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, Janssens’ contribution certainly deserves an audience in the academic community.
A fresh, if challenging, perspective on a neglected historical topic.- Kirkus Reviews
A scholarly analysis of the Mexican Revolution that focuses on how innovations in military economy and tactics resulted in social change.
In this second installment in a trilogy, Janssens shifts away from an examination of the defense establishment during the Mexican Revolution and tackles the consequences of the Federal Army’s thorough destruction. In response to the challenge posed by the swelling ranks of the Constitutionalists, the Federal Army staged a massive mobilization of its own, but it was ill-suited to the task. It was wedded to an 18th-century European model of an army run by an officer corps of ersatz nobility, so its large-scale recruitment degraded the overall quality of its troops and undercut its claim to superiority. By contrast, the Constitutionalists effectively built a considerable citizen army, and they had to devise an economic strategy to sustain it through the war. In short, they had to create a sophisticated fiscal policy—replete with taxations schemes, business interests, and even currency—that allowed them to compete with an army backed by a sovereign nation. Janssens is keenly interested in the social impact of the Federal Army’s demise; not only did it undermine the mystique of professional military service and replace it with a more egalitarian model, he says, but it also produced a new brand of soldier that was more entrepreneurial than aristocratic. As in the first volume, the author ably repudiates Marxist historiography that overemphasizes the American influence on the war, which he says was largely operational and tactical rather than material. Also, Janssens’ investigative research is again breathtakingly scrupulous and his defiance of prevailing opinion remains impressive. This is an academic monograph for specialists, as the arguments are far too minutely detailed and dense to be accessible to laypeople. That said, the author spectacularly succeeds in connecting the conclusion of the war to the end of a certain species of militarism. Moreover, he continues to back up his plausible claim that the Mexican Revolutionary War had wide-ranging social and economic ramifications. As a result, this bracingly original and authoritative volume is sure to become a fixture of scholarly debate.
An uncommon blend of military analysis and sociological history. - Kirkus Reviews