12 / CHRONICLESnVIEWSnTHE WAR OF MEXICAN AGGRESSIONnby Odie B. Faulkn” … As honest men it behooves us to learn thenextent of our inheritance, and as brave ones not tonwhimper if it should prove less than we hadnsupposed.”n—John TyndallnMuch in the news recently, especially in the Southwest,nis the problem of illegal immigration fromnsouth of the border. Another frequent subject of medianattention is the snowballing Mexican debt and the threatnthat this nation will not be able to meet its obligations. Thentwo problems—a stagnant economy and the mass exodusnnnnorthward—are interrelated and show no signs of easynresolution.nMany of the reporters on Mexico’s present financial andnsocial chaos take pains to say that our neighbor would havena far greater ability to handle its debts and its problems hadnnot the United States taken so large a slice of its territory innthe war of 1846-1848. The Mexican War, as this conflict isnmistakenly called, is pictured as a case of Americannaggression—what some commentators call “the most disgracefulnepisode in American history.”nEvery reader of textbooks about the American experience,nfrom grade school to college level, knows that thenUnited States instigated the war with Mexico in 1846, thatnJames K. Polk deliberately plotted a conflict of aggressionnagainst a weak and helpless neighbor to acquire territory hencoveted, and that every American should feel guilty aboutnthis episode.nThis past week, when I heard this lie repeated yet again, Inpulled from the shelf the first Instructor’s Manual for ancollege American history text that came to hand. In it Infound this suggested multiple-choice question: “PresidentnJames K. Polk deliberately provoked war with Mexico innorder to acquire (a) New Mexico (b) California (c) Texas (d)nafl of the above.” The correct answer was “d.” There was nonasking if Polk had started the conflict. Rather, the onlynquestion was the amount of territory he intended tonacquire. The cause of the war was American imperialismnpure and simple.nEven a cursory look at the facts reveals greater complexitynthan the standard textbook simplism—and a far differentnpicture of where guilt should be assigned. Among thenseveral reasons often cited as causes of the war between thenUnited States and Mexico are:nFirst, Manifest Deshny. According to this theory, Americansnin 1846 were united in believing that their nation hadna divinely ordained destiny to rule all of North America. Insuspect most frontiersmen, if accused of Manifest Destiny,nwould have shot first and inquired later what this mightnmean. Americans in 1846 were no more united in a singlenbelief than are their descendants in 1987. It is patentlynabsurd to assert such a claim.nOdie B. Faulk is author of Arizona: A Short Historyn(University of Oklahoma Press) and of other standardnvolumes of Southwestern history.n