The final part of Janssens’ (Maneuver and Battle in the Mexican Revolution: A Revolution in Military Affairs, Volume 2, 2016, etc.) comprehensive and iconoclastically revisionist interpretation of the Mexican Revolutionary War.
As 1914 approached, Mexican President Victoriano Huerta’s tyranny—and the Federal Army that protected it—was in dire condition. Still, the Federalists had a deeply ingrained sense of superiority to the citizen army behind the Constitutionalist uprising. Huerta had no shortage of advantages militarily and economically; his regime was widely acknowledged by the world’s major powers, so the success of the Constitutionalists seemed inexplicable. In this third installment of a panoramic trilogy, Janssens argues that the Federalists, expecting a quick triumph, didn’t consider a grand, unifying strategy necessary, so they never devised one. Also, their rigid hierarchy prevented adequate recruitment of quality soldiers, forcing them to amass an army of “conscripts and criminals.” Furthermore, the officer corps was plagued by corruption, the top leadership lacked real vision, and troop morale was perpetually low. By contrast, the Constitutionalists waged war with enthusiastic volunteers who were committed to their cause in an egalitarian army that issued promotions based on merit. As in the first two volumes, Janssens nearly synoptically assesses the historical record, considering not only tactical models, but also the sociocultural ramifications of the Constitutionalists’ victory. In his view, a newly democratic sense of national pride insulated Mexico from unfortunate experiments in militarism that plagued so much of Latin America in the 20th century. Although the author already made many of his concluding points articulately in preceding volumes, this one is particularly strong and impressively original on the impact of American intervention, particularly regarding seesawing embargoes. Taken as a whole, the author’s contribution to the study of the war—and Mexican history in general—is astonishingly thorough. However, despite its generally straightforward prose, this book and its predecessors would be a poor introduction to the subject for the novice due to its mesmeric detail and argumentative complexity. However, Jannsens’ contribution certainly deserves an audience in the academic community.
A fresh, if challenging, perspective on a neglected historical topic.