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Customer Review

86 of 103 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Woeful, Wonderful and Wrong?, December 22, 2003
This review is from: So Far From God: The U. S. War With Mexico, 1846–1848 (Paperback)
If anyone undertakes even a cursory study of the concept of Manifest Destiny, he or she will sooner or later be forced to deal with the facts surrounding the US war with Mexico.
The contemporary evaluation is that we were wrong and used pretense to steal one third of Mexico. The fact that we offered to buy the land which was ultimately acquired by arms, and for which we subsequently paid, does not auger well in our defense. But to use today's standards to judge the right or wrong of an event that occurred over 150 years ago, like many historians do today, never produces good history. Simply stated, Mexico's disorganized centrist policies left it unable to govern itself. If the United States had not taken Mexico to task, another nation would have. Mexico was incredibly unstable and corrupt. It was both socially and morally bankrupt, a fact often overlooked today.

John D. Eisenhower leaves the correctness or incorrectness of this war where it belongs, with the reader. He tries to avoid the mistake of judging 19th century events with 21st century standards. Except for his short introduction, he makes no political statements. He neither supports this war as a natural extension of Manifest Destiny nor condemns it as some form of land based buccaneering. He simply reports the facts as they occurred.
And report the facts he does! What the American military accomplished over such a vast theater of operations with little more than 100,000 men in less than one year of active campaigning is almost incomprehensible. Mexico was no easy conquest. This became the bloodiest war the United States ever fought: 13% of those engaged died. But it was also a string of the most amazing, lightening fast victories, fought by officers who would face each as protagonists in the subsequent American Civil War. In a very real sense, this war with Mexico was a training ground for the holocaust that was to follow 13 years later.
This is a study in operational efficiency. American armies executed their war plans with impunity in four separate theaters of war and over thousands and thousands of miles. Fought from today's Brownsville, Texas to Monterrey and Buena Vista, from Veracruz to Mexico City, from Missouri to Chihuahua, and from El Paso to Los Angeles and San Francisco, this war spanned the continent. Fought at a time when communication really did not exist, when wagon trains and pack mules were the only forms of logistical support, this kind of coordinated effort was truly a spectacular feat of arms.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 4, 2013 7:09:27 PM PST
Thank you for pointing a fact that all too few historians consider in current writings. It is unfair to judge the actions and motivations of historical figures by the morals and values of modern times! What the reviewer has aptly pointed out here is beyond argument. The Mexican government of the 1840's was disorganized and in no way reflected the values of the pioneers who were moving into New Mexico and Upper California. In fact, Mexico showed almost no interest in the happenings in this part of their country. Among other things, the Mexican Army provided virtually no protection for the pioneers moving into the territory from what were then known as "The Savage Tribes." The U.S. stepped into this vacuum, an action that made perfect sense given that Americans would certainly be the ones to settle these lands, and made a perfectly reasonable offer to purchase these lands. In the absence of the actions of the U.S. government, a more ruthless foreign government certainly would have seized these lands in much the same way as France seized Mexico during the American Civil War. The revisionists have no leg to stand on. The history of the western part of North America is one of incredible prosperity mostly due to the actions of President Polk and his supporters in the late 1840's. Mexico itself has benefited immensely by the events of these days, and it is indeed unfortunate the the history books now used in American schools fail to teach these facts. Thanks for and excellent review that takes into account the facts of the era.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 19, 2013 12:30:22 PM PDT
The review makes a point about reporting facts and letting the reader decide but your comments do not come across that way. You have clearly decided.

Posted on Mar 29, 2014 2:56:28 AM PDT
J. Schimel says:
"For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war [with Mexico] which resulted as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory."
Ulysses S. Grant.

So, yes, it is dangerous to apply the ethical values and perspectives of today to events of the past. But clearly some of those perspectives were held by those who participated too.
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