Saturday, October 11, 2003


"Another War With Mexico?"

Posted by Robert Klein Engler
Sunday, October 19, 2003

At the time of the first Mexican-American War, there were strains in Mexican as well as American society that parallel the strains in both societies today. Most importantly, the Mexican government at that time was split between the Federalists and the Centralists. The Centralists favored an autocratic government and wanted to regain the lost territory of Texas, whereas the Federalists we more in favor of democratic reforms.

In the United States, the major strain was between the liberal Abolitionists who feared that Texas would become a slave holding state, and the Nationalists who envisioned America stretching ''from sea to shining sea.'' It may be helpful to look again at some of this history to see if we can understand what the future may hold for these two countries.

People on both sides of the Mexican/U. S. border have to be reminded that Mexico has a different history from the United States. The indigenous Aztecs practiced such cannibalism and human sacrifice that it shocked even the brutal Spanish conquistadors. Mexico has yet to repudiate its Aztec past the way the Germans repudiated their Nazi past.

The 1910 revolution in Mexico was no stroll down the Paseo de la Reforma, either. One just has to read Martin Luis Guzman's book The Eagle and the Serpent, to realize how bloody that revolution was. Although military casualties were high on both sides of the American War Between the States, civilian casualties were much higher during the Mexican Revolution.

Mexican culture is also different from American culture. An example of one important cultural difference between Mexico and the U. S. is religion. Mexico has Roman Catholic traditions, while the U. S. mainly has Protestant traditions. There were cultural reasons why Texas did not want to remain part of Mexico and first seceded and then became part of the United States. Many of those reasons are still valid today, in spite of NAFTA and Mexico's immigration and nationalization policies. Many Mexican immigrants to the U. S. have no desire to assimilate, to speak English, nor to become Americans. They are aggressively seeking to replace our culture with theirs.

When we celebrate Columbus Day in the U. S., and the Mexicans celebrate ''El Día de la Raza,'' a statement is being made about how two cultures view their place in the world. El Día de la Raza can be translated as ''The Day of the Race,'' an expression that has definite racist overtones. Columbus Day may carry overtones of conquest, but it links our culture with Europe. The Day of the Race links Mexican culture with a brutal and indigenous people, the Aztecs, and carries shades of revenge and empire. The day of the Race is Mexico's answer to our ''manifest destiny.''

During the ''conquista,'' Spain tried to impose on Mexico a common western language, religion, and culture, and to the degree it was successful. It was also anti-American. We should remember that the Spaniards were building the great cathedral at the Zocolo in Mexico City a hundred years before George Washington took control of the Continental Army at Cambridge, Massachusetts. Here are two different world views, sharing the same continent.

In his article, Clash of Civilizations?, Samuel P. Huntington reminds us that cultural differences may cause future wars, and that these wars will be along cultural ''fault lines.'' The U. S.--Mexican border is one of those fault lines. Huntington writes, ''Civilization identity will be increasingly important in the future, and the world will be shaped in large measure by the interactions among seven or eight major civilizations. ...The most important conflicts of the future will occur along the cultural fault lines separating these civilizations from one another.''

In regard to Mexico, Huntington writes, ''During the past decade, Mexico has assumed a position somewhat similar to that of Turkey. Just as Turkey abandoned its historic opposition to Europe and attempted to join Europe, Mexico has stopped defining itself by its opposition to the United States and is instead attempting to imitate the United States.'' However, unlike Canada, Mexico has a large, nonwestern, indigenous population that has not yet been integrated into modernity. This native population also carries an unconscious weight of resentment towards the Spanish conquest, which it now mistakenly displaces onto the U. S.

Mexico's indigenous population is one of the contemporary strains in that society. Sub-Comandante Marcos and the uprising in Chiapas of indigenous people is a prediction of what is to come in Mexico if that strain cannot be relieved. The Mexican elites have decided, therefore, to reduce this strain by sending north as many poor and jobless Mexicans as they can. Instead of solving their own problems, which might entail a reduction of their status, the ruling Mexican elites have decided to keep the fiesta going and let the U. S. handle the cleanup.

A top adviser to past Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari described to Huntington all the changes the Salinas government was making. When the advisor finished, Huntington remarked: ''That's most impressive. It seems to me that basically you want to change Mexico from a Latin American country into a North American country.'' He looked at me with surprise and exclaimed: ''Exactly! That's precisely what we are trying to do, but of course we could never say so publicly.'' What also could not be said publicly is that Mexico wants to reclaim its ''lost'' territory. It will use economics and illegal immigrants to do this.

Many Mexican elites believe that to become a modern nation, Mexico has to restructure its economy and regain the territory it lost during the first Mexican war. For over a century, Mexican nationalists have used the myths and symbols of a lost but glorious indigenous past to motivate its plans for expansion. D. H. Lawrence wrote about this myth building in his novel, The Plumed Serpent.

Nowadays, the Mexican elites realize they do not need an army when they have NAFTA and illegal immigrants to do the job just as well. The Mexican elites have devised a foreign policy to achieve these objectives. This policy uses the poorer elements in Mexican society as foot soldiers. By moving poor and jobless Mexicans north, Mexico can make the U. S. absorb the cost of welfare and at the same time re-colonize large segments of so-called lost, Mexican territory.

Lets look at aspects of Mexican foreign policy to see how its aggressive actions towards the U. S. may be understood. Writing in The Miami Herald, for Sunday, January 12, 2003, Andres Oppenheimer openly wonders if Mexico's former Economy Minister and now new Foreign Minister, Luis Ernesto Derbez, ''may weaken what has been one of (President) Fox's most important accomplishments: bringing Mexico's foreign policy out of the dark ages of knee-jerk nationalism and pointless anti-Americanism.'' In fact, Derbez's job will be to say one thing and do another. Nationalism and anti-Americanism remain a part of Mexico's foreign policy, it's just not called that anymore.

Prior to Derbez's statements, Mexico's previous Foreign Minister and former Marxist, Jorge Castañeda said that nationalism and anti-Americanism made sense in the 19th and 20th centuries but are not viable in a globalized world, in which countries depend more on exchanges of goods, services, and people than at any time in recent history.

Mexico's traditional anti-Americanism '''creates a brutal national schizophrenia,''' said Castañeda. He further noted that 90 percent of Mexico's trade is with the United States. Yet, integrating the Mexican economy with the U. S. economy may be viewed more sinisterly. This economic integration can be also just one aspect of a Mexican foreign policy designed to get back territory.

Internationally, Mexico is a non-permanent member of the Security Council. It's hostile intentions towards the U. S. were made clear when it opposed any unilateral action against Iraq without a mandate from the Security Council. This stance on Iraq further angered many to the north.

If another 9/11 attack did occur in the U. S. and it did not damage Mexico's interests, Mexico would remain indifferent. Mexico may even unintentionally aid terrorists by encouraging illegal immigration to the U. S. Furthermore, Mexico has never broken off relations with communist Cuba and gives it considerable development aid. In spite of American policy toward Cuba, Mexican President Fox visited the island in February, 2002.

The first war between the United States and Mexico began with a Mexican attack on American troops along the southern border of Texas on Apr. 25, 1846. On Monday, May 11, President Polk presented his war message to Congress, and on Wednesday, May 13, over the opposition of the Abolitionists, the U. S. Congress voted to declare war on Mexico. Fighting ended when U. S. Gen. Winfield Scott occupied Mexico City on Sept. 14, 1847. The peace treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed on Feb. 2, 1848, ending the war.

Ironically, the Confederate hero Jefferson Davis emerges as a figure from that war who may help us predict our future foreign policy towards Mexico. Davis distinguished himself fighting for the U. S., especially at the battle of Monterrey. You have to wonder if Davis ever imagined his world would be turned upside down when 15 years later he would become President of the Confederate States of America. Will our world also be turned upside down years from now because of NAFTA, illegal immigration, and drugs from Mexico?

As a Nationalist, Davis could see the importance of Texas to the expanding union. The Abolitionists argued that the move to the Rio Grande was an aggressive act by President Polk to start a war with Mexico in order to add new slave territory to the United States. The Nationalists and Davis carried the day and the war was successfully waged.

Yet, years later Davis could not convert to the Abolitionist cause. He sided with the southern confederacy against the north. The War Between the States settled that issue, and Jefferson Davis ended up a federal prisoner held for trial on a charge of treason. In light of this history, one has to wonder if the liberals in the U. S. today, who favor NAFTA and open immigration will still stay with that position 15 years from now when Texas, New Mexico, California, and Wyoming secede from the U. S. and become part of Mexico.

The war with Mexico is considered by some historians to be the most costly by casualty count in American military history. Despite the objections of the Abolitionists, the Mexican war received enthusiastic support from all sections of the United States. The war was fought almost entirely by volunteers.

So, too, a future war with Mexico will be opposed by the liberals, but will receive support from America's white, working class, and many African-Americans. If past indications of Mexico's bloody history are to be projected to a new Mexican war, we can expect high casualties on both sides. Many northern U. S. cities like Chicago with large Mexican barrios as fifth columnists, may also suffer destruction.

In order to put oil on the troubled waters of current Mexican--U. S. relations, the two countries have been trying to downplay differences. This may look good on a diplomatic level, but has not altered Mexico's aggressive policies towards the U. S. in the least. While talking, illegal immigration continues, cocaine flows across the border into the U.S., the Mexican government remains corrupt, and the Mexican elites still rely on the U. S. to solve the social and economic problems of Mexico.

President Fox was the first foreign leader to be received by President Bush after his inauguration. Likewise, President Bush's first trip abroad was to Mexico in February 2001. George Kourous writes about these visits. He says, ''The White House has scheduled Bush's first official state dinner to crown the visit and is dressing up the event with pomp, circumstance, and recycled rhetoric about the new era of U. S.--Mexico relations. 'The fact (that) this is the first state dinner ought to send signals about our unique relationship,' Bush then told reporters.''

Just what those signals are, remain to be seen. Writing in, Fernando Oaxaca says, ''Before the California Recall exercise ended, El Universal, a more moderate Mexico paper than La Jornada, reported that Foreign Secretary Derbez had announced a new '''security doctrine''' for Mexico. It clashed with what Washington had expected would be a dependable partnership with Mexico and other nations in the war on terror. Never using the word ''terrorism,'' Derbez said that the concept of ''one for all and all for one'' was an ''outdated, World War II concept!''

Foreign Secretary Derbez went on to add, ''No state can impose on another its own security agenda, nor the order of its priorities. Security should be understood as a reality for each country--not as hemispheric, because there is no military, strategic, or ideological enemy outside the region which is attacking it as a whole.'' Clearly, Mexico is not troubled by threats to the United States on the terrorist front.

On the economic front, Mexico's President Fox took office praising the benefits of expanded U. S.--Mexico trade. He promised to create 1.4 million new jobs. Instead, an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 jobs have been lost, mostly as a result of an economic slowdown in the United States. This slowdown is not good for Mexican imports to the U. S. The slowdown also creates less of a need for low-paid, illegal immigrant workers. Still, there has been no letup in the migration northwards.

If the ''reconquista'' continues unchecked for the next twenty years, the U. S. will be a fundamentally different society than it is today. There will be more poverty and low-wage jobs in our cities. We will be a dual language society, with more and more Spanish and less and less English spoken. The price for this social transformation will be paid mostly by the U. S. white, working class, and African Americans.

About 820,000 people migrate to the Untied States every year. Eventually, there will be a movement of population away from the socially divided and increasingly Latino north American cities to states like Montana, Oregon, and Kentucky. Joel Kotkin has already documented the beginning of this population shift in his 1996 Washington Post article, ''White Flight to the Fringes.'' Add to the Latino immigration the high rates of other foreign immigrants and it is understandable why many white Americans will abandon our cities. The U. S. Census Bureau projects that by the middle of this century, whites will constitute just over half of the U. S. population. By 2060, whites will be a minority. Then, the ''reconquista'' will be complete.

The liberal plan for North America imagines a peaceful blending of cultures accomplished by shared economic goals. Based on a past war and present Mexican foreign policy, it is hard to see how this plan can work. Nor can we imagine how uncontrolled and illegal Mexican immigration to the U. S. is in the interest of African-Americans or the white working class in America. Just as past Abolitionist policy concerning Texas was mistaken, so the present liberal policy of uncontrolled immigration to the U. S. is also mistaken. Perhaps only another successful war with Mexico will show that to be the case.

Today, Mexico is more of an enemy than an ally of the U. S. Its foreign policy is as belligerent as any of our other past enemies. An invasion of drugs and immigrants are some of the many reasons why the United States may fight yet another war against Mexico. All the conditions for that war are present. If you talk to some Americans living near the border, then you will hear the war has already started.

Robert Klein Engler lives in Chicago. He is a graduate of the University of Chicago Divinity School. His book, A WINTER OF WORDS, about the ethnic cleansing at Daley College, is available from

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