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Posts Tagged ‘Spanish-American War’

Las Abejeras del Capital en Porto Rico

Jose Anazagasty Rodríguez

80 grados    13 de junio de 2014

 

NYT PR July 27 1898

Después de la guerra hispanoamericana varias casas publicadoras, revistas, y periódicos divulgaron numerosos textos que recogían las experiencias y observaciones de las visitas de diversos viajeros estadounidenses a Puerto Rico. Estos viajeros articularon a través de sus narrativas el discurso colonial de la era inicial del imperialismo transcontinental estadounidense. Son por ello un objeto de estudio imprescindible de la “historia de lo imaginario” propuesta por Arcadio Díaz. Fue Díaz quien precisamente afirmó la necesidad de examinar diversas “zonas oscuras” del ’98, entre las que incluyo las relaciones con el espacio, y por supuesto, con la naturaleza.

La inspección y descripción absoluta y detallada de la colonia y su gente, incluyendo el paisaje, fue el propósito fundamental de esas narrativas de viaje. Sus descripciones, aunque enmarcadas en el realismo descriptivo, produjeron una visión estética de la naturaleza isleña articulada a través de varios significados que puntualizaron su riqueza simbólica y material. Puesto que esas representaciones iban dirigidas a la audiencia estadounidense requirieron que sus autores integraran el paisaje tropical de Puerto Rico, raro y confuso para muchos estadounidenses, al ámbito de su cultura. Para ello los autores movilizaron tropos conocidos por sus lectores en Estados Unidos, entre ellos la figura retórica del Edén. Muchos de esos escritores representaron la Isla como un jardín edénico, recurriendo a lo que Carolyn Merchant llamó la “narrativa de la restauración del Edén,” una narrativa familiar a los estadounidenses.

Aparte de convertir el paisaje de la recién adquirida colonia en un objeto familiar el tropo justificó, apelando a la jardinería, la colonización de la naturaleza isleña y sus habitantes. Efectivamente, la etimología de la palabra colonizar traza una conexión a las palabras colonus y colere, labrador y cultivar, respectivamente. La jardinería representaba para el nuevo colonus, los estadounidenses, el conjunto de técnicas necesarias para el control y manejo de los recursos naturales de la nueva colonia. Era la alegoría ajustada a la práctica de cultivar, de culturar la naturaleza apropiada y expropiada, es decir, colonizada.

La jardinería incluye la construcción de un espacio, de un jardín. La narrativa edénica de los textos estadounidenses produjo, en efecto, y a través de varias “geografías imaginativas,” espacios, el ordenamiento territorial y colonial del paisaje puertorriqueño. Pero se trataba ya en el 98 de lo que Henri Lefebvre llamó la producción capitalista del espacio. Pero, la producción del espacio es siempre corolario de la producción de la naturaleza. Y como he planteado en otros contextos existe una conexión entre la narrativa de la recuperación del Edén y lo que Neil Smith llamó la producción capitalista de la naturaleza. En los textos americanos, la conversión de la naturaleza isleña en recursos, el inventario textual y prospección económica de los mismos, así como su valuación monetaria, todo presente en varios textos estadounidenses, contribuyeron a instituir las formas en que la naturaleza sería alterada, capitalizada, circulada, intercambiada y consumida, material e ideológicamente, como bien material en términos de la lógica abstracta de su valor de intercambio en el mercado capitalista. En otras palabras la alegoría edénica movilizada por varios textos estadounidenses animó y justificó la intervención y ordenación capitalista-colonialista de la explotación y manejo de los recursos naturales de la Isla.

La producción capitalista de la naturaleza envuelve la subsunción formal y real de la naturaleza a las redes del capitalismo. Los textos estadounidenses que de una forma u otra escribieron sobre la naturaleza en Puerto Rico contribuyeron a ello, principalmente a la subsunción formal de la misma, aparte de sentar las bases para su prevista subsunción real a las abarcadoras redes del capital. Esto apunta a que la problemática de los estadounidenses, en adición a la delineación de la administración política a seguir en Puerto Rico, ya expuesto en detalle por Lanny Thompson, incluía además prescribir e instituir las formas de explotar y administrar los recursos naturales de la nueva colonia. Sus descripciones del entorno natural puertorriqueño participaron de la apropiación y la organización de su explotación comercial. Contribuyeron así a la ampliación de la subsunción formal, funcionando, naturalmente, como una estrategia primaria del capital para la apropiación y subordinación expresa, precisa y determinada de los recursos naturales.

Los estudiosos del tema, entre ellos Manuel Valdés Pizzini, Mario R. Cancel, José Anazagasty, José E. Martínez y Carlos I Hernández, entre otros, ya han conectado las prácticas de significación de varios de los textos estadounidenses con las prácticas económicas del capitalismo colonial, incluyendo su manejo de los recursos naturales de la isla.Estos textos, más allá de delinear la forma de administración política de lo que muchos llamaron Porto Rico también mostraron, proyectaron y justificaron la expansión económica del capital estadounidense en la Isla. Para ello detallaron el potencial económico de la colonia, incluyendo las posibilidades de invertir capital allí, la disponibilidad de materia prima y recursos naturales, la infraestructura adecuada y la reserva de trabajadores, entre otras cosas. Uno de los propósitos de muchos de estos textos y sus proyecciones económicas fue seducir a los inversionistas y comerciantes potenciales, interesarlos en las posibilidades agrícolas, comerciales e industriales de la isla.

La prospección de la isla también fue científica; Puerto Rico fue objeto de las observaciones y prácticas científicas estadounidenses realizadas por varios científicos de ese país alrededor de la Isla. Muchos de estos científicos, a través de diversos textos, también participaron de la producción capitalista de la naturaleza. Se esperaba que los científicos, particularmente aquellos al servicio del Estado, ayudaran a manejar el ambiente y sus recursos de forma racional. Por ejemplo, y como demostró Manuel Valdés Pizzini, diversos procesos ideológicos y discursivos ligados a la ciencia participaron del diseño de estrategias para el manejo estadounidense de los bosques después de la Guerra Hispanoamericana. Los estadounidenses, a la vez que devaluaron el manejo español de los bosques, recurrieron a discursos particulares de la dasonomía y la silvicultura—la racionalidad científica—para legitimar su ordenamiento y manejo particular—colonial—de los bosques puertorriqueños.

Pero en la mayoría de los casos la problemática, ahora científica, no era únicamente determinar la forma racional de manejar los recursos naturales de la colonia caribeña sino también detectar los recursos rentables y prescribir su explotación lucrativa, lo que requirió, como explica J.R. Mcneill en Colonial Crucible, la institucionalización de una ciencia ambiental. Esa ciencia, también ideológica y discursiva, participó de la producción capitalista de la naturaleza y el manejo de los recursos naturales.

La Estación Experimental de Puerto Rico, ubicada en Mayagüez, fue una importante manifestación de la institucionalización del manejo científico y racional de los recursos naturales, particularmente en el ámbito de la agricultura. Los investigadores afiliados a esa estación dirigieron muchas de sus investigaciones no solo al estudio de fenómenos naturales sino además a la “mejor” explotación y comercialización de diversos recursos naturales y agrícolas. Muchos de los hallazgos y recomendaciones económicas de esas investigaciones fueron publicados en diversas revistas y periódicos, incluyendo Porto Rico Progress. Un buen ejemplo es el artículo “Bees in Porto Rico,” publicado en 1910 justamente en esa revista. Este fue escrito por W.V. Tower, un entomólogo especialista en abejas afiliado a la mencionada estación y fue publicado tanto en inglés como en español.

Tower comenzó su artículo con algunos detalles sobre la introducción de las abejas a Puerto Rico, indicando que las mismas fueron introducidas posiblemente por un tal Mr. Filippi, quien ubicó colmenas de abejas italianas en la finca Juanita en Las Marías. También señaló que la mayoría de esas colmenas fueron destruidas por un huracán en 1899 pero que las abejas sobrevivientes produjeron colmenas silvestres en Las Marías. Tower afirmó esto último fundamentado en las anécdotas de los “vecinos” de Las Marías, quienes le comentaron haberse topado varias veces con colmenas de abejas silvestres. Para el entomólogo la descripción de aquellas abejas silvestres por parte de los vecinos apuntaba a que se trataba de abejas italianas, las sobrevivientes de las colmenas de Filippi.

Tower, desde la Estación Experimental de Puerto Rico, promovía el avance de “apiarios comerciales.” Destacaba en su ensayo que en apenas dos años desde que comenzó el proyecto ya habían enviado abejas a unas cincuenta personas. El entomólogo procedió entonces a confirmar el potencial lucrativo de los apiarios: “Desde que me encargue de esta obra, he estado siempre en busca de plantas apropiadas para abejas, y soy de opinión que Puerto Rico tiene gran cantidad de plantas melíferas, y dudo que exista una localidad en donde las abejas no resulten un buen negocio.”

abejas

Caja de abejas. Foto en “Rearing Queen Bees in Porto Rico”, publicado en 1918.

Su apoyo a la producción comercial de miel fue seguido por una serie de recomendaciones dirigidas a maximizar la productividad y potencial comercial de los apiarios, de la producción comercial de miel. Primero, recomendó localizar los apiarios en las faldas de los cerros y en las tierras dedicadas al cultivo del café, y aquellos lugares con varias plantas melíferas. Segundo, ofreció un inventario cabal de plantas melíferas: guamá, palma real, cocotero, moca, jobo, palo blanco, grosellas, higüerillo, y guara. Tercero, subrayó la importancia de las abejas en la fertilización de flores, como las de naranjo, lo que aumentaría las cosechas de frutas. De hecho, señaló que la presencia de más abejas hubiese evitado la escasez de flores de naranjo ese año, 1910, lo que pudo haber garantizado una mejor cosecha de naranjas. Cuarto, Tower recomendó aglutinar los esfuerzos hacia la producción de miel de extracción, objetando la producción de los panales y las secciones de a libra, los que según explicaba eran difíciles de embarcar y distribuir en los mercados, aunque la miel puertorriqueña solo se exportaba a Estados Unidos y en ocasiones a Alemania.

Tower, aunque afirmaba que la producción de los panales y las secciones de a libra podían explotarse para el consumo local, favorecía que los principiantes recurrieran la producción de miel de extracción, por ser este un método más fácil de manejar. Además, la producción de miel de extracción era, afirmaba el entomólogo, menos trabajosa para las abejas, pues evitaba que estas tuvieran que producir panales nuevos constantemente. Añadió también que la producción de miel de extracción facilitaba dominar las abejas porque reducía la tendencia de estas a formar enjambres, lo que no sucedía con los otros modos de producción de miel. Para él, la producción de enjambres disminuía la “fuerza productora de la colmena,” y con ello el potencial comercial de la apicultura. Finalmente, ese modo de producción de miel de extracción, el “método artificial,” permitía producir cera con menos miel, lo que se traducía, explicaba él, en ganancias monetarias, dependiendo claro está del precio de la miel vis-a-vis la cera en los mercados. Finalmente, recomendó seguir usando abejas italianas, porque aunque estas eran las más difíciles de subyugar eran muy buenas defendiéndose de las polillas de cera.

Tower, vaticinaba, si se seguían sus recomendaciones, y gracias a las favorables condiciones ambientales de la Isla, como la presencia de diversas plantas melíferas y la presencia de abejas italianas saludables, un buen éxito económico para la apicultura comercial en Puerto Rico: “El porvenir de los apicultores puertorriqueños es brillantísimo. No se conocen enfermedades que molesten a las abejas. La putrefacción de la cría—terrible enfermedad que puede estudiarse en una de las islas vecinas así como en los Estados Unidos—no ha sido introducida en Puerto Rico.”

Tower, y muchos científicos como él, participando de la subsunción formal de la naturaleza, de las abejeras y su miel en su caso, contribuyeron a la marcha de la naturaleza como estrategia de acumulación capitalista en Puerto Rico. Los científicos asistieron el “imperialismo ecológico”, el control capitalista-estadounidense del flujo de recursos naturales procedentes de la isla. Los estadounidenses, claro está, no fueron los únicos en proyectar y explotar los recursos naturales de la Isla o de convertirlos en bienes lucrativos formal y realmente. Los españoles y los puertorriqueños mismos hicieron lo suyo. Además, la Estación Experimental de Puerto Rico promovió la participación de apicultores locales, inclusive enviándoles abejas y entrenándolos. No promovió, como ocurrió con otros recursos, el control absoluto del capital estadounidense sobre la producción de miel. Pero el proyecto colonial-capitalista de los estadounidenses extendió e intensificó la producción capitalista de la naturaleza, particularmente de su integración formal, como nunca antes, y con la racionalidad científica de su parte.

 

José Anazagasty Rodríguez

José Anazagasty Rodríguez  es Catedrático Asociado en el programa de Sociología del Departamento de Ciencias Sociales de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto Universitario de Mayagüez. Es especialista en sociología ambiental, estudios americanos y teoría social, y ha realizado investigaciones en la retórica imperialista estadounidense y la producción capitalista de la naturaleza en Puerto Rico. Es co-editor, con Mario R. Cancel, de los libros “We the people: la representación americana de los puertorriqueños 1898-1926 (2008)” y “Porto Rico: hecho en Estados Unidos (2011)”.

 

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Rare photos of Spanish-American war were ‘simply waiting to be re-discovered’

Daily Mail  Online  May 10, 2014

Rare pictures of the U.S. Navy taken during the Spanish-American war have been unearthed after being found hidden away in storage by military archivists.

They were only brought to light again when the photo archive team was preparing for a major renovation and archivists Dave Colamaria and Jon Roscoe stumbled across the pictures.

Lisa Crunk, head of the photo archives branch at the Naval History and Heritage Command, said: ‘The plates were individually wrapped in tissue paper and include full captions and dates, which were likely prepared by the photographer, Douglas White.

´Research on Mr White discovered that he was a special war correspondent of the San Francisco Examiner during the Philippines War.

‘Once it was realised what we had uncovered, there was tremendous excitement amongst the staff, especially the historians.

‘The images are an amazing find, though they were never really lost – they were simply waiting to be rediscovered.’

Plans are now in place for the entire collection to be re-housed into new archival enclosures and shelving units.

 

The USS Raleigh in action in 1898.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
The cruiser took part in the Battle of Manila Bay/Cavite on May 1, 1898

The USS Raleigh in action in 1898. The cruiser took part in the Battle of Manila Bay/Cavite on May 1, 1898

Another U.S. Navy vessel to be involved in the conflict was the USS Boston, pictured here in 1898. It was also involved in the Battle of Manila

Another U.S. Navy vessel to be involved in the conflict was the USS Boston, pictured here in 1898. It was also involved in the Battle of Manila

The USS Petrel was also part of the fleet, which took part in the war. The vessel, pictured here in 1898, is described as a gun boat

The USS Petrel was also part of the fleet, which took part in the war. The vessel, pictured here in 1898, is described as a gun boat

An image of the wreck of the Spanish armed transporter Cebu, taken sometime after a battle

An image of the wreck of the Spanish armed transporter Cebu, taken sometime after a battle

The Spanish cruiser, the Castilla, was lost in the Battle of Manila Bay with 25 men killed and 80 wounded

The Spanish cruiser, the Castilla, was lost in the Battle of Manila Bay with 25 men killed and 80 wounded

This image of the Spanish Fleet in the Suez Canal was one of many uncovered in storage at the Naval History and Heritage Command

This image of the Spanish Fleet in the Suez Canal was one of many uncovered in storage at the Naval History and Heritage Command

Apprentice boys pictured aboard the USS Olympia, the flagship of the Asiatic Squadron

Apprentice boys pictured aboard the USS Olympia, the flagship of the Asiatic Squadron

American sailors pictured during the Spanish-American war. They are Dave Ireland, Purdy, Tom Griffin and John King

American sailors pictured during the Spanish-American war. They are Dave Ireland, Purdy, Tom Griffin and John King

Captain Dennis Geary of the California Heavy Artillery rides his horse through Cavite in the Philippines

Captain Dennis Geary of the California Heavy Artillery rides his horse through Cavite in the Philippines

The crew of the Spanish cruiser Reina Cristina in prayer before battle on April 24, 1898

The crew of the Spanish cruiser Reina Cristina in prayer before battle on April 24, 1898

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Spanish-American Filipino War Footage

The Spanish-American-Filipino War is the first US war that was filmed.  Here are a collection of short clips from the Library of Congress.

We may watch one or more in class.  Feel free to watch as many as you’d like.  For audience in 1898, footage of war was a major attraction.  However, not all the scenes are “actuality” footage, but reenactments by film companies–created, no doubt–to satisfy audience demands

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An Isolationist United States? If Only That Were True
Tim Reuter

Forbes, October 10, 2013

“Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”  Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address.

This image depicts the Territorial acquisitions of the United States, such as the Thirteen Colonies, the Louisiana Purchase, British and Spanish Cession, and so on.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This image depicts the Territorial acquisitions of the United States, such as the Thirteen Colonies, the Louisiana Purchase, British and Spanish Cession, and so on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

George Orwell once wrote that if “thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”  He derided his contemporaries for how their use and abuse of the term fascism emptied the word of any meaning.  The subsequent inability to define fascism degraded it “to the level of a swearword,” and a slur for use against anyone or anything deemed undesirable.

The same holds true for the word isolationism, and its use in American foreign policy discussions.  Proponents of American empire hurl the words isolationism and isolationist at their critics to tar them as ignoramuses and kooks.  The neoconservative movement’s scion, super hawk Bill Kristol, has dismissed, the non-interventionist and possible 2016 presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul as a “neo-isolationist.”

Charles Krauthammer was more explicit in a Washington Post op-ed on August 1:

“The Paulites, pining for the splendid isolation of the 19th century, want to leave the world alone on the assumption that it will then leave us alone.  Which rests on the further assumption that international stability — open sea lanes, free commerce, relative tranquility — comes naturally, like the air we breathe.  If only that were true. Unfortunately, stability is not a matter of grace.  It comes about only by Great Power exertion… World order is maintained by American power and American will.  Take that away and you don’t get tranquility.  You get chaos.”

The specter of renewed intervention in the Middle East (attacking Syria) may have passed, but the slur remains.  Neoconservative intellectuals, obsessed with American military might, have stamped non-interventionists and the war weary public alike as isolationists.

But in the history of American foreign affairs, isolation has never meant a lonely existence.  Instead, it implied security.  The “splendid isolation” phrase mocked by Krauthammer comes from late Nineteenth Century British statesman who viewed Britain’s interests as distinct from continental Europe’s.  The English Channel separated British security concerns from the continent’s power politics and wars.  This geographic isolation helped demarcate differences between colonial security interests, which Britain routinely acted on, and homeland security.

Something similar was true for the United States.  German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck put the matter well: “The Americans are truly a lucky people.  They are bordered to the north and south by weak neighbors and to the east and west by fish.”  The Founding Fathers agreed.

Americans had the geographic luck of distance from Europe and its conflicts.  Out of this ability to avoid unnecessary wars that jeopardized life and liberty, came the Founders’ caution.  Before Jefferson’s aforementioned quip, George Washington stated the matter bluntly in his Farewell Address.  “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.”

Such counsel contained a powerful strain of realism.  Strict neutrality was the infant nation’s best hope for survival amid international turmoil.  The global nature of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars threatened to ensnare and destroy the republic with one misstep or ill-fated alliance.  President James Madison nearly did just that in the War of 1812 when British forces burned Washington D.C.

In the republic’s harrowing early years, one should note the impossibility of isolation or having no foreign contact.  The world war meant the U.S. needed diplomatic relations and readiness for conflict.  Sometimes the two overlapped, such as when hostilities began in 1812 over the repeated impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy.  But, the key for the Founders was to comprehend foreign threats and respond appropriately.

Prescribed aloofness from European power politics never concerned diplomacy or trade.  The Founders encouraged the latter, while the former became easier after Napoleon’s fall in 1815.  Indeed, diplomacy was critical to bolstering U.S. security.

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 did more than add land.  It reduced the presence of France, and then Spain, in North America and secured American control of the Mississippi River.  The Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 built off of Jefferson’s work.  It exchanged vague boundary claims in present-day Texas for Spanish Florida, and consolidated American control of land east of the Mississippi River.  Moreover, New Spain (Mexico and Central America) became independent soon thereafter.

In 1823, President James Monroe warned European nations against re-colonizing Latin America.  Such efforts would constitute a serious threat to U.S. security.  Despite America’s inability to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, and whether by design or accident, Britain tacitly approved.  Spanish re-conquest likely meant a reestablished mercantilist system.  If the Royal Navy kept prospective colonizers out, those new markets would likely stay open.  This overlap of British economic interests and American geopolitical interests benefited the United States immensely.

As Europe settled into peace, foreign crises abated and the market revolution began.  Over the succeeding years, U.S. economic growth exploded, the restraints of weakness fell away, and politicians’ desire to exercise power grew.  From 1815 to the Civil War, Americans made plenty of mischief abroad.  The U.S. declared one war (against Mexico 1846-1848), threatened another with Britain over border disputes regarding Canada out west (1845-1847), and issued ultimatums to Spain about freeing Cuba (the 1854 Ostend Manifesto).

The justification for this belligerency may sound familiar, freedom.  In July 1845, a young writer named John L. O’Sullivan published an editorial entitled “Annexation” in The United States Democratic Review.  This piece mixed freedom with foreign policy, and turned a famous phrase.  O’Sullivan opined about America’s “manifest destiny” to “overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.”

O’Sullivan did not mean territorial acquisition by force.  Instead, the spread of free peoples and success of free institutions would exercise a gravitational pull.  American energy and productivity would inexorably draw North America’s foreign territories into the Union.  California, then part of Mexico, was a case in point.

“Already the advance guard of the irresistible army of Anglo-Saxon emigration has begun to pour down upon it, armed with the plough and the rifle, and marking its trail with schools and colleges, courts and representative halls, mills and meeting-houses.  A population will soon be in actual occupation of California, over which it will be idle for Mexico to dream of dominion.”

Stated succinctly, freedom’s power lay internally.  Americans’ success as free people marked them as chosen by God to show the way to a better future.  Moreover, once the U.S. conquered North America, no European power would equal its strength.  O’Sullivan concluded:

“Away, then, with all idle French talk of balances of power on the American continent [emphasis in the original]… And whosoever may hold the balance, though they should cast into the opposite scale all the bayonets and cannon, not only of France and England, but of Europe entire, how would it kick the beam against the simple solid weight of two hundred and fifty, or three hundred millions-and American millions-destined to gather beneath the flutter of the stripes and stars, in the fast hastening year of the Lord 1945!”

Others shared such sentiments, including the new president.  In his first annual message to Congress in December 1845, President James Polk stated, “the expansion of free principles and our rising greatness as a nation are attracting the attention of the powers of Europe.”  That attention brought about the threat of a “ ‘balance of power’ ” system imposed “on this continent to check our advancement.”

The solution was territorial acquisition.  A trans-continental United States would, excluding British Canada, end European intrigue and mischief making in North America.  If it came at the expense of others, then so be it.  Such thinking was not confined to the younger generation.  President Andrew Jackson said of Mexico’s breakaway Texas province in 1844: it was “the key to our safety” and would “lock the door against future danger.”  Texas was duly annexed in February 1845, while the Oregon territory and California followed soon thereafter.

But ultimately, America’s exaltation of freedom did not stop with continental conquest.  It turned outward after Reconstruction and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  While not inevitable, the transition from Jefferson’s “empire of liberty,” to an imperial power built off early expansionist impulses.

As European nations carved up Africa, Americans watched a horror show closer to home.  In February of 1895, Cuba’s Spanish masters brutally suppressed an insurrection.  Mass arrests, concentration camps, and destruction of property continually wracked the island.  Such carnage, inflamed by mass media, attracted renewed American interest in obtaining Cuba.  However, the reasons for annexation had changed with the times.

Early interest fit into O’Sullivan’s model of gravitational pull.  As Monroe’s Secretary of State (1817-1825), John Quincy Adams labeled Puerto Rico and Cuba “natural appendages of the North American continent.”  Once free, both could “gravitate only towards the North American Union.”  His contemporaries and successors agreed: Madison tried to buy the island in 1810 and annexationists eagerly awaited its freedom in 1848 as revolution gripped Europe.  Yet, Cuba stayed Spanish real estate.

With wealth and power by the end of the Nineteenth Century, American opinions on imperialism had changed.  Given its proximity, Cuba was a logical target.  Some, such as Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, appealed to security concerns.  He called Cuba a “necessity” to the defense of the Panama Canal upon its completion.  Others, namely Senator Morgan of Alabama, thought the prior generations’ wisdom was obsolete.  He unabashedly stated, “Cuba should become an American colony.”

While Cuba burned, jingoists kept agitating for colonialism on newer, and more expansive, grounds.  In April 1898, with war declared on Spain, freedom’s forceful expansion reached its supreme perversion in a speech by Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana.  “The progress of a mighty people and their free institutions” begun at the Nineteenth Century’s start was nearing its apex.  “Fate has written our policy for us; the trade of the world must and shall be ours.”  This quest for an empire of trade wrested Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines from Spain in three months.

The turn from the past finished four years later in a faraway land.  On July 4, 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt extended pardons to all those involved in the Filipino insurrection.  This gesture came after roughly a million Filipinos died in a guerilla war against U.S. forces.  Upwards of 75,000 American soldiers suppressed the rebellion, captured Aguinaldo (the rebellion’s leader), and solidified American control over the nation’s new Pacific trade post.  All that remained was to “civilize and Christianize” the “little brown brothers.”  While it might take a while, Governor-General William Howard Taft estimated “fifty or one hundred years,” the empire would endure.

The neocons’ chest thumping about American power relies on alleged international benefits, open seas, outweighing the negatives of expense or quagmires.  They seemingly do not consider, or care about, domestic consequences; centralized power, distorted perceptions of the military’s role in protecting society, and intellectuals playing social engineers.

Some statesmen, in their humility, knew better.  Eighty-one years before Roosevelt’s pivot to imperialism, John Quincy Adams channeled his father’s generation.  On July 4, 1821, he issued as sublime a statement of U.S. foreign policy ever written.

“But she [America] goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.  She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own… She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.  The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force [emphasis added].”

How prophetic.  Yet, it seems the era of intervention that climaxed under President George W. Bush is at its end.  Its foundational ideas are in retreat despite the bellowing of its loudest spokesmen.   The next, and final, step for such bankrupt ideas and the isolationist slur is residence in the dustbin of history.

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http://www.forbes.com/sites/timreuter/2013/10/10/an-isolationist-united-states-if-only-that-were-true/

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Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthplace

Asian American History in NYC
Posted on September 5, 2013
TR-house-2-225x300This simple brownstone at 28 East 20th Street in Manhattan is a replica of the original building that once occupied the same site. That townhouse was the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth president of the United States.

TR was certainly not Asian American, but he played important roles in several key moments of Asian American history. For example, at the beginning of the Spanish-American War, he resigned his position as assistant secretary of the Navy to form and fight with the Rough Riders cavalry unit in a war that ultimately made the Philippines an American colony–and began Filipino migration to the US mainland. And his actions as president directly shaped the experiences of two major Asian American groups: Japanese Americans and Korean Americans.

In 1905, TR helped negotiate an end to the Russo-Japanese War then taking place in northeast Asia. At the time, several thousand Korean immigrants lived in the Territory of Hawaii and on the US West Coast, and they petitioned TR to defend Korea’s independence and territorial integrity, particularly from Japan. Two Koreans (including future South Korean president Syngman Rhee) also met with TR at his home, Sagamore Hill, in Oyster Bay, Long Island, to plead their country’s cause.

Little did any of the Koreans know that TR had secretly agreed to allow Japan to annex Korea, which became an official Japanese colony in 1910. Roosevelt admired the rise of modern Japan and also believed that Japanese domination of Korea would ensure reciprocal support for continued American occupation of the Philippines.

Portmouth-201x300

Portsmouth Peace Conference participants: Baron Komura and Kogoro Takahira (left), M. Witte and Baron Rosen (right), and President Theodore Roosevelt (center). Library of Congress.

Regardless of TR’s motives, the Japanese annexation of Korea not only caused great unrest there but also helped fuel the Korean independence movement, which flourished both on the West Coast and Hawaii, and in China and Siberia.

About seven months after TR negotiated the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth, ending the Russo-Japanese War, an earthquake and subsequent fire destroyed much of San Francisco, a city that had attracted significant Japanese immigration since the 1890s. During the rebuilding process, the San Francisco Board of Education mandated that Japanese American students would have to attend the segregated Oriental School, located in Chinatown. The city had long segregated Chinese American students, but Japanese American kids studied in integrated schools before the quake. The Board’s move was an overtly and unapologetically racist response to growing Japanese immigration to the West Coast. And it not only angered Japanese immigrant parents but provoked an international incident with Japan.

Unwilling to risk war with the rising Pacific power, TR negotiated with Japanese officials and with authorities in California. The result was the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907, in which San Francisco allowed Japanese American children to attend integrated schools, while the Japanese government no longer issued passports to male laborers hoping to immigrate to the US (although Japanese men already in the US could still bring their wives and children to join them). More quietly, TR issued an executive order barring Japanese immigrants living in the Territory of Hawaii (a magnet for Japanese immigration) from moving to the US mainland.

San Francisco’s Oriental Public School, 1914. Courtesy Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.

San Francisco’s Oriental Public School, 1914. Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.

The Gentlemen’s Agreement averted an international crisis, but it did not satisfy California’s white supremacists, who continued to organize against Japanese Americans. The Agreement also reflected the power hierarchy that TR himself helped create. Chinese American children remained segregated in the Oriental School, but now they were joined by San Francisco’s handful of Korean American kids. Japan might claim Korea, but it did little to protect Koreans abroad–and the Gentlemen’s Agreement did not include them.

Sources for this post include Richard S. Kim, The Quest for Statehood: Korean Immigrant Nationalism and U.S. Sovereignty, 1905-1945; New York Times; and the files of the Survey of Race Relations on the Pacific Coast, Hoover Institution.

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TomDispatch

Naming Our Nameless War 

How Many Years Will It Be?
By Andrew J. Bacevich

For well over a decade now the United States has been “a nation at war.” Does that war have a name?

It did at the outset.  After 9/11, George W. Bush’s administration wasted no time in announcing that the U.S. was engaged in a Global War on Terrorism, or GWOT.  With few dissenters, the media quickly embraced the term. The GWOT promised to be a gargantuan, transformative enterprise. The conflict begun on 9/11 would define the age. In neoconservative circles, it was known as World War IV.

Upon succeeding to the presidency in 2009, however, Barack Obama without fanfare junked Bush’s formulation (as he did again in a speech at the National Defense University last week).  Yet if the appellation went away, the conflict itself, shorn of identifying marks, continued.

Does it matter that ours has become and remains a nameless war? Very much so.

Names bestow meaning.  When it comes to war, a name attached to a date can shape our understanding of what the conflict was all about.  To specify when a war began and when it ended is to privilege certain explanations of its significance while discrediting others. Let me provide a few illustrations.

With rare exceptions, Americans today characterize the horrendous fraternal bloodletting of 1861-1865 as the Civil War.  Yet not many decades ago, diehard supporters of the Lost Cause insisted on referring to that conflict as the War Between the States or the War for Southern Independence (or even the War of Northern Aggression).  The South may have gone down in defeat, but the purposes for which Southerners had fought — preserving a distinctive way of life and the principle of states’ rights — had been worthy, even noble.  So at least they professed to believe, with their preferred names for the war reflecting that belief.

Schoolbooks tell us that the Spanish-American War began in April 1898 and ended in August of that same year.  The name and dates fit nicely with a widespread inclination from President William McKinley’s day to our own to frame U.S. intervention in Cuba as an altruistic effort to liberate that island from Spanish oppression.

Yet the Cubans were not exactly bystanders in that drama.  By 1898, they had been fighting for years to oust their colonial overlords.  And although hostilities in Cuba itself ended on August 12th, they dragged on in the Philippines, another Spanish colony that the United States had seized for reasons only remotely related to liberating Cubans.  Notably, U.S. troops occupying the Philippines waged a brutal war not against Spaniards but against Filipino nationalists no more inclined to accept colonial rule by Washington than by Madrid.  So widen the aperture to include this Cuban prelude and the Filipino postlude and you end up with something like this:  The Spanish-American-Cuban-Philippines War of 1895-1902.  Too clunky?  How about the War for the American Empire?  This much is for sure: rather than illuminating, the commonplace textbook descriptor serves chiefly to conceal.

Strange as it may seem, Europeans once referred to the calamitous events of 1914-1918 as the Great War.  When Woodrow Wilson decided in 1917 to send an army of doughboys to fight alongside the Allies, he went beyond Great.  According to the president, the Great War was going to be the War To End All Wars.  Alas, things did not pan out as he expected.  Perhaps anticipating the demise of his vision of permanent peace, War Department General Order 115, issued on October 7, 1919, formally declared that, at least as far as the United States was concerned, the recently concluded hostilities would be known simply as the World War.

In September 1939 — presto chango! — the World Warsuddenly became the First World War, the Nazi invasion of Poland having inaugurated a Second World War, also known asWorld War II or more cryptically WWII.  To be sure, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin preferred the Great Patriotic War. Although this found instant — almost unanimous — favor among Soviet citizens, it did not catch on elsewhere.

Does World War II accurately capture the events it purports to encompass?  With the crusade against the Axis now ranking alongside the crusade against slavery as a myth-enshrouded chapter in U.S. history to which all must pay homage, Americans are no more inclined to consider that question than to consider why a playoff to determine the professional baseball championship of North America constitutes a “World Series.”

In fact, however convenient and familiar, World War II is misleading and not especially useful.  The period in question saw at least two wars, each only tenuously connected to the other, each having distinctive origins, each yielding a different outcome.  To separate them is to transform the historical landscape.

On the one hand, there was the Pacific War, pitting the United States against Japan.  Formally initiated by the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, it had in fact begun a decade earlier when Japan embarked upon a policy of armed conquest in Manchuria.  At stake was the question of who would dominate East Asia.  Japan’s crushing defeat at the hands of the United States, sealed by two atomic bombs in 1945, answered that question (at least for a time).

Then there was the European War, pitting Nazi Germany first against Great Britain and France, but ultimately against a grand alliance led by the United States, the Soviet Union, and a fast fading British Empire.  At stake was the question of who would dominate Europe.  Germany’s defeat resolved that issue (at least for a time): no one would.  To prevent any single power from controlling Europe, two outside powers divided it.

This division served as the basis for the ensuing Cold War,which wasn’t actually cold, but also (thankfully) wasn’t World War III, the retrospective insistence of bellicose neoconservatives notwithstanding.  But when did the Cold Warbegin?  Was it in early 1947, when President Harry Truman decided that Stalin’s Russia posed a looming threat and committed the United States to a strategy of containment?  Or was it in 1919, when Vladimir Lenin decided that Winston Churchill’s vow to “strangle Bolshevism in its cradle” posed a looming threat to the Russian Revolution, with an ongoing Anglo-American military intervention evincing a determination to make good on that vow?

Separating the war against Nazi Germany from the war against Imperial Japan opens up another interpretive possibility.  If you incorporate the European conflict of 1914-1918 and the European conflict of 1939-1945 into a single narrative, you get a Second Thirty Years War (the first having occurred from 1618-1648) — not so much a contest of good against evil, as a mindless exercise in self-destruction that represented the ultimate expression of European folly.

So, yes, it matters what we choose to call the military enterprise we’ve been waging not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in any number of other countries scattered hither and yon across the Islamic world.  Although the Obama administration appears no more interested than the Bush administration in saying when that enterprise will actually end, the date we choose as its starting point also matters.

Although Washington seems in no hurry to name its nameless war — and will no doubt settle on something self-serving or anodyne if it ever finally addresses the issue — perhaps we should jump-start the process.  Let’s consider some possible options, names that might actually explain what’s going on.

The Long War: Coined not long after 9/11 by senior officers in the Pentagon, this formulation never gained traction with either civilian officials or the general public.  Yet the Long War deserves consideration, even though — or perhaps because — it has lost its luster with the passage of time.

At the outset, it connoted grand ambitions buoyed by extreme confidence in the efficacy of American military might.  This was going to be one for the ages, a multi-generational conflict yielding sweeping results.

The Long War did begin on a hopeful note.  The initial entry into Afghanistan and then into Iraq seemed to herald “home by Christmas” triumphal parades.  Yet this soon proved an illusion as victory slipped from Washington’s grasp.  By 2005 at the latest, events in the field had dashed the neo-Wilsonian expectations nurtured back home.

With the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan dragging on, “long” lost its original connotation.  Instead of “really important,” it became a synonym for “interminable.”  Today, the Long Wardoes succinctly capture the experience of American soldiers who have endured multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

For Long War combatants, the object of the exercise has become to persist.  As for winning, it’s not in the cards. TheLong War just might conclude by the end of 2014 if President Obama keeps his pledge to end the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan and if he avoids getting sucked into Syria’s civil war.  So the troops may hope.

The War Against Al-Qaeda: It began in August 1996 when Osama bin Laden issued a “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” i.e., Saudi Arabia.  In February 1998, a second bin Laden manifesto announced that killing Americans, military and civilian alike, had become “an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it.”

Although President Bill Clinton took notice, the U.S. response to bin Laden’s provocations was limited and ineffectual.  Only after 9/11 did Washington take this threat seriously.  Since then, apart from a pointless excursion into Iraq (where, in Saddam Hussein’s day, al-Qaeda did not exist), U.S. attention has been focused on Afghanistan, where U.S. troops have waged the longest war in American history, and on Pakistan’s tribal borderlands, where a CIA drone campaign is ongoing.  By the end of President Obama’s first term, U.S. intelligence agencies were reporting that a combined CIA/military campaign had largely destroyed bin Laden’s organization.  Bin Laden himself, of course, was dead.

Could the United States have declared victory in its unnamed war at this point?  Perhaps, but it gave little thought to doing so.  Instead, the national security apparatus had already trained its sights on various al-Qaeda “franchises” and wannabes, militant groups claiming the bin Laden brand and waging their own version of jihad.  These offshoots emerged in the Maghreb, Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, and — wouldn’t you know it — post-Saddam Iraq, among other places.  The question as to whether they actually posed a danger to the United States got, at best, passing attention — the label “al-Qaeda” eliciting the same sort of Pavlovian response that the word “communist” once did.

Americans should not expect this war to end anytime soon.  Indeed, the Pentagon’s impresario of special operations recently speculated — by no means unhappily — that it would continue globally for “at least 10 to 20 years.”   Freely translated, his statement undoubtedly means: “No one really knows, but we’re planning to keep at it for one helluva long time.”

The War For/Against/About Israel: It began in 1948.  For many Jews, the founding of the state of Israel signified an ancient hope fulfilled.  For many Christians, conscious of the sin of anti-Semitism that had culminated in the Holocaust, it offered a way to ease guilty consciences, albeit mostly at others’ expense.  For many Muslims, especially Arabs, and most acutely Arabs who had been living in Palestine, the founding of the Jewish state represented a grave injustice.  It was yet another unwelcome intrusion engineered by the West — colonialism by another name.

Recounting the ensuing struggle without appearing to take sides is almost impossible.  Yet one thing seems clear: in terms of military involvement, the United States attempted in the late 1940s and 1950s to keep its distance.  Over the course of the 1960s, this changed.  The U.S. became Israel’s principal patron, committed to maintaining (and indeed increasing) its military superiority over its neighbors.

In the decades that followed, the two countries forged a multifaceted “strategic relationship.”  A compliant Congress provided Israel with weapons and other assistance worth many billions of dollars, testifying to what has become an unambiguous and irrevocable U.S. commitment to the safety and well-being of the Jewish state.  The two countries share technology and intelligence.  Meanwhile, just as Israel had disregarded U.S. concerns when it came to developing nuclear weapons, it ignored persistent U.S. requests that it refrain from colonizing territory that it has conquered.

When it comes to identifying the minimal essential requirements of Israeli security and the terms that will define any Palestinian-Israeli peace deal, the United States defers to Israel.  That may qualify as an overstatement, but only slightly.  Given the Israeli perspective on those requirements and those terms — permanent military supremacy and a permanently demilitarized Palestine allowed limited sovereignty — the War For/Against/About Israel is unlikely to end anytime soon either.  Whether the United States benefits from the perpetuation of this war is difficult to say, but we are in it for the long haul.

The War for the Greater Middle East: I confess that this is the name I would choose for Washington’s unnamed war and is, in fact, the title of a course I teach.  (A tempting alternative is the Second Hundred Years War, the “first” having begun in 1337 and ended in 1453.)

This war is about to hit the century mark, its opening chapter coinciding with the onset of World War I.  Not long after the fighting on the Western Front in Europe had settled into a stalemate, the British government, looking for ways to gain the upper hand, set out to dismantle the Ottoman Empire whose rulers had foolishly thrown in their lot with the German Reich against the Allies.

By the time the war ended with Germany and the Turks on the losing side, Great Britain had already begun to draw up new boundaries, invent states, and install rulers to suit its predilections, while also issuing mutually contradictory promises to groups inhabiting these new precincts of its empire.  Toward what end?  Simply put, the British were intent on calling the shots from Egypt to India, whether by governing through intermediaries or ruling directly.  The result was a new Middle East and a total mess.

London presided over this mess, albeit with considerable difficulty, until the end of World War II.  At this point, by abandoning efforts to keep Arabs and Zionists from one another’s throats in Palestine and by accepting the partition of India, they signaled their intention to throw in the towel. Alas, Washington proved more than willing to assume Britain’s role.  The lure of oil was strong.  So too were the fears, however overwrought, of the Soviets extending their influence into the region.

Unfortunately, the Americans enjoyed no more success in promoting long-term, pro-Western stability than had the British.  In some respects, they only made things worse, with the joint CIA-MI6 overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran in 1953 offering a prime example of a “success” that, to this day, has never stopped breeding disaster.

Only after 1980 did things get really interesting, however.  The Carter Doctrine promulgated that year designated the Persian Gulf a vital national security interest and opened the door to greatly increased U.S. military activity not just in the Gulf, but also throughout the Greater Middle East (GME).  Between 1945 and 1980, considerable numbers of American soldiers lost their lives fighting in Asia and elsewhere.  During that period, virtually none were killed fighting in the GME.  Since 1990, in contrast, virtually none have been killed fighting anywhere except in the GME.

What does the United States hope to achieve in its inherited and unending War for the Greater Middle East?  To pacify the region?  To remake it in our image?  To drain its stocks of petroleum?  Or just keeping the lid on?  However you define the war’s aims, things have not gone well, which once again suggests that, in some form, it will continue for some time to come.  If there’s any good news here, it’s the prospect of having ever more material for my seminar, which may soon expand into a two-semester course.

The War Against Islam: This war began nearly 1,000 years ago and continued for centuries, a storied collision between Christendom and the Muslim ummah.  For a couple of hundred years, periodic eruptions of large-scale violence occurred until the conflict finally petered out with the last crusade sometime in the fourteenth century.

In those days, many people had deemed religion something worth fighting for, a proposition to which the more sophisticated present-day inhabitants of Christendom no longer subscribe.  Yet could that religious war have resumed in our own day?  Professor Samuel Huntington thought so, although he styled the conflict a “clash of civilizations.”  Some militant radical Islamists agree with Professor Huntington, citing as evidence the unwelcome meddling of “infidels,” mostly wearing American uniforms, in various parts of the Muslim world.  Some militant evangelical Christians endorse this proposition, even if they take a more favorable view of U.S. troops occupying and drones targeting Muslim countries.

In explaining the position of the United States government, religious scholars like George W. Bush and Barack (Hussein!) Obama have consistently expressed a contrary view.  Islam is a religion of peace, they declare, part of the great Abrahamic triad.  That the other elements of that triad are likewise committed to peace is a proposition that Bush, Obama, and most Americans take for granted, evidence not required.  There should be no reason why Christians, Jews, and Muslims can’t live together in harmony.

Still, remember back in 2001 when, in an unscripted moment, President Bush described the war barely begun as a “crusade”?  That was just a slip of the tongue, right?  If not, we just might end up calling this one the Eternal War.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University and a TomDispatch regular. His next book, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Countrywill appear in September.

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View this story online at: http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175704/

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