. After Spain surrendered, President William McKinley wrestled with what to do with the Philippines. European powers Great Britain and Germany plus rising Pacific power Japan expressed their desire to take over the Philippines which the United States could not afford to allow. So with United States strategic needs in mind and the desire to "uplift and Christianize" the Filipinos (who were already predominately Catholic), the United States decided to take over control of the Philippine Islands.

The Filipinos (and many Americans) were not happy by McKinley's decision to become the Philippines' new colonial masters. It was hoped the Philippines would be granted independence like Cuba was after the Spanish surrender. Like the Cubans, the Filipinos had been fighting their own war for liberation for many years. Filipino rebels under Emilio Aguinaldo surrounded the capital city of Manila facing American troops. Tensions escalated when it became apparent the American forces where not going to leave and fighting broke out in February of 1899. American forces quickly routed the Filipinos and pushed them deep into the Philippine interior. Aguinaldo realized his forces could not match those of the Americans and ordered his troops to begin a guerrilla campaign like they had conducted against the Spanish.

The Filipinos engaged American troops by using ambushes, massacres, and hit-and-run raids. Aguinaldo hoped causing enough American casualties would help get anti-imperialist William Jennings Bryan elected president in 1900. The Americans responded by sending a large force to the Philippine Islands to stop the insurgency. The Americans, using experience from the Indian Wars, engaged in brutal campaigns themselves. Both sides committed atrocities by killing civilians and destroying villages believed to be helping the other side. Eventually Aguinaldo was captured but that did not end the war.

Eventually, American General J. Franklin Bell developed tactics tactics designed to deny support to the insurgents and break their will to fight. Bell concentrated Filipinos into hamlets (a tactic tried in Vietnam) to secure them from insurgent atrocities and deny the insurgents bases and hiding places. A scorched earth policy destroyed food and anything else that could be used by Filipino insurgents. General John J. Pershing, governor of the Island of Mindanao and later commander of the American Expeditionary Force in France during World War I, took steps to develop the economy and quality of life of the island's inhabitants without destroying their culture. Still Mindanao's Islamic Moro population still resisted the American rule. This led Pershing to institute a ban on all weapons. Those who turned in their weapons were generously rewarded but those who resisted were hunted down by U.S. troops. Still Pershing did everything he could to avoid bloodshed. He got one group of Moros to surrender after laying seige to a mountain top fortification with little loss of life. Pershing was forced to attack another fortification and was forced to kill all defenders. However, this stand broke the backs of the Moros. While the insurgency was declared over in July of 1900 fighting continued in outlying areas but they died out by 1913.

The Americans did create a civilian government whose objective was to create a partnership between the two peoples and prepare the Filipinos for eventual independence. This partnership proved useful during World War II when the Filipinos sided with the Americans against the Japanese. This support never wavered despite the Japanese conquest of the islands in 1942 and promise of partnership in the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. When General MacArthur returned with American forces in 1944, he and the American military forces where welcomed as liberating heroes. Another thing the Americans did was to develop the economy and improve the welfare of the Filipinos. While the Americans tried to "Americanize" the Filipinos, they did not destroy Filipino culture. In 1946 the Philippine Islands were given their independence but have continued a good relations with the United States to this day. With the exception of the Marcos regime, the government of the Philippines has remained relatively stable, democratic, and economically viable.

The lessons learned are to defeat an insurgency brutal tactics must be used to destroy the enemy and his will to fight. Support for the enemy must be denied by destroying and denying supplies and potential fighters. This done by providing long-term security and support for friendly local civilians. The Americans show the will to swiftly punish any insurgents and those who support the insurgency. Especially those who strike against America's friends among the local population. Support for the local government must be continued until that government is strong enough to provide security for its own people. Then walk away if asked to by this stable government. The Iraqi economy and infrastructure must be allowed to develop which also requires security. These tactics will be perceived as brutal and could take years as in the Philippines. These tactics may prove to be more than the American people want but history shows it could be the best way to have a stable Iraq. It took 47 years of involvement for the United States to turn over complete independent power to the Filipinos with a high cost in American lives and money. Is the United States willing to make the same commitment in Iraq?

U.S. Army Named Campaigns
The History Guy
National Archives
Theodore Roosevelt's Proclamation Declaring an End to the Philippine Insurrection
Smith, Gene. Until the Last Trumpet Sounds: The Life of General of the Armies John J. Pershing. John Wiley and Sons. 1998.
Wikipedia: Philippine Insurrection
BrainyEncyclopedia: William McKinley

Santayana's Rant!

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Those words were written by poet and philosopher George Santayana. Welcome to Santayana's Rant, a blog that explores today's events and similar events in history. This may even turn into a podcast in the future. Please feel free to leave comments on this blog. Enjoy.

Technorati Profile