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Walter LaFeber : The Importance of the Philippines
Walter LaFeber The importance of the Philippines really is the Port of Manila. when the United States considered what to do with the Philippines after they had conquered the Philippines in the War of 1898, US officials, led by President McKinley, really wanted only Manila. They did not want all the Philippines. Manila was a great port. One of the wealthiest bankers of the time, and Assistant Secretary of Treasury at the same time, a man named Frank Vanderlip, said that Manila would be our Hong Kong, that is to say, would become the great entrepo, or the great port, from which the United States would move into Asia and develop Asia much as the British had used Hong Kong, to develop Asia. The problem was that, as McKinley looked at this, in order to have Manila and to protect Manila, you had to take the entire island on which Manila was based. Otherwise, Manila would be insecure. So, McKinley took the Lizane. And then when he looked at it further, he decided Lizane would be indefensible unless he took the rest of the Philippines. And so over a three-month period, McKinley, I think much against his own wishes, ended up taking all of the Philippines in order to get Manila. But it became a very valuable acquisition because within months after McKinley took Manila he was actually using it as a base from which to dispatch 5,000 American troops onto the mainland of China. This was something that was unimaginable. I don't think any American would have dreamed, say, two years before, 1897-early 1898 that all of a sudden the United States would have 5,000 troops on the mainland of China fighting against the Chinese revolutionaries in league with the European powers. And Manila is what made this possible. Manila essentially became the pivot of the American empire in the Western Pacific. And without Manila, McKinley would never have been able to compete for this great China market. He realized this, which is why he targeted Manila from the start of the War of 1898 and insisted on having Manila even it if meant taking the rest of the Philippines and even if it meant, as it did, fighting an extremely bloody guerrilla war against the Philippines who did not want Americans around between 1899 and 1902.

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