America Not to Blame for Mexico's Problems

Regarding the current border crisis and problems in Mexico, if you ask many Latinos who come over to the U.S., and those who advocate on their behalf, they will tell you with a straight face that their country was ruined by the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, and that it was American Imperialism that destroyed Mexico and its economy. While we know that this is an excuse, the fact is, they believe the propaganda and both Mexicans and now Americans are now taught this propaganda.  But facts are stubborn things, and history is on our side. These lies are being taught in our universities and we need to combat them with the truth.  While the truth is not pretty, it justifies the Polk Adminstration in going to war with Mexico in 1846. 

When Mexico received its independence from Spain in 1821, they planned on having a nation very similar to the U.S., with a system of independent semiautonomous states similar (if not quite the same) to what the United States originally were. The northernmost state of Tejas, was underpopulated, and by decree, the Mexican government made it open to anyone from the USA wanting to settle there. Cheap land doesn't grow on trees, so Americans came there by the thousands. It worked very well, probably too well, and in the mid-1830s the Mexican government set aside this decree and called the northern border of Tejas secure – making it a crime for Americans to settle there.  But by that time, it was too late, and more and more white Americans were coming to what is now the United State of Texas. 

In the early 1830s, a military despot named Santa Anna came to power, and shortly afterwards, abandoned the Mexican state system, concentrating most of the power into the capital city.  Several of the Mexican states, including Yucatan and Tejas, rebelled against this naked power grab.  Only the Mexican state of Tejas was successful, and after the battle of San Jacinto, won its independence from Mexico and became the Republic of Texas.  

Santa Anna signed the Treaty of Velasco giving Texas its independence, and was then tossed from power for the first of several times.  A series of military dictatorships were in power from the 1830s through 1850, virtually a new one every two years.  But for a brief time in 1845-1846, Mexico had civil rule. It was during this time that the U.S. allowed Texas to join as a new state, something that the Mexican army saw as an act of war. 

Then President James Polk sent Louisiana congressman John Slidell to see the Mexican president with an offer to purchase Alta California and New Mexico (the present-day states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and part of Colorado), similar to what Jefferson did with Napoleon and the Louisiana Purchase.  Mexican President Jose Joaquin de Herrera, a pragmatist who was not opposed to at least talking to the Americans, was denounced as a traitor by the supporters of Santa Anna, and was forced by the Mexican Parliament to go to war -- something Herrera knew would end up with a Mexican defeat. 

Herrera knew that Mexico was too poor to either inhabit or defend the northern states and preferred to take the pragmatic step of getting money for land that Mexico had no use for at the time, a very prudent step diplomatically, but one which was very unpopular politically.  If the U.S. had not wanted California, our rival at the time Great Britain surely did, to stop Americans from populating the Western U.S. and giving them a warm-water port on the west coast.  There was no way that Mexico could hold onto Alta California or New Mexico.  But the idea of receiving millions of dollars for land they could not possibly protect or inhabit may have sounded good to de Herrera.  The nation was in near bankruptcy after gaining its independence, and the idea of $30 million coming in (much more than Jefferson paid for the Louisiana territory) would have helped set Mexico back into financial stability. 

But the friends of Santa Anna (at that time in exile in Cuba) labeled anyone who would consider negotiating with the Americans a traitor, so de Herrera was overthrown and a more nationalistic government under General Mariano y Arrillaga came into power.  The Mexican army then shot at U.S. troops on U.S. territory (something the Mexicans dispute, since they had decided not to honor the Treaty of Velasco) and the war came.  And while I will grant that Polk handled the negotiations in an oafish way (sending the U.S. military to feign an invasion in a bizarre attempt to force the Mexicans to the bargaining table), the fact remains that the Mexican military wanted this war and never would have allowed President de Herrera to sell a sliver of Mexican territory even if Mexico was to go bankrupt without that cash. 

The end result was predictable.  Santa Anna returned to power by lying to both the Americans and to the Mexican people and led the Mexican army to a glorious defeat and was overthrown yet again.  The Mexican people were completely humiliated by allowing themselves to be goaded into a military showdown they had no chance of winning.  Santa Anna showed that he was one of the most incapable battle commanders in human history (Google the Mexican battle plan at either Cerro Gordo or Buena Vista), and gave U.S. soldiers practical battle experience for our next war, the American Civil War. We Americans like to think that we only go to war for noble causes (such as the Revolution, the Civil War, or WWII) and the reasons for going to war with Mexico don't always jibe with our view of ourselves.  But what if Great Britain had taken over California?  The U.S. would have been under constant worry of invasion.  Or what if the Russians had taken California?  Where would the U.S. be then?  We'd have Vladimir Putin in our backyard.  Perhaps the Mexican War was not a "noble cause" but the alternatives were too ghastly to consider.  At least President Polk offered the Mexicans a hefty sum for what the U.S. needed to secure its western border, something that neither Great Britain nor Russia would have given the Mexicans.  Polk went to war in the name of reality, not in the name of conquest. 

Current illegal immigrant sympathizers like to call the American settlers in Tejas "illegal immigrants" but this is a fallacy.  The Mexican government originally invited American settlers into Texas and then tried to ban further immigration in the early 1830s (The Mexican government was afraid of too many white people in Mexican territory).  Santa Anna tore up the constitution of 1821 and took away rights that both Americans and Mexicans had gotten used to, and somehow White Anglo-Saxon Protestants became illegal immigrants.  The Mexicans provoked the next confrontation by reneging on the Treaty of Velasco and then opening fire on U.S. troops on U.S. soil.  The Americans tried to figure out a way for both nations to live together peacefully and offered the Mexicans a large windfall for land that was of no use to Mexico.  A Mexican president tried to negotiate and was tossed from office, and somehow the U.S. is a bad actor. 

Mexico may be in trouble, but it was a failed state long before the loss of Texas and the Mexican-American war.  As in the early 1800, Mexico remains a failed state because it does not have any tradition of democracy or republican rule, and because it has been ruled by despots throughout its history.  When they actually get a man who can see the big picture (i.e. de Herrera) they call him a traitor, boot him from office, and then go to war, only to have a piece of their anatomy handed to them, and then blame others for their own stupidity.  Mexican "historians" such as Jesus Velasco Marquez have done their countrymen no favors by perpetuating these lies (see the 52-minute mark.) 

Drawing lessons from our own mistakes is one of the hardest things to learn. This is something that Mexican sympathizers can't seem to do. The U.S. and a war as far back as the 1840s are not to blame for Mexico's problems.  Mexico, and Mexico alone, is to blame.  And the sooner that the Mexican people learn this, the sooner the intelligentsia of both countries stops enabling Mexican pathologies the sooner Mexico will start to improve as a nation and cease being a failed state.  But that would require growing up as a nation, something that many in academia do not want anyone to do.  

John Massoud is the head of the Shenandoah County Virginia GOP Freedom Caucus, a Magisterial District GOP chair in Shenandoah County, and an occasional contributor to the American Thinker. 

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