Although the war in Vietnam is the usual metric used to compare what is today occurring in Iraq, the U.S. war in the Philippines at the turn of the twentieth century is a far more appropriate point of comparison. The United States occupied the Philippines on exquisitely false pretexts, as President William McKinley's lovely, godstruck thoughts to visiting clergymen on why the United States had moved into the archipelago reveal: "I am not ashamed to tell you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and prayed Almighty God for light and guidance on more than one night." God told McKinley that "there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God's grace do the best we could by them.., and then I went to bed, and went to sleep, and slept soundly." The Bush Doctrine, a century foretold. (The Philippines, incidentally, had been Christianized already.) The debate about what to do next became paramount. President McKinley dispatched a commission to the increasingly insurgent-plagued islands. It came back with this report: "Should our power by any fatality be withdrawn, the commission believe that the government of the Philippines would speedily lapse into anarchy. … Only through American occupation, therefore, is the idea of a free, self-governing, and united Philippines Commonwealth at all conceivable." Harper's Weekly shortly published a dispatch from the islands: "Some of this territory we have occupied; the rest we have returned to the insurgents in a more or less mutilated condition, depending on whether the policy of the hour was to carry on a bitter war against a barbarous enemy, or to bring enlightenment to an ignorant people, deceived as to our motives."
The war in the Philippines was won through several tactics. "In this country," William Howard Taft, McKinley's appointed head of the Philippine Commission, argued, "it is politically most important that Filipinos should suppress Filipino disturbances and arrest Filipino outlaws." Another tactic was brutality. As one U.S. general had it, "An eight p.m. curfew went into effect. Any Filipino found on the streets after that hour would be shot on sight. Whenever an American soldier was killed, a native prisoner would be chosen by lot and executed." A young lieutenant witness to these atrocities later wrote, "The American soldier in officially sanctioned wrath is a thing so ugly and dangerous that it would take a Kipling to describe him." In time, Taft's softer hand--trials rather than executions, infrastructure-building rather than crop-razing--generally won the day. Although the insurgency lasted for another decade and a half, by 1902 the most organized and deadly of the insurgent groups had been defeated. More than 4,000 American soldiers had been killed in combat, thousands more perished of disease, and close to 200,000 Filipino civilians were left dead. As a U.S. senator said on the Senate floor, "What has been the practical statesmanship which comes from your ideals and sentimentality? You have wasted six hundred millions of treasure. You have sacrificed nearly ten thousand American lives. … You have slain uncounted thousands of the people you desire to benefit …. Your practical statesmanship has succeeded in converting a people … into sullen and irreconcilable enemies, possessed of a hatred which centuries cannot eradicate."
Paul likes to paint the Iraq War as a replay of the Civil War, with GWB as Lincoln and Hussein as, I don't know, John C. Calhoun. The analogy never made much sense to me. Here is an attempt to draw an analogy from another period of US history: the conquest of the Phillipines. From an article by Tom Bissell in the Jan. 2006 Harpers, "Improvised, Explosive, and Divisive: Searching in vain for a strategy in Iraq":