"In the 1560s, Spain faced a minor revolt in the Netherlands, which were then controlled by the Spanish crown. Hundreds of Catholic churches were sacked and desecrated by mobs of Calvinists. Philip II of Spain decided to send an army, commanded by the duke of Alba – despite the fact that by spring 1567, the Netherlands' regent had put the rebellion down. In effect, Philip and Alba embarked on a "war of choice," against the advice of both local authorities and many of Philip's counselors.
The duke of Alba's arrival in Brussels on Friday, Aug. 22, 1567, at the head of an army of 10,000 men – it was the first to follow the famous "Spanish Road" – created a problem where none existed.
Henry Kamen writes,"The duke of Alba, observers guessed, was there to restore order, arrest dissidents and check the growth of heresy. But the situation, according to Margaret of Parma (the Regent), was under control, so why was an army needed? It was in any case the first time that heresy in another country had ever appeared to be a concern of the Spanish crown."
Once Alba got himself settled, he began arresting Flemish aristocrats, including some of those who had helped Margaret suppress the previous year's rebellion. King Phillip wrote to Alba in November 1567, "you have a free hand." He did so despite some excellent advice from Friar Lorenzo de Villavicencio, who had lived in the Netherlands.
"The situation, Villavicencio insisted to the king, could not be resolved with an army. Nor must force be used against the Netherlanders, for that would unite them all against Spain. … 'Don't let Your Majesty be persuaded that the Flemings are beasts and drunks, for they are human beings and if not so now they will be so one day, standing together and in their own land and with neighbors who will help them; and even if they kill one of ours and we kill ten of theirs, in the end they will finish us.' Spaniards could not be allowed to govern in the country, 'for they neither know the language nor understand the laws and customs.'"
Philip and Alba ignored this advice; Alba's motto was "Hombres muertos no hazen guerra" – dead men make no war. His army did what armies do, kill people and break things, and the result was a string of local victories.
By the summer of 1570, Kamen writes,"Alba felt he could congratulate himself on having achieved what no other general in history had ever achieved: the pacification of a whole province, 'and without losing a single man, because I can assure you that in the two campaigns barely a hundred soldiers died.'"
But that wasn't the end of the story.
The Dutch rebels adapted in a way the Spanish had never imagined: they based themselves where no Spanish troops could reach them, at sea. On April 1, 1572, the Sea Beggars, as the maritime rebels called themselves, seized the offshore port of Brill. On April 14, the prince of Orange called on the Dutch people to revolt against "cruel, bloodthirsty, foreign oppressors," and they did.
The resulting war would last for 80 years and result in Dutch independence and Spanish ruin." Discouraging Lessons From Imperial Spain by William S. Lind