The Spanish-American War

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What were the similarities between the Spanish-American war and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

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One of the reasons behind both wars was to "liberate" an oppressed people. Americans sought to liberate the oppressed Cubans in the Spanish-American War, and one of the side reasons of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan was to bring democracy to those regions. Both wars were also controversial with high-profile protesters. Both wars also had people who were in favor of them as well. The Spanish-American War brought Northern and Southern congressmen together over an issue for the first time since before the Civil War. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan also received bipartisan support. Both wars also had dubious events leading up to their start. The U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana Harbor due to a boiler explosion, but Americans were led to believe that it was due to a Spanish torpedo. As of this writing, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, though that was the rationale behind invading that country.

The aftermath of the wars has also proven to be controversial. There were some accusations of human rights abuses in the Filipino War that took place directly after the Spanish-American War. One of the more infamous cases was the slaughter of many Filipinos in Samaar province by Jacob Hurd Smith. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still ongoing, but many protest how the prisoners of these wars are treated.

While the two wars took place over a century apart and over quite different circumstances, they have many similarities that reflect how Americans view war in general.

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For the United States, there was not much similarity between the Spanish-American War itself and the more recent wars.  There were similarities between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the US war in the Philippines that followed the Spanish-American War.  There were some similarities between the Spanish war with Cuban insurgents and the recent wars, but the conflict between the Spanish and the Cubans was not part of the Spanish-American War.  Therefore, I will discuss some of the similarities between the US war in the Philippines and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The major similarity is that all of these wars were/are guerrilla wars.  The US is/was fighting with regular troops not against other armies but against guerrilla forces.  In all cases, the opposition was in no way able to engage in stand up fights against the US, but they were able to frustrate the Americans with guerrilla tactics.

A second similarity is that, in both cases, the US was being opposed by forces who saw the US as occupiers while the Americans saw themselves as liberators.  In the Philippines, the US believed it was liberating the islands from the Spanish, but the insurgents felt that the US was occupying them and denying them freedom. 

Thus, in both the war against the Filipinos and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent times, the US was/is fighting against guerrilla fighters who perceive the US to be an occupying force.

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