Thoughts on the Spanish-American War of 1898.

by Elias Blum

The Spanish-American war of 1898 is perhaps one of the world’s forgotten wars, but it is well worth studying. It took place at an interesting time in the development of military technology, when the rapid firing rifle was beginning to show its destructive power, previewing the conditions of slaughter and stalemate that marked the First World War.

From a PSYOPs/Media Ops perspective it is fascinating, too. It was provoked by means of what is now known to have been a ‘false-flag’ operation, when the explosion on the USS Maine was blamed on the Spanish. Because of developing media technologies, it was the first war to be shown to the public at home through cinema newsreels, and – in an age of mass communications, mass literacy and mass democracy, it was perhaps the first true ‘media war’ (at least from the American side).

More importantly, the ‘War of 1898’ was strategically important for twentieth century history. It was the war which launched the US as an imperial power – giving it dominion over Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba and the Philippines, and opening up the Pacific as well as the Caribbean to US influence.

The loss of those colonies finally ended the Spanish Empire, causing a political shockwave in Spain which, amongst other things, lead to the modern Catalan national movement, the collapse of Spain’s fragile democracy (established under the Constitution of 1874 but never properly consolidated), and a period of political instability which ended in the Civil War and Franco.

One could even argue that the Spanish-American war was responsible for bringing the US into the Second World War (because its presence in the Pacific brought it into tension with Japan) and for keeping Spain out of the Second World War (because it was a defeated, demoralised power, which could only look inwards and backwards).

All of this is to say that by the end of today, I’m supposed to provide an analysis of proposed reforms to the Constitution of the Philippines – a country about which I know nothing, other than the old saying that it spent ‘400 years in a monastery’ (under Spanish rule) and ’50 years in a brothel’ (under American rule).

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