Inside the Capitol

Monday, July 20, 2009

7-27 We Should Know About the War That Made Us US Citizens

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- I have another book for you to read. This one is a must for every New Mexican. It gives us background about why we are the way we are and how we got there..
The book is "Eagles and Empire" by Roswell's David Clary. It is the story of the Mexican-American War, written for the first time ever, from both sides.
Why are both sides important to New Mexicans? As you should recall, we were on one side at the beginning of the war and the other side at the end . They were fighting over us.
Clary takes us through the reasons for the war from both sides. We see the false assumptions we made about each other and the manufactured excuses for going into war that led both sides blundering down a path that neither side was astute enough to avoid.
Time is spent talking about New Mexicans and their conflicted feelings. When Gen. Kearny and his troops marched into town in 1846, they weren't greeted as liberating heroes.
Their main concern at the time was why did Gov. Armijo not head those troops off at Glorietta Pass. That was what was supposed to happen.
Kearny promised many great things but left soon after to conquer California. Resentment grew in some areas and several months later New Mexicans and Indians rebelled in Taos, killing the Yanquis' first governor.
Clary goes through all the steps and missteps that led our countries to that point. We also learn of the mistakes that caused the war to continue another two years while New Mexicans remained under military occupation.
When a treaty was signed in 1848, both sides knew the hostilities still weren't over. The Norteamericanos still wanted more land. The Gadsden Purchase took care of that seven years later. New Mexico gained enough southern territory to build a railroad to California.
Eagles and Empire also is a story that every American should read. The mistakes and misassumptions that led us into that war have led us into others since.
When reading Clary's work, you will find yourself thinking you've heard it all before, recently. Why don't we ever learn? Why do we think we know our enemy when we are actually so wrong? Why can't we exhaust diplomatic possibilities before we pick up sticks and start fighting?
Why do we think that wars are always going to be short? Why are we always so blind to the hidden costs of war? Wars that linger on, deferred costs and interest on debt are examples. But the biggest cost for which we seem least prepared are the returning veterans whose health and lives have been broken
Support of our brave troops, which is always used to promote more war expenditure and demonize those who don't support more military spending, is forgotten once they get home. It happens in every war, but especially the unpopular ones like the Mexican-American War.
You'll also notice that some aspect s of war have improved. The use of volunteers in those days may have hurt our cause more than helping it. After taking a town we would promise to treat civilians with respect but then the street gangs, criminals, bankrupts and other scum of society would descend on the community and do just the opposite.
The improvements even extended to the officer corps. The West Point graduates were very professional, but many officers all the way up to general often were already politicians looking for glory and not interested in making a president from the opposite party look good.
Eagles and Empire, from Bantam Books, will be in bookstores tomorrow, July 28. It is available from now. I'm sure you will find it a valuable addition to your collection. It fills in many gaps other authors have ignored.
The last of those gaps has to do with the war's aftermath, continuing until today. We don't remember that war as well as the Mexicans. It is still affecting their views toward us.
MON, 7-27-09

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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