The U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War

By Noland, Lt Cdr Matthew | Naval War College Review, Spring 2015 | Go to article overview

The U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War


Noland, Lt Cdr Matthew, Naval War College Review


Linn, Brian McAllister. The U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War, 1899-1902. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2000. 258pp. $36.97 (paperback)

Brian McAllister Linn, professor of history and liberal arts at Texas A&M University, addresses here the war between the United States and the fledgling Philippine Republic, detailing the prolonged guerrilla struggle that followed. First published in 1989 and reprinted in 2000, Linn's book presents the struggle between the U.S. Army and guerrillas on the island of Luzon as a series of regionalized conflicts. Eschewing a conventional campaign history, the author argues that circumstances of culture, ethnicity, religion, and terrain made the challenges in each region unique. The book demonstrates that the Army defeated the insurgency because commanders focused their efforts on the idiosyncrasies of each district, rather than following a campaign plan handed down from headquarters in Manila. While this flexible and decentralized approach may not have been intentional, Linn argues that it succeeded because it allowed commanders the latitude to implement measures responsive to each local situation. This regionalized view demonstrates the value of what modern practitioners refer to as " mission command," and that is what makes this work relevant for readers today.

The book is organized into six chapters -an introduction, four regional case studies, and a short conclusion. The first chapter is a sweeping synopsis of the conventional war in the Philippines and a brief but excellent introduction to the geography of the islands, the Spanish colonization of Luzon, and the nascent Filipino reformist and nationalist movements that led to open revolt against Spain in 1896.

In the following chapters Linn describes counterinsurgency operations in four numbered districts. Using several examples in each of the districts, he skillfully supports his claim that the insurgency varied widely from one area to the next. For instance, in the Fourth District, the Department of Northern Luzon, the Army exploited cultural rifts in the provinces by playing antirevolutionary elements of the population against the guerrillas, who themselves eroded what local support they enjoyed by heavy-handed terrorism against the populace. In contrast to guerrilla campaigns in the other districts, the insurgents in the Fourth District suffered from poor leadership and slipshod organization. The Army rapidly gained the support of the local elite, and pacification soon followed.

Linn describes the counterinsurgency in the remaining districts. …

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