Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903

Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903

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Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903


Miller provides an account of the American-Philippines war from 1899-1903, revealing aspects of United States imperialism that are often forgotten. Miller provides both a military history as well as a demonstration of the way America lied and forgot its history, justifying war and colonization as a step for greater good. America's involvement in the Philippines is sometimes remembered as an act to protect Filipino's from Spain, and to "teach' them American democracy. Other historians look to the war as a part of American imperialism linked to its capitalist and racist nature. Many other historians argue that imperialism was a short lived mistake in American history that was just one stumble in the country's greatness. Miller's account shows, in great detail, the slipperiness of events which happened, and the ways in which individuals can hold the power of nations. Generally America's conquest of the Philippines is understood to be motivated by the expansion of democracy. The United States was already actively expanding and conquering land and people, but for the most part they were doing so in regions thought to be geographically logical. Expanding to the west was not considered colonization, but once the U.S. reached the far away islands of the Philippines, their actions seemed to need a larger explanation to be justified. The United States moving beyond its natural proximity made the Philippines a more problematic site, and therefore easier to understand as an act of imperialism.

Miller argues that when the United States was just beginning to get involved in the Philippines few people new anything about the islands. There were no intention...


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...d Beveridge, the anti-imperialists were letting the people off the hook and in their own way preserving the American sense of innocence…If anything, they seemed to take their cues from their leader in the White House by first putting out of mind all the sordid episodes in the conquest, and then forgetting the entire war itself (253).

The United States conquest of the Philippines and the ways it is remembered is one aspect of this countries history of imperialism. This war stems out of energy left from the Civil War, the United States competition with Spain, and later feeds into the Vietnam War. This story is all too reflective of the current situation in Iraq and the war on terrorism. According to Miller, the United States hides its imperialism behind the name of democracy and civilization, claiming to act for the better of people "unable" to govern themselves.

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