American response to foreign revolution is the theme of this carefully documented diplomatic history of the attitudes and policies of Presidents Taft and Wilson toward revolt in Mexico. Professor Haley's detailed examination is based on extensive research in the papers of members of both administrations and in State Department records. Part One of his book describes the setting of the Mexican conflict and investigates the Taft administration's response toward protecting American lives and property in Mexico (1910 to 1913). Part Two takes up the outbreak of revolutionary civil war and the Wilson administration's attempt to control the course of events (1913 to 1917). This study of the Mexican experience points up problems presented to the U.S. government by uprisings in any country where there are considerable American interests, and in an epilogue the author suggests ways in which the United States might fashion a new response to revolution abroad.
The diplomacy of Taft and Wilson in fact reflected two Americans, “the one fleshy, corporate, and pragmatic, the other ascetic, religious, and idealistic.” Economic expansion and the acquisition of foreign markets and investments called into being Taft's “Dollar Diplomacy,” which was reflected in Mexico by his emphasis on nonintervention during a relatively tranquil period but tempered by his willingness to place order above reform when it came to protecting and stabilizing American interests there. On the other hand, the “New Diplomacy” of Woodrow Wilson reflected his desire to lead other nations to transcend traditional patterns of action and to conform to the American and British model of political development. When war broke out in Mexico, Wilson tried but failed to persuade and the two sides to accept an armistice and a neutral provisional government until national elections could be held to establish a new constitutional government. The author seeks to explain the paradox of Wilson's diplomacy – his constant meddling with unrealistic proposals for mediation and his outright support of the Constitutionalist revolutionaries.
These diplomacies, Professor Haley points out, offer lessons with contemporary applicability. The Mexican revolution is linked to other twentieth-century uprisings in several ways: in fierce regulation of private property and of foreign investment, and in emphasis on social welfare rather than on political freedom. Lack of anti-Communist sentiment makes the experience particularly useful for those who are interested in determining the influence of communism on America's response to later revolutions. The author concludes that in responding to revolution, foreign governments must choose between intervention by over-whelming force at an early stage (Russia in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, America in the Dominican Republic) and the frustrating pursuit of influence through diplomacy with a smaller range of possibilities and lower priorities. Attempts, like Wilson's, to find a middle ground of limited intervention in a social revolution invite in a social revolution invite entanglement and failure. Meanwhile, he adds, Mexican diplomatic skill in exploiting the inconsistencies of Wilson's administration demonstrated a deep understanding of American politics and should provide a model that countries in Latin America would do well to look toward.