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The USA’s decision to annex the Philippines, during the

The USA’s decision to annex the Philippines, during the Philippine-American War, incited bitter controversy throughout the United States The disputed arguments for  the annexation can be examined through investigating moral justification and political justification. Morally  there was heavy debate over whether American actions in the Philippines were benevolent or unethical. The Filipino nationalists eventually commenced guerilla warfare after a series of defeats in order to compensate for their sufficient lack of technology and logistics. In response, the US implemented a strategy of attraction and punishment in response. To convince Filipinos of positive intentions, the US implemented a program of social engineering with infrastructure improvements, new roads, canals, and telegraph lines, a public health system, and over 1000 public schools. Nonetheless, the US army increased troop deployments and retaliated against the guerilla warfare with severe measures. There was continuous political pressure to end the war quickly, causing escalation of strategy. This cultivated an increase in brutality, evident due to the frequency of massacres committed Moreover, rumours of atrocities committed by Americans in the Philippines began in winter of 1900. US soldiers were often racially motivated to execute Filipinos, and most were unsure of the reason they were fighting. Richard Welch, a professor of American history, defines atrocities as the murder of civilians and prisoners, torture of captives, systematic burning of civilian quarters, and rape. According to this definition, there were 57 cases of atrocities committed. Additionally, Welch notes that there were 60 cases of aggravated assault, in which the cruelty can be considered torture. Estimations of Filipino deaths range from 250,000 to 1,000,000. As well, the number of American deaths is 4324, notably much more than that of those lost in the Spanish-American War, yet drastically less than that of the Filipinos. In response to American public awareness of atrocities in the Philippines, an anti-imperialist league formed in Boston in 1898. After holding a conference in Chicago, in 1898, they became national organization, expanding rapidly, denouncing “…the slaughter of Filipinos as a needless horror.” As the Philippine nationalist movement subsided in defeat in 1902, a large amount of the league’s diminished, never regained. However, their opposition to the war caused difficulties for the government. The justifications of American annexation can also be examined through political motives. The US was aware of the islands’ location being a valuable naval base, therefore President McKinley proclaimed “benevolent assimilation” of the Philippines on December 21, 1898. The US intended to exploit resources for the interest of American capitalism, bringing the US into the rivalry with the other imperial powers such as Britain, France, and the Dutch.  They wanted to use the Philippines as a base for American capital accumulation, and for expansionism and interventionism into other territories. When the ultimate decision was made in favour of annexing the Philippines, international power relationships played a significant role. Germany, Japan and Russia all implied interest in annexing the Philippines if US withdrew. Britain supported the US in establishing its sovereignty so other powers, considered more intimidating rivals, would not.  Both the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary of Great Britain, as well as most of the British press, at the time, publicly and actively encouraged the United States to annex the Philippines. In addition, US naval officer and historian Alfred Thayer Mahan argued that prosperity depended on the development of a strong merchant marine. He believed that the acquisition of overseas territories privileged access to foreign markets; and, most important, a strong navy. As the US gained more power, it would adopt a more impactful and ambitious foreign policy, bringing the nation into proximate competition with other imperial powers.Furthermore, political motives can be understood through various perspectives. In particular, President William McKinley believed that the Philippines were “unfit for self government and would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain’s was.” He had claimed that it would be cowardly and dishonorable to give them back to Spain, and disgraceful to surrender them to France or  Germany. Therefore, it is evident that it was necessary for the United States to take control in order to maintain a responsible, organized government, and to establish a position of strength in diplomacy. Nonetheless, there were oppositions to this decision and reasoning. In February of 1902, many Americans, including 36 professors at the University of Chicago, signed a petition to the US Senate demanding investigation about stories of brutality in Batangas campaign. This symbolized the academic component of the anti-imperialist movement. However, Even among the most enthusiastic anti-imperialists of 1900 there were few who opposed “the system” or doubted that American institutions were superior to those of other countries.

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