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U.S.-Mexican War

Miguel Angel Gonzales Quiroga, who claims that the war between the United States and Mexico had already started way back before any of the parties could fire the first shot, explains the real cause of the war. Although he admits that several factors may have contributed to the war such as the interest of the southern states in slave labor, the known hunger of the western states for more land, and the interest of the northeastern states to promote their trade, he points out that the desire of the United States to expand towards the west – calling it “an irreducible brute fact” – is the most plausible explanation.

According to him, the reactive action of Mexico to thwart such an expansion inevitably brought the two countries to war. He explains that the westward expansion of the United States was fueled by the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny. Quiroga tells his readers that this doctrine or concept was so powerful during those times that it attracted and strongly held the imagination of the American people. He argues that the American people wanted the world to believe that they were waging a just cause: “To extend American democracy to the rest of the continent.

” However, the truth, according to Quiroga, was that Americans were merely satisfying their insatiable thirst for more land. In his effort to better unmask the American duplicity, he cites Lippman who said that the act of the Americans was essentially a “villainy clad in the armor of a righteous cause. ” He also laments the fact that when Americans brought their brand of democracy outside their borders, their action also resulted to the possibility that more territories could be exposed to the evils of slavery. Hence, Quiroga argues that “extending the area of freedom also signified extending the area of slavery.

” Another inevitable element of the Concept of Manifest Destiny, according to Quiroga, was that it was meant to proclaim the American race to be far more superior over the Mexican race. This denigration of the Mexicans, maintains Quiroga, was confirmed by Whitman, a popular poet among Americans, when he said that: “What has miserable, inefficient Mexico – with her superstition, her burlesque upon freedom, her actual tyranny by the few over the many – what has she to do with the great mission of peopling the new world with a noble race? Be it ours, to achieve that mission! ”

Mexico ultimately lost the war, according to Quiroga, because it was backward, underdeveloped, and lacked the resources to defeat the Americans – not because of its inferiority as a race. Although its backwardness – a result of its own historical development – could not be ignored, the fact remains that the United States pounced on a weaker nation to advance its own agenda. It was obvious to Mexicans that the Americans waged an unjustified war against them According to Quiroga, the concept of Manifest Destiny was nothing more than a “way to justify something unjustifiable.

” In fact, Ulysses S. Grant, a famous American military officer who took part in the war, has himself declared that he did not think that “…there ever was a more wicked war than that waged by the United States in Mexico. I thought so at the time, when I was younger, only I had not moral courage enough to resign. ” In end, however, Quiroga refuses to judge the Americans. In fact, he acknowledges the inevitability of the westward American expansion. As a matter of fact, according to him, United States itself benefited from the European expansion in the form of an increased population.

Stating his own views, he says that “expansion was a historical process that, like a westward wind, swept all before it. Not Mexico, not any force on this continent or any continent could have prevented it. ” Concluding, Quiroga informs the readers that every expansion necessarily leads to war. Commentary The American actions which led to the war against Mexico were undoubtedly devoid of moral justifications because the Mexicans did not do anything to warrant such a war. Essentially, what the Americans did was to pounce on a weaker country for the sole purpose of grabbing the territories being held by the Mexicans.

The expansion was veiled by a seeming righteous cause of exporting democracy to the Mexican territories for the benefit of the Mexican people. However, the American action was classic colonialism and was, at the time, the only solution available to new nations hungry for more lands. The United States copied the expansionist/colonialist policies of its mother country not only to move its boundaries westward but also to be able to exploit the human and natural resources of the newly-occupied territories. Life in the U. S. Army (James M. McCaffrey)

In the article, McCaffrey describes the drastic changes which occurred in the life of the American soldiers during the country’s war with Mexico. According to the author, the emergency situation caused by the war preparations drastically changed the United States Army. First to be affected was its strength and composition. A volunteer force of 50,000 called up by the President on the authority granted by the United States Congress increased the number of fighting men by more than 600%. Secondly, the composition of the Army also changed radically.

The regular Army consisted only of a complement of 8,600. Although its officers were properly educated, its soldiers, who only joined the Army because they had no other means of livelihood, mostly came from the lower strata of society: immigrants and the uneducated. Although it was perceived to be a disciplined force, majority of the officers and men had no actual war experience (McCaffrey). From the accounts of the author, it could be gleaned that most of those who volunteered were from families who were not really poor and only did so because it was “fashionable” to be a soldier at the time.

However, because of the emergency, they were not able to receive adequate military training before being sent to the war zone. Because of their lack of training, the volunteers, who radically outnumbered the regulars, also lacked the necessary discipline – a fact which eventually caused a friction between them and the regular soldiers of the Army. Living conditions in the war zone were generally undesirable – bad food, primitive accommodations, the continued threat of death from all kinds of infections and diseases such as malaria, smallpox, yellow fever, measles, and dysentery.

They also had to march in the “heat and dust” with a burden of at least thirty pounds of their gear like their weapons and ammunitions and bare necessities such as water, food, and blanket. Before long, the volunteers turned to foraging – raiding the orchards and vegetable gardens of local residents for food and in the process, tarnishing the image of the whole United States Army (McCaffrey). In Mexico, the American soldiers did not only contend with the difficult living conditions. They were also bored while in their camps.

Some of them tried to deal with their boredom by enjoying themselves in the various Mexican festivals called the Fandango. Others, however, turned to alcohol. Soldiers started abusing alcohol, leading to widespread violations of Army regulations. Violators were tried in military courts and the guilty were subjected to military punishment. A case of drunkenness, for instance, was punished with detention while a soldier found guilty of desertion was usually sentenced to “death by hanging. ” Commentary

The United States, in its desire to expand to the west, resorted to hurried preparations for the war with Mexico. The United States Congress authorized the President to sign up volunteers for the purpose of ensuring its victory. They were made to suffer almost inhuman living conditions in the war zone. Sadly, the volunteers, who were made to risk their lives without adequate training and the proper motivation, and who inevitably lacked the necessary discipline, were later subjected to harsh punishments as penalty for violating military regulations.

From the vivid accounts of the author, it is very clear that the United States was more than willing to squander the lives of its citizens in order to achieve its objective of acquiring more lands and expand its boundaries. The Mexican-American War: Crucible for Greatness (John C. Waugh) In the face of its many negative consequences, Waugh attempts to cite what he considers to be the “most important and durable legacies” of the U. S. -Mexican War.

According to him, the war with Mexico had served as a good training ground for future military leaders of the country – particularly those who would later lead their respective sides in the American Civil War. He identifies two able and qualified teachers in the persons of Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. The students who benefited from these two teachers and who would later emerge as the country’s outstanding military leaders, on the other hand, were identified as Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E.

Lee, George Picket, Braxton Brag, Thomas Jackson, Edmund Kirby Smith, Joseph E. Johnston, P. G. T. Beuaregard, George McClellan, Albert Sidney Johnston, James Longstreet, and others. Primarily, according to the author, the students learned from their mentors how to execute military campaigns both perfectly and efficiently (Waugh). Taylor and Scott, however, had different styles. Waugh describes the former as a “soldier’s general” because he would always share with his men whatever hardship was encountered in the field.

In other words, he was always in the thick of the action, earning for himself the nickname “Old Rough and Ready. ” Because of this, his men had every confidence in him. However, Waugh explains that Taylor was actually deficient in the areas of military tactics and logistics. In spite of this, Taylor taught Grant how to be simple in both “dress and in pretensions” and face responsibilities and dangers with calmness. Lee, on the other hand, learned that reports about the enemy strength were often exaggerated and should not, therefore, be totally relied upon.

He would later succeed in the American Civil War because of his attitude of skepticism (Waugh). Meanwhile, the author describes Scott as “the thinking man’s general” because he possessed the best “military mind. ” As opposed to Taylor, however, he was a conceited person. He was also known to be undiplomatic as well as abrasive and was pomp rather than simple, acquiring for himself the nickname “Old Fuss and Feathers. ” In spite of this, Scott was a courageous general whose military mind was characterized as original but precise.

One military leader who learned from him was Robert E. Lee. Scott taught to be audacious and the necessity of delegating responsibility. He also instilled in Lee the value of putting together a staff with members who were fully trained in their respective duties and responsibilities and taught his students to recognize the importance of reconnaissance (Waugh). Commentary In his article, the author totally ignores the results of the war in terms of the territories gained by the United States and the lives lost by both countries.

Instead, he chose to look at the war arena as a laboratory and analyze how future American military leaders learned and honed their craft in the state of war. This treatment of the war could only be perceived to be beneficial for a country who was actually preparing for more military conquests for the purpose of further expansion. True enough, its Mexican experience enabled the United States, who was still an infant nation at the time, to refine its war strategies and tactics and aspire for the development of more superior military hardware for the sake of protecting its people and its boundaries.

As a matter of fact, the United States of today has already acquired enough capabilities that would enable it to wage war outside of its legal boundaries for the purpose of defending its interests and the interests of its people. Conclusion The three readings have helped me better understand the U. S. -Mexico War. After reading them, it is now clear to me why the United States had to wage that war against Mexico. It was not because Mexico did anything to offend or anger the Americans. In fact, the Mexicans were only going about their normal business of living.

Unfortunately, they had something the Americans wanted very much: land. They were also in the state of underdevelopment that made it easier for the Americans to defeat them and get that desired land. The United States, on the other hand, was prepared to sacrifice the lives of its soldiers for the sake of its colonialist ambitions. Finally, the war, aside from granting the Americans the land that they hungered for, also allowed them to improve on their war capabilities for future military campaigns.

Works Cited

McCaffrey, James M. “Life in the U.S.Army.” 1 May 2010.


Quiroga, Miguel Angel G. “The Power of an Idea.” 1 May 2010.


Waugh, John C. “The Mexican-American War: Crucible for Greatness.” 1 May 2010.

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