The Effect Of Politics on the Mexican-American War

The Mexican-American War may be interpreted as a conflict in which politics decisively engendered armed combat, according to certain specific geopolitical strategic desires. From the Mexican perspective, the war was prompted by American aspirations for hegemony and grandeur; such an interpretation is not entirely without its basis in reality, insofar as one considers that “Polk sent General Zachary Taylor to occupy the disputed territory” north of the Rio Grande, such that “Mexican cavalry clashed with Taylor, creating the pretext for war Folk wanted.” Hence, the very beginnings of the conflict could be said to be based entirely on political aspirations for expansion.

At the same time, political influence is not merely isolated to the beginnings of the conflict. Zachary Taylor’s campaign in the North was continually marred by a tension with politicians in Washington. In the denouement of the decisive Battle of Monterrey, in which Taylor led American forces to victory over their Mexican opponents, the General had decided to “let the Mexican army to retreat.” This engendered a “furious” reaction from President Polk, who thought that “Taylor could have ended the war by destroying the Mexican army completely”, since Polk’s policy was one of “calling for the Mexicans’ total destruction.” This conflicted with the strategy of military command, as “Taylor’s most recent orders from General Winfield Scott allowed him to strike the deal he had.” Furthermore, considering that many of Taylor’s troops were Mexican volunteers, a massacre of the Mexican army could have led to an uprising within Taylor’s forces, thus negatively affecting the war.

The almost genocidal bloodlust of Polk in Mexico led to a continued criticism of U.S. army personnel, despite their clear triumphs on the battlefield. In this regard, it could be suggested that the political paradigm in this conflict played an even more violent role than the military paradigm, according to Polk’s violent ambitions. That President Polk’s constant criticism and desire for hegemony did not ultimately undo the successes of commanders such as Taylor and Scott speaks to the absolute competence and skill of these military strategists.

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