Mexico and Iraq: Pancho Villa and Osama bin Laden

I hope that history does not repeat itself. I suggested a comparison between our invasion if Iraq and Napoleon's invasion of Spain.  He deposed the hopeless Charles IV and installed Joseph,  who introduced reforms but whom the populace rejected as an outsider. The popular uprising of May 2 is still celebrated in Spain, while most people think of Goya's  painting showing the brutal executions on May 3. Dubbed los gabachos, the French are still viewed with suspicion.

There may be a closer parallel between Iraq and the Mexico of Pancho Villa.  In 1914 the US decided that the brutal Victoriano Huerta had to be deposed, like Saddam Hussein.  The US fleet seized Veracruz, and Huerta was forced into exile. The US recognized Venustiano Carranza, a landowner whose ideas were congenial to Washington.  Pancho Villa, whom we would call a terrorist, raided US border towns, murdering and pillaging.  President Wilson sent General John J. Pershing with a considerable army, including aviation, to hunt him down. Villa withdrew to the hills, living in caves, and Pershing failed to find him.  He was later assassinated by Mexicans. What will happen to Osma bin Laden?. America's man, Carranza, was assassinated while fleeing into exile. He was succeeded by Alvaro Obregon, a nationalist who appointed Josè Vasconcelos as Secretary of Education; I knew him well and have written about him. Mexico entered a phase of economic nationalism, which led to bad relations with the US.  Only under President Vicente Fox have relations become more or less cordial, some 80 years later.

How long it will take for Iraq to settle down, we do not know.  It would be unwise to predict early normalization.

Your comments are invited. Read te home page of the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) by simply double-clicking on: E-mail to Mail to Ronald Hilton, Hoover Institution, Stanford, CA 94305-6010. Please inform us of any change of e-mail address.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: October 8, 2004