For All Nails # 73: Academic Discourse
By David Mix Barrington and Johnny Pez
Department of History University of Mexico City Mexico City, C.D., USM 13 November 1973 Prof. John Pez Department of History St. George's College FN1 Newport, Rhode Island, N.C., CNA
Dear Prof. Pez,
I am an historian of modern Mexico, currently engaged in writing a short review of a book on historical Mexican foreign policy. In the course of my research I came upon a reference (in Allison's Paper Tiger: The Military of the CNA) to your theory of four historical threads in CNA foreign policy: the four combinations of indifference to or close ties with Great Britain, and indifference or hostility to Mexico. Thus the current government is pro-Britain and welcomes rapprochement with Mexico, the Liberal opposition is indifferent to Britain and anti-Mexico, and the Peace and Justice Party is indifferent to both. Oddly, no current political party espouses the pro-Britain, anti-Mexico Global War policy, though this can be seen in some of the youth movements and in the professional military.
I would like to refer to your perspicacious theory in my upcoming review. Dame Brooke refers to it only as a "personal communication" -- does it appear in published form? I am sure the rest of the work in which it appears would be very enlightening. Also, do I have the details of your name and affiliation correctly?
P.S. If you'll forgive my curiosity, what is the ethnic origin of your surname? If you were a Mexican, I would conjecture that your name was shortened, perhaps from an Italian original, during the immigration process. But I know this phenomenon was much less common during the period of greatest immigration to the CNA. Might your name be Bohemian?
Best regards, from the grandson of one Mike Dana, born Mlatko Danilevic in Croatia FN3.
Webster University FN4 Newark, Del., N.C., CNA 25 November 1973
Prof. Frank Dana University of Mexico City Mexico City, C.D., USM
Dear Prof. Dana,
Please forgive the lateness of this letter. I recently accepted a position at Webster University, and it takes some time for my mail to catch up with me.
Regarding my "four threads" interpretation of CNA diplomatic history, feel free to quote it in your review. My communication with Dame Brooke took place some years ago, and I have since published the theory in the Journal of North American History LX (April, 1973) pp. 298-312 under the title "The Two Axes of CNA Foreign Policy."
As for my surname, I've been told that Pez is Basque in origin FN5. My grandfather's family came from the Vizcaya province of Spain, smallholders who left during Suarez's 'reforms' and settled in central Pennsylvania. If I can be of any further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to ask.
- Best regards,
- John Dickinson Pez
From Russell M. Walters, The British Roots of Mexican Bellicosity (Amherst: Shays University Press, 1974), pp. 345-349.
(Editor's Note: The following critique of the present monograph was solicited from Prof. Frank Dana of the University of Mexico City, under the terms of the 1965 agreement between the Mexican and North American Historical Associations FN6. By tradition, it appears unedited and Prof. Walters has not read it before this volume goes to press.)
The agreement under which Mexican historians formally comment on scholarly books written by North Americans, and vice versa, has never been more important than in the present instance. Harvard University's Russell Walters has written a serious and important book. For the most part, he reports the historical facts of Mexican foreign policy carefully and accurately, and his writing is clear and engaging throughout. But I believe that his central conclusion is profoundly wrong, and what is more, profoundly dangerous to the prospects of reconciliation between our two great nations.
Let me begin, however, with a point on which Professor Walters and I are in emphatic agreement. There is a conventional view of Mexico widespread in the CNA, of a society where Spanish-speaking comic-opera generals rule over a mass of indigena peasants and peons, forming them into vast armies to threaten the world. Walters rightly opposes this view, and gives a useful analysis of its history. English society since the Armada has held a deep suspicion and aversion to Spanish civilization, including the "Black Legend" of widespread Spanish atrocities against the native peoples. Both sides of the North American Rebellion shared this fear of and contempt for the Spanish. Walters indicates how North American fear of and condescension for indigenas, rooted in the sorry history of the CNA's relations with its native peoples, merged with her view of the Spanish to make a caricature of militaristic cruelty.
In fact, as Walters thoroughly establishes, the Mexican civilization is at heart as rooted as the North American in the English traditions of the common law, the Magna Carta's compact between governor and governed, and (dare I say it?) the Rights of Man. Why then, Walters asks, is Mexico a fundamentally bellicose society?
Before considering his answer to this question, however, we should consider the soundness of its unexamined premise. Is Mexico in fact fundamentally more bellicose than other nations? Mexico in its history has engaged in four major wars. In the Rocky Mountain, Hundred Day, and Global Wars its posture was clearly defensive as its territory or that of its allies was directly attacked. The same is arguably true of the Great Northern War, except that the Russian attack upon California was to a large extent a fabrication of Kramer Associates and President Hermión FN6a was duped into a conflict that he never sought.
What of the period of the USM's greatest territorial expansion in the late nineteenth century? The collapse of the Russian monarchy and the chronic instability of northern South America created a vacuum into which some more vigorous power was bound to move. In the case of Guatemala, New Granada, Alaska, Hawaii, and Siberia that power was the USM, acting in large part to safeguard its own security by expanding the circle of free and democratic nations on the shores of the Pacific. Was this truly "bellicosity" or "imperialism"?
Was it "imperialist" of President Calles to offer these nations the free choice of membership in the USM or independence? Today it is hard to imagine Alaska and Hawaii as other than what they are -- free and prosperous Mexican states. And how would the three nations that chose independence evaluate their short period of Mexican supervision? The unhappy people of Siberia would surely prefer alliance with Mexico to their current domination by Japan, after the sacrifice of so many Siberians and Mexicans to that end in the Global War. The recent troubles in New Granada must not blind us to the decades of relative peace and prosperity in that country, the largest and richest in South America. The case of Guatemala is more ambiguous, but on the balance it too has benefited from its association with the USM.
Since the end of overt hostilities in 1950 Mexico has been preoccupied with freeing itself from the covert domination of a predatory business enterprise. On the foreign stage it has been largely concerned with creating a system of binding international agreements to create a more peaceful postwar world, most notably in the Mercator initiatives of the mid-1960's. At the same time the Confederation of North America has menaced Mexican cities with atomic bombs, turned a blind eye to the infiltration of Mexico by terrorist "irregulars", and finally mounted a massive though unsuccessful invasion of a small neutral state. Does this make the CNA a fundamentally bellicose nation?
I do not believe that it does. The most important fact about both the CNA and the USM is that they are two democratic societies where the populace enjoys a high degree of personal freedom, both socially and economically.(We would call it "liberty" in the USM, but I recognize that this word has negative connotations in North America even after nearly two centuries.) This is true even for the unrepresented inhabitants of Quebec and Nova Scotia, as these dependencies are in voluntary association with the CNA in sharp contrast to the satrapies of the various Old World powers. In fact I reject the entire notion of characterizing entire nations as "peaceful" or "warlike". As I will argue below, a more nuanced evaluation of historical patterns in the foreign policy of each nation allows much deeper insight into the past, present, and future.
"Bellicose" or not, is Mexico a "militaristic" nation? It is true that most Mexican leaders are former military officers, an unsurprising fact in a nation with universal military service. It is true that many functions of the government are administratively under the War Department, a relic of the extraordinary measures taken by Secretary Mercator in 1950-65 to overcome Kramer Associates penetration of the traditional executive and legislative branches. But does the term "militaristic" fit the only major power (save Kramer/Taiwan) that lacks a hereditary privileged class closely integrated with the military? German junkers, Scandinavian friherrer, Japanese samurai, and Australian and British knights and lords each form the backbone of their nation's officer class, and vice versa, with the same men occupying the summits of both the social and military pyramids. The situation in the CNA is somewhat different, with the titled military elite largely separate from the Kramer-like business elite that dominates the political process. But none of these countries has a military establishment that grows organically from the society rather than being imposed upon it. The soldiers of the USM are Cincinnatti, ready to return to the plow when their term or the current crisis expires, rather than Caesars bringing their legions into the political arena. Militarism should be made of sterner stuff.
As I mentioned above, a single-axis view of the foreign policy of a greatpower is fundamentally misleading. Professor John D. Pez, now of Webster University, outlined a more nuanced framework for evaluating such policy in an excellent recent article in the April 1973 Journal of North American History. The CNA has always been faced with two great issues: her relation to her mother country and to her great neighbor. Considering a divalent variable for each of these two factors, as in a logic machine, we arrive at four possible CNA foreign policies:
- Indifferent to Britain, hostile to Mexico: The current policy of the Liberal Party,
- Indifferent to Britain, more open to Mexico: The current policy of the Peace and Justice Party,
- Close ties to Britain, hostile to Mexico: The Liberal policy before and the national policy during the Global War, propounded in today's CNA only by radical youth groups and the professional military, and
- Close ties to Britain, more open to Mexico: The current policy of the ruling People's Coalition.
Professor Walters in his newspaper column in the New York Herald has actually oscillated between the first and third policies, first advocating a strong response to German influence in Boricua in defense of Britain, and then criticizing the strong response actually attempted as unwisely conflating British interests with the CNA's own. But perhaps it is unfair to hold ephemeral writing to the higher standards of scholarship FN7.
Can we develop a similar theory for USM policy? I have made a modest first attempt, similarly based on two divalent choices. Should the USM look inward to its own problems or outward to the rest of the world? And should it pursue its goals primarily by military or by other means? In roughly chronological order, Mexico has taken each of the four possible approaches in turn:
- Andrew Jackson's main task was to consolidate the new nation, cementing the control of the central English-derived regime over a diverse population. His means were perforce military, as were those of his immediate successors in repelling the CNA threat in the Rocky Mountain War. I will call the inward-military thread Jacksonismo.
- Omar Kinkaid and the other Kramer-influenced Presidents sought to make Mexico a player on the world stage by economic means. Thus we could call the outward-nonmilitary thread Kinkaidismo. But there is another outward-nonmilitary school of thought that has always been present, though never dominant, in USM policy. This is Jeffersonismo, a world ideology that in its Mexican version argues that the USM must promote the values of rural self-reliance and direct government by the people through the "natural aristocracy" FN8, aiding authentic popular movements economically wherever possible and serving as an example to them. (The only self-described "Jeffersonista" movement in power in the world today is in Boricua. Mexican Jeffersonistas in general rightly deplore this regime's abandonment of the rule of law and its restrictions on freedom of expression and association.)
- Benito Hermión took up the task of expanding the sphere of Mexican influence by direct military means when the Great Northern War was thrust upon him. This outward-military thread, which I will call Hermiónismo, has always been tempered by pragmatism and a sense of the limits of military power.
- Finally, under the direct leadership or mentorship of Vincent Mercator, the USM has looked inward and seen a grave threat to its security in the pervasive influence of a single amoral enterprise, Kramer Associates. The inward-nonmilitary philosophy of Mercatorismo has been the challenge to Kramer dominance through the purging of Kramer influences in the government and economy. In foreign policy Mercatorismo has meant a reliance on international agreements, such as the La Paloma Declaration or the Atomic-Free Caribbean Agreement, to ensure Mexico's security FN9.
This framework allows us to see that the current USM President and Secretary of War, despite their superficial differences, are both Mercatoristas at heart. For example, they agreed in replacing the more Jeffersonista Secretary of State Denison with Senator del Rey last spring. Mexico now stands with its arms stretched towards North America, offering reconciliation and trade that can benefit both countries.
But North America will not accept this welcoming embrace if it follows the implications of Professor Walters' conclusions. If Mexico's heritage of British border violence makes it fundamentally bellicose and militaristic, as Walters finally argues, preparation for war is the only rational choice for the CNA. After all, one does not reason with a hydrophobic dog, one shoots him. And with at least a temporary advantage in atomic weaponry, the CNA may have the means to do this.
However, a good alienist judges his patient not by abstract theories, but by concrete behavior. Mexico is now a peaceful nation, and has been at peace now for over two decades. Though prudently prepared for any conflict, it has worked steadfastly for reconciliation between nations. The present government of the CNA has made welcome moves toward joining in that reconciliation. The blood of Scottish border reavers, and the blood of pious pilgrims, runs in the veins of both countries. We in Mexico appeal to our cousins in North America to work with us to build a peaceful continent and a peaceful world.
13 December 1973 Frank Dana James Marshall Professor University of Mexico City
Proceed to FAN #74: Conspiracy Theory.
Proceed to December 1973: Tails and Dogs.
Proceed to John Dickinson Pez: The Dream and the Nightmare.
Return to For All Nails.