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The Moro War: How America Battled a Muslim Insurgency in the Philippine Jungle, 1902-1913 Hardcover – August 2, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After acquiring the Philippines from Spain in 1898 and pacifying the north, U.S. forces turned to the south, dominated by the Moros, unruly Islamic tribes whose culture Americans little understood. In this excellent mixture of political and military history, Arnold (Jungle of Snakes: A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the Philippines to Iraq) stresses that America hoped to improve public health, infrastructure, and education as it had done with modest success in Cuba. Since the U.S. also intended to abolish Moro piracy, slavery, banditry, and blood feuds, problems were guaranteed. The Moro wars made the career of John J. Pershing, later America's WWI commander. Arriving as a captain in 1901, he showed surprising diplomatic skill. Some successors preferred fighting, and Pershing returned as governor in 1909 to an unstable populace. He decided to disarm every Moro male; this took years but established order. Highlighting the missteps of the U.S. counterinsurgency in Moroland, Arnold offers sharp lessons for today along with an insightful, often gruesome, and timely portrait of an insurgency that America defeated but only temporarily; Moro independence movements remain a thorn in the side of the Philippine central government. 60 b&w illus.; maps. (Aug.)


Winner of the Trefry Award for distinguished writing, Army Historical Foundation

"Although The Moro War covers events a century ago, those seeking to wield influence in an Islamic land today would do well to study its lessons."—Wall Street Journal

"Drawing upon contemporaneous official U.S. sources and on participants’ letters and memoirs, [Arnold] skillfully weaves riveting and vigorous descriptions of the ferocious U.S.-Moro engagements"—Journal of Military History

"The story of this relatively unknown epoch in American history has long echoes."—Shelf Awareness

“[A] lucid political and military history … a fine history of an obscure colonial war in which both sides fought bravely, suffered cruelly, often behaved horribly and accomplished little.”—Military History
“[An] excellent mixture of political and military history…Highlighting the missteps of the U.S. counterinsurgency in Moroland, Arnold offers sharp lessons for today along with an insightful, often gruesome, and timely portrait of an insurgency.”—Publishers Weekly
"A lively, well-told chronicle of a conflict that commanders in more recent conflicts could well have [learned] from studying."—Kirkus

"[A] concise and readable history...An excellent summary of a forgotten war that offers many parallels to the present."—Library Journal
“The Moro War is a superb depiction of a small war of the past that is decidedly relevant to the present. James R. Arnold is a brilliant story teller who captures the gritty reality of this forgotten war along with fascinating portraits of leaders like Leonard Wood and John J. Pershing. All of this is enhanced by vintage photographs throughout the book that illustrate Arnold's prose. Although there are few tactical lessons from this war that are applicable today, the operational lesson of putting the force out with the population to provide security was crucial to the Iraq "surge" and is at the heart of today’s campaign in Afghanistan.”—John T. Fishel, Emeritus Professor, National Defense University, co-author of Uncomfortable Wars Revisited

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; 1St Edition edition (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608190242
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608190249
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #936,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Years ago my wife and I rented a former slave cabin on a plantation in Upperville, Virginia. The landlord was the grandson of a trooper who served with partisan leader John Mosby (the Gray Ghost). The doorstop was a ten-pound Parrott rifle shell recovered from the upper hay field (a cavalry skirmish had extended across the fields in 1863). Across Goose Creek was an historical marker signifying the place where Mosby's band first mustered. Here, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains we were surrounded by history and I began writing "The Cost of Freedom."

While my day job focused on military history, this was not what I wanted to write about in my novel. Instead, I was interested in how individuals confronted stark personal and moral choices as the great issue of the day -- secession -- threatened to rend the fabric of the lives. No such examination could ignore the salient role of slavery.

Research was profoundly enjoyable with each discovery bringing a new set of questions about motivation and loyalty: finding "The Journals of Amanda Virginia Edmonds" upon whom my Amanda is based and meeting her descendants; driving up a plantation lane to purchase our Thanksgiving turkey and seeing the antebellum, double decker balcony from where each year the elderly matron stood to bless the local hunt -- the inspiration for my race between Armistead and Min; finding a Confederate flag sewn by the local women at a small county museum with the hand-painted inscription "Go and Fight!" -- the basis for my scene where Amanda presents the colors to the Loudoun Grays; learning that a Union-loyal, Alabama-born officer had evaded Stonewall Jackson's trap at Harpers Ferry to lead yankee cavalry to safety, and realizing that my Armistead Carter had to help him find the way.

Well-crafted historical fiction has been a source of joy in my life; Dorothy Dunnett's epic sagas, Patrick O'Brian's sea-faring tales. They are page-turning adventure stories and explorations of character. If my "Cost of Freedom" can achieve even a faint echo of those wonderful reads, then I will be satisfied.

James R. Arnold is the author of more than twenty-five books devoted to military history and leadership. His published works include Presidents Under Fire, a study of how American presidents perform as war leaders, Grant Wins the War, a campaign study of Vicksburg, and Jeff Davis's Own, the story of the future Civil War generals who served on the Texas frontier during the Indian Wars. Arnold is the founder of Napoleon Books, a niche publishing venture devoted to Napoleonic studies. His most recent book, The Moro War (Bloomsbury Press, 2011) examines the first U.S. war against an Islamic insurgency. He has also written forty-two library reference books for young adults that address the social and historical events associated with colonial America, the American and French Revolutions, the Industrial Revolution and the American Civil War. Arnold and his wife live on a farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Dark Reaver on November 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
For about 7 years I've done intermittent research on America's involvement in Moroland during the Philippine-American War, and I finally found what I was looking for in this book!! On the internet, it was difficult for me to find pictures and stories of the Moro War, and it was harder still to grasp a true understanding of what was happening during this period. Not only does this book organize the events in chronological order, but supplements with excellent narration, maps, and photographs to paint a realistic picture of the lives of Americans and Moros during this time. Although this conflict is mostly forgotten by Americans, there are amazing parallels readers can draw in comparing what is happening in today's current events and with what happened 100 years ago.

I usually do not write reviews of books, but I made an exception for this one since this subject matter will always hold a special place in my history buff heart. I knew as soon as I saw it on the library shelf, I had to get it and read it! Even for those who do not know much about the conflict, I still think it would make an enjoyable read for those who enjoy military history (I would've finished it in one night if it weren't for school work!). Definitely 5/5 stars; I haven't read Jungle of Snakes, but after reading The Moro War, I'm definitely looking forward to it! Thank you so much for sharing your work, Mr. Arnold!!
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Bill the MUGG on September 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Arnold obviously spent many many hours researching the Moros in Mindinao as well as our nation's reluctant intervention throughout the Philippine Islands. His insights are especially useful to anyone striving to understand the actions of current insurgents of Islamic extraction. (Too bad so many knuckleheads in DC have forgotten how to read.)
I bought the book because I'm editing retired Col. John Eric Olson's book about the 57th Inf. (PS) defense of Bataan (Dec 8, 1941 until ordered to surrender April 9, 1942) _The Moro War_ index lists the "Philippine Scouts" on fourteen pages, but I found them on nine additional pages. The two Scouts who won Congressional Medals by 1913 are adequately honored in the text, but their names are not listed in the index. A book of this scope deserves & NEEDS more than 3.5 pages of index.
I had planned to use it only for reference in editing & documentation; instead, I read it cover to cover and learned a great deal about Olson's military predecessors in the islands.
Kudos to Mr. Arnold! I plan to buy his "Snakes" book AFTER I send off Olson's book to Indiana Univ Press--otherwise I'll read it while I should be writing.

Bill the MUGG (Mechanics, Usage, Grammar Guru)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By KKling2012 on May 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book should be required reading for the nations' service academies, and anyone interested in today's struggle with the minority of Islam who embrace violence for change. The trials faced by our military in the field, far from the power centers of government, give a glimpse of what would be successful 100 years later in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The personal relationships and trust that were developed as a result of the cultures coming together, is what endures to this day. Understanding the motives and values of all the involved parties provides a point of view not normally seen in a book like this, giving greater insight into what worked, and what did not, and why. As a descendant of one who served in the Moro War, it brought life to a story long overdue in the telling, in a way that framed not only the issues of today, but also addressed the forging of future leaders that the nation would need in WWI.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By ncauclair on February 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I teach a class at the Virginia Military Institute where we examine various guerrilla wars and insurgencies-- a historical analysis of winning and losing counterinsurgency strategies. This class is relevant to many of the cadets who are to be commissioned in the U.S. military and could deploy to Afghanistan and other COIN hot spots. I have made James Arnold's book: The Moro War: How America Battled a Muslim Insurgency in the Philippine Jungle, 1902-1913, required reading. Arnold is an excellent writer and researcher and presents this little known American counterinsurgency adventure in an interesting and relevant way. Few Americans have ever read, let alone, studied the U.S.'s early 20th century bitter counterinsurgency struggles in the Philippines --specifically the U.S.'s fight against Filipino Muslim guerrillas (1902-1913). Most U.S. high school and college American history courses brush by this period paying mere lip service to the Spanish-American War-- pointing out Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders' ride up San Juan Hill and a few other highlights and moving on to World War I. Instead, James Arnold vividly describes in his book how the U.S. military (post Spanish-American War) through 11 years of bitter and bloody fighting was able to quell and semi-pacify the Muslim guerrillas in the Southern Philippines. While the war against the Muslim insurgents is considered a victory-- however, unlike today's U.S. counterinsurgency mantra of trying to "win hearts and minds," it was accomplished mostly through overwhelming U.S. firepower, starvation and forced relocation of civilians, and wide-spread slaughter of Filipino civilians. Arnold, however, does point out many unique counterinsurgency tactics and strategies that the U.S.Read more ›
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