I’m going to turn to contemporary events in this post, and talk about politicians rather than historians. Historians have a challenging enough job revising history as new information emerges. Increasingly they have a tough time doing that in the face of the establishment political structures which are in place to some extent at University level but much more in regard to American High Schools – where history textbooks have become a primary tool of creating a history that is palatable to the power structures that manage to control appointments to the school book committees (Texas being a huge influence in that regard but more recently Colorado being an example of how bad things can get in that regard). If you think I’m exaggerating just check into how many bills have been introduced in State legislatures to do away with advanced history in high schools because teachers might just be opening up to0 many doors for some people’s comfort. My own state, Oklahoma is a prime example.
I’ve blogged on all that before here so instead let me turn to contemporary politicians and select as an example the recently elected President of the Philippines. At the moment he is demanding that all American advisory forces depart the southern islands in his nation because they are responsible for the fundamentalist Muslim insurgency there – well actually he goes a bit further and blames that on the American occupation after the Spanish American war. If the American’s would just stop interfering in his country there would be no problem. Check the following link if you are not aware of this story:
Now while attitude may be true in more than one instance, it just so happens that the Muslim insurgencies throughout the western Pacific go back decades, and indeed centuries – provably traceable to locals attending and being trained in Saudi fundamentalist madrassahs. I’ve blogged on that before, citing sources tracing insurgencies and waves of terror back into the seventeen and eighteen hundreds.
The thing is, President Duterte should well remember that the insurgency on those islands in modern times predated the arrival of any American advisors…in fact the insurgents were taking prisoners, and either raising a large war chest though hostage payoffs or just beheading them. Perhaps Duterte also has forgotten that the first major al Qaeda terror attack (the Bojinka plot) against America was organized in the Philippines; if it had not been interdicted the attack would have killed as many Americans as that of 2001 – and Bojinka came out of Manila, not the southern islands.
The Philippines requested American assistance in the years following the attacks of 2001 and the U.S. complied – sending in a small JSOC force in 2002; it maintained a very low profile and in working with the local military carried out one of the most effective programs to date against fundamentalist terror groups. I discuss that in Chapter 27 of Shadow Warfare.
Perhaps the most difficult thing about all of this is that its hard to tell if Duterte just doesn’t know all this and is not interested in finding out or if he is simply and effectively playing demagogue, telling people what they want to hear…? What I do know is that when any politician shows no sense of understanding history, and tells the crowds just what they want to hear whether its true or not…. any nation is entering very dangerous waters with them in charge. The other thing I know is that when those making national security decisions don’t know history, they will make mistakes and the rest of us will suffer the consequences. Been there, seen that.