America's Great Patriotic War with Spain: Mixed Motives, Lies, and Racism in Cuba and the Philippines, 1898-1915

John Tebbel, Author Marshall Jones Company $35 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8338-0229-3
The Spanish-American War prefigured Desert Storm in being short enough and sufficiently one-sided to inspire a disproportionate amount of triumphalist, I-was-there writing. To enhance his re-creation of the human experiences of 1898 in this popular history of that war, Tebbel (Turning the World Upside Down) draws heavily on these and other contemporary accounts, employing a present-tense, novelistic style to create a fast-paced narrative of the war's origins, the fighting in Cuba and the Philippines and America's subsequent venture into overseas imperialism. As analysis, the book falls seriously short, however. Tebbel emphasizes the role of journalism in the war's outbreak at the expense of deeper political and economic factors. His account of military operations similarly lacks nuance. His depiction of unrelieved incompetence takes no account of more balanced, albeit less dramatic, studies like Graham Cosmas's An Army For Empire. While Tebbel appropriately highlights the brutality and casual racism characteristic of the U.S. conquest of the Philippines, moreover, he ignores the work of scholars like John Gates and Brian Linn, who have detailed the more complex resonances of the conflict. As an engaging historical adventure, this book has some merit; as serious history, it has far less. Photos. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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