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‘A wicked war,’ Grant called the US invasion of Mexico in 1846

Into this season of welcome and instructive Lincoln-mania comes an evidently political-dividing history of a war that Abraham Lincoln opposed when he was still a congressman.  Using the words of Ulysses S. Grant, who termed  the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, a “wicked war,” for her title, historian Amy S. Greenberg’s, “A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln and the 1846 Invasion of Mexico,” brings our attention to an often ignored aspect of an early United States “war of choice.”  Mexicans called it then, and call it now, “The American Invasion.”

The primary objection of U.S. Whigs (who would soon to be called Republicans) to the war was that James K. Polk was bent on creating a “chosen” war, just as George W. Bush “chose” the war in Iraq, which he falsely declared was a major player in the 9/11 attacks on America.  And like the Iraq “adventure,” the 1846 invasion of Mexico resulted in a perfect cluster of disastrous unintended consequences. 

And some “maverick” historians suggest that it was unnecessary.  Anyone with much knowledge, or someone merely observing Mexico’s constantly shifting and amazingly mismanaged politics in the 1800s, could have foreseen the future.  If land hungry American Democrats would wait a bit, the U.S. could scoop up the Mexican territory they coveted without the cost of life and fortune.  For the governing structure and the military leadership of Mexico continued to go through – even seemingly to cultivate – a prolonged spasm of internal, childish and self-wounding chaos. Even under a rational leader such a Benito Juarez, Baja California was to be offered to Lincoln for a pittance.  The U.S. Congress declined.

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