Sunday, February 24, 2008

James K. Polk: California - He Stole It Fair And Square And What Does This Have To Do With Kosovo?

Few men have had a more positive influence on the progress of history than James K. Polk. And yet, if you were to bring him up in conversation, the response would be, "Who's James K. Polk? Wasn't he an American President?"

Indeed, he was.

In fact, he is consistently ranked as being among the top ten Presidents in American history. For instance, here the Intercollegiate Studies Institute ranks Polk as being the 8th best President behind only

1) George Washington
2) Abraham Lincoln
3)Ronald Reagan
4)Thomas Jefferson
5)Theodore Roosevelt
6) Andrew Jackson
7) Franklin Roosevelt
8) Dwight D. Eisenhower
9) James Knox Polk

Wikipedia has him at #11

So, who is James K. Polk? What did he do as President that marks him as among the greatest? And, why have we forgotten him?

The answer to all three questions is, James K. Polk is the guy who stole the American Southwest from Mexico.

It seems to me we don't want to remember this part of our history.

Polk entered office with four simple, but extremely ambitious goals in mind:

What Polk is most remembered for, when he is remembered at all, was his commitment to expanding American territory to the Pacific Ocean. In order to accomplish his territorial goals, first he threatened Britain and then compromised, aquiring the Oregaon territory. He then attempted to compromise with Mexico and ended up at war, the result of which was America stole California from Mexico.

As Wikipedia tells it:

After the Texas annexation (which was the doing of President Tyler), Polk turned his attention to California, hoping to acquire the territory from Mexico before any European nation did so. The main interest was San Francisco Bay as an access point for trade with Asia. In 1845, he sent diplomat John Slidell to Mexico to purchase California and New Mexico for $20-30 million US dollars.

Slidell's arrival caused political turmoil in Mexico after word leaked out that he was there to purchase additional territory and not to offer compensation for the loss of Texas. The Mexicans refused to receive Slidell, citing a technical problem with his credentials. In January 1846 to increase pressure on Mexico to negotiate, Polk sent troops under General Zachary Taylor into the area between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande—territory that was claimed by both the U.S. and Mexico.

Slidell returned to Washington in May 1846, having been rebuffed by the Mexican government. Polk regarded this treatment of his diplomat as an insult and an "ample cause of war",[6] and he prepared to ask Congress for a declaration of war.

Coincidentally, mere days before Polk intended to make his request to Congress, he received word that Mexican forces had crossed the Rio Grande area and killed eleven American troops. Polk then made this the casus belli, and in a message to Congress on May 11, 1846, he stated that Mexico had "invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil."

Several congressmen, including a young Abraham Lincoln, expressed doubts about Polk's version of events,[7] but Congress overwhelmingly approved the declaration of war, many Whigs fearing that opposition would cost them politically by casting themselves as unpatriotic for not supporting the war effort.[8] In the House, anti-slavery Whigs led by John Quincy Adams voted against the war; among Democrats, Senator John C. Calhoun was the most notable opponent of the declaration.

By the summer of 1846, American forces under General Stephen W. Kearny had captured New Mexico. Meanwhile, Army captain John C. Frémont led settlers in northern California to overthrow the Mexican garrison in Sonoma.

The United States also negotiated a secret arrangement with Antonio López de Santa Anna, the Mexican general and dictator who had been overthrown in 1844. Santa Anna agreed that, if given safe passage into Mexico, he would attempt to persuade those in power to sell California and New Mexico to the United States. Once he reached Mexico, however, he reneged on his agreement, declared himself President, and tried to drive the American invaders back. Santa Anna's efforts, however, were in vain, as generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott destroyed all resistance. Scott captured Mexico City in September of 1847, and Taylor won a series of victories in Northern Mexico. Even after these battles, Mexico did not surrender until 1848, when they agreed to peace terms set out by Polk.

Polk sent diplomat Nicholas Trist to negotiate with the Mexicans. Trist successfully negotiated the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, which Polk agreed to ratify, ignoring calls from Democrats who demanded the annexation of the whole of Mexico.

The treaty added 1.2 million square miles (3.1 million km²) of territory to the United States; Mexico's size was halved, whilst that of the United States increased by a third. California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming were all included in the Mexican Cession. The treaty also recognized the annexation of Texas and acknowledged American control over the disputed territory between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. Mexico, in turn, received the sum of $15 million.

Had Polk not stolen California, in this manner, California would, to this day, be

- are you ready for this? -


Roll that one around in your brain for a little while.

All the corruption, all the chaos, all the squandered resources, all that would be the plight of a nebulous California territory, raped for resources by a Mexican government and given into the hands of a powerful elite, never to be shared with the citizenry.

Instead, California is the seventh largest economy in the world. It is a center of industry and innovation. Silicon Valley is designing the future of the world's relationship with computers. San Diego is a center for genetics research and bio-engineering. Los Angeles is the center of the inspiration and the dream life for much of the world. The money that Californians spend winds its way around the world's economy, creating jobs for countless people who otherwise would make far less money than they already do.

If Mexico still owned California, none of this would exist.

Few of the amazing accomplishments of California are based upon the lay of the land. Much of California is barren desert. Certainly Mexico has as much if not more in the way of natural resources as California. And yet, California is California and Mexicans are risking life and family to flee Mexico and come here to live.

California's success owes much to the fact that it is the end of the United States. Back in the 19th century, the ambitious man was told, "Go West." And, he did. Therefore, the most boldly ambitious men, the blindly tenacious, and the biggest dreamers, all ended up in California, and we are thrive on the DNA of that ancestry to this day.

So, what does any of this have to do with the Jihad? After all, this is Infidel Bloggers Alliance.

The answer is, Muslims live on land, all over the world, which is blessed with various natural resources. And yet, the Muslim world produces almost nothing. In October 2003, the United Nations' Development Program and the Kuwait-based Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development released a study showing how dire the situation is. Among the findings:

  • No Arab country spends more than 0.2 percent of its gross national product on scientific research, and most of that money goes toward salaries. By contrast, the United States spends more than 10 times that amount.

  • Fewer than one in 20 Arab university students pursue scientific disciplines.

  • Only 370 industrial patents were issued to people in Arab countries between 1980 and 2000. In South Korea during that same period, 16,000 industrial patents were issued.

To say the least, Islam does not have a great track record when it comes to turning resources into real gain, real wealth, real innovation.

Yesterday, Always on Watch contributed a very thought-provoking post which posed the question, what are the implications of Kosovaran Indepenence for Southern California?

...The Kosovo Albanians claimed Kosovo for two reasons: (a) because long, very long ago, before the province was Serbian, it used to be theirs and (b) because today they have become a majority in the province. America granted them their wish and forced Serbia out.

What if tomorrow Hispanics in California (or Texas) push for the independence of Southern California (or Southern Texas), arguing (a) that a long time ago, before these provinces became Anglo-American, they were Mexican and (b) that Hispanics have now become a majority there? Applying the Kosovo logic of Bill Clinton and George Bush, Washington should then be forced out of Southern California by an international army of European, Russian and Chinese troops who would establish an independent “nation” there.

Always On Watch pondered the question from the standpoint of international law:

All this would be done in violation of the international rule that international borders can only be changed with the agreement of all parties. This is how Washington is treating Serbia today....

Let's back up a moment and look at it from the perspective of the lessons we learn from James K. Polk. Can we afford to allow a Muslim government in European territory? Even if they live peacefully, and do not agitate for more land from neighboring countries (as Islamic countries are wont to do when they are backed up against Infidel countries - think Kashmir, Myanmar, Mindanao, etc.) do we want to create yet another intellectual wasteland? Are not the human resources squandered by an Islamic government a stain upon our hands when we have a hand in the making of yet another repressive territory of Islam?

Do we have the right to throw Allah a bone?

Why not establish the country as an outpost of the United States instead, for God's sake? After all, the entire area would still be Communist if it weren't for our dime?

I'm sure this sounds ludicrous. And, it is, given the rules by which we live. We have it in our heads that a land belongs to the people who were there first. By that logic, we might as well give America back to the Native Americans. We might as well move the Mexican governing elite back to Spain. We might as well clear out the Candians and give the land back to nomadic Eskimos.

Such is the morality of Ethnic Nationalism and it's foul flower, racialism.

History has proven that progress, and it's mercies (longer life span, more wealth, greater creativity) grows out of cultures which are based on ideologies ordered by tolerance for the other, and respect for individual rights, especially including the right of a person to his own property, starting with his body, and including the works of his hands.

This has been an experiment in moral thinking brought to you by the Infidel Bloggers Alliance.


JS said...

So I don't get it. You support democracy in Iraq - that's good. You support Israel, as the only democracy in the middle east, and that's good, too. Why don't you support the right of Albanians, living in their own land which is being ruled by the Serbs who massacred them just a few years ago, to their own self-determination? It's not like their great-great grandparents lost the land; this is a conflict that's ongoing. Saying it'll turn out like Mexico is kind of ridiculous. Besides which, Mexico's system of patronage goes back to the, ahem, Spanish monarchy. (Or is it that you think they mixed their blood too much and just aren't white enough to understand that the unspoken assertion here?)

Y'know, I think you're largely right about Islam...but your venom seems to stop you from looking at things rationally. You don't like the idea of Muslims butting up against Christians in Europe... you and the Serbian paramilitaries and Vlad the Impaler. I mean, hello? There've been Muslims in the Balkans for a thousand years now or so...? Most of them, for most of that time, peasant farmers indistinguishable at a glance from the people around them?

Pastorius said...

I think you have a good point. I think my article here is a bit overboard and unfair. That's why I called it an experiment in moral thinking.

My point in doing "the experiment" (I hope you are laughing at the phrase) is, simply, for us to look at conquest in a different manner. We have been so loath to push our ideas on people, out of fear of being imperialistic, that we have deprived the world of that which is good about us.

I do support Democracy in Iraq.


I don't think we established a Democracy in Iraq.

When we say Democracy, we don't simply mean voting. What we mean is a Democratic Republic with a Constitution which protects a Western idea of Human Rights.

To the extent that the framers of the Iraqi constitution meant for Sharia to be law in Iraq, Iraq does not have a Constitution which protect Human Rights.

Do you agree with me on that?

By the way, you seem to be familiar with my writing, which I guess would mean you have read me on and off over the years.Do you think I often let my venom stop me from thinking rationally?

Oh, and another by the way, I found this post hard to write, because it was a challenge to think that way. It's not the way I ordinarily think. It seems clear to me that we can't go around the world taking people's governments away from them.

At the same time, which is worse, the scourge of Islam (as it is in most of the ME), or the scourge of Western Imperialism?

JS said...

Actually - this was the first piece of yours I've ever read. So I had to use it as a guide to where you were coming from...

Uh, I don't think we established anything like a democracy in Iraq, although I do think it's amazing that elections were held there. I'm not convinced you can take a society like that and just bring about a democracy with Western values by force. I'm not on the side arguing that we have no RIGHT to try to set up westernized societies in places where their tribal mess threatens to spill over into a danger to our own way of life...or even to intervene in places (Darfur, Kosovo) when there are genocides going on. I think we have a moral obligation to do so.

That doesn't mean we can do all the world's dirty work, though; and I think it's really important to examine our motivations. Polk's motivation wasn't to liberate poor Mexican sharecroppers from their own government. And it's a vast oversimplification, obviously, to compare California to Kosovo, not least because American Californians haven't been massacring Mexican Californians and burning their villages. And if that were the state of things in California, sure I'd support the Mexcans' right to secede and have a government that represented them. I mean, that's democracy.

And yeah, the scourge of Islamic Extremism is worse than that of Western Imperialism. It's just that in the case of Kosovo, that isn't the choice. It's a false choice promoted by liberals and conservatives alike. People who are genuinely for democracy -- for the self-determination of all people -- are as against overbearing religious ideologies as they are against invasive corporatism and government secrecy. Those are two sides of the same coin -- totalitarianism.

Thanks for the response. I'll check out more of what you have to say so I can get a broader view.

Pastorius said...

Don't you wonder if the Serbians treat the Kosovarans the way they do precisely because the Kosovarans, when left to their own devices, behave like Muslims tend to behave all over the world?

Or, is it that the Kosovaran Muslims are, like the Sufis in the Sudan, a rare breed of peaceful Muslims.

Anyway, as to my writing, I usually just post other people's articles with short commentary. However, when I write a longer piece and propose an idea, it is usually of the "Modest Proposal" variety, except that, in a way, I mean it.

Anyway, let's be serious for a second. The truth is, Al Qaeda has made inroads in Kosovo:

"if these were not problems enough, there is a growing risk that terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda will seize on this situation to step up indoctrination, recruitment, and training of new adherents. US intelligence agencies have indicated that al-Qaeda adherents were quite active in the Balkans throughout the Bosnia War, and that they assisted in the training of some KLA units. Yossef Bodansky claimed in his book, Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, that Muhammad al-Zawahiri, the engineer brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri, played a key role in this regard. .

The Bosnia war mujahadeen could well serve as a model for further recruitment action, especially if the political and economic situation in Kosovo rapidly deteriorates. Several radical Islamic groups have already taken strong root in Kosovo with the support of at least 10 major Islamic non governmental organizations working the streets. The largest of these, the Wahabbi sponsored Saudi Joint Relief Committee (SJRC), has been a major proponent of introducing fundamentalist Islamic instruction in Kosovo schools. This pressure has been resisted so far by the governing UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), but it is far from clear that this policy will hold when they leave. The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), the Muslim World League, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), Al Rasheed Trust, Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, and other Wahhabi sponsored charitable organizations have also been very active Kosovo, UNMIK closed down the Al-Haramain and Al Rasheed operations after they were designated by the Al Qaeda and Taliban sanctions Committee. UNMIK also raided a house rented by the SJRC in Pristina in April 2000, stating the organization was acting as a cover for several Usama bin Laden operatives.

Iran Mullahs and the Muslim Brotherhood are also reportedly active in supporting Mosques and learning and social centers throughout Kosovo."

I've also read of Al Qaeda training figthers in Kosova who then ended up fighting in places as disparate as Afghanistan, Chechneya, and Iraq.

What do you think? Do we wait and see, then, if Kosovo will be a quiet little outpost of Islam, given its own government?

I guess so.

See, to me that answers sounds just as "experimental" as my crazy idea.

Do you see what I mean?