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JOE the invader

16 January 2009

Diana Washington Valdez  has inadvertently let loose a blogo-shit-storm with her story in the 13 January 2009 El Paso Times:

EL PASO – Mexico is one of two countries that “bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse,” according to a report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command on worldwide security threats.

The command’s “Joint Operating Environment (JOE 2008)” report, which contains projections of global threats and potential next wars, puts Pakistan on the same level as Mexico. “In terms of worse-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse: Pakistan and Mexico.

“The Mexican possibility may seem less likely, but the government, its politicians, police and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and press by criminal gangs and drug cartels. How that internal conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state. Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone.”

The U.S. Joint Forces Command, based in Norfolk, Va., is one of the Defense Departments combat commands that includes members of the different military service branches, active and reserves, as well as civilian and contract employees. One of its key roles is to help transform the U.S. military’s capabilities.

I don’t lay a lot of stock in these kinds of reports… military planners consider all kinds of scenarios and write all kinds of reports.  As it is, “JOE” is only dealing with possible problems over the next twenty-five years and collapse in Mexico is worth mentioning, but not likely.  Still, the little bit of the plan dealing with Mexico is getting a lot of “blog-play”, so worth discussing.

What is somewhat worrisome is that last sentence (not the last sentence of the article, but the one I highlighted).  The mission of the Joint Forces Command is to find something for the Defense Department to do… and to keep those “civilian and contract employees” in a job.

Given that Iraq and Afghanistan are somewhat lost causes, that the U.S. military is being tossed out of places as far-flung as Ubekistan and Ecuador,  and despite whatever one may believe, the incoming administration is unlikely to radically demilitarize the United States, there has to be SOME rationale for spending all that money on all that money.  The Defense and State Departments have been mightily trying to create a “crisis” in all Latin America, going so far as to label democratic movements — in the words of General James T. Hall, Commander of the United States Southern Command — as “an emerging threat… [which is]…  seeking to undermine U.S. interests in the region.”  In other words, Latin American voters, including Mexicans, are rejecting the status quo under which the United States controlled their resources.

Ah, but people say.  There’s a new Administration in Washington and things are going to change.  I don’t see it.   Remember that “liberalism” in Latin America suggests a willingness to trade off foreign cultural and economic penetration for financial markets. Only in the United States is “liberalism” considered the political left… and a “liberal” administration in the United States — with its economy based on consumption and resource use — will be pressed both to assure continued access to those resources (including Mexican oil and gas) as well as forced to keep military spending high (both to create domestic jobs and to counter politically-motivated complaints that the administration is “un-American” or “soft” or “weak”). And, neither the incoming Secretary of State, Senator Clinton, nor the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, show any reluctance to use military force and threat when it comes to foreign policy.

While the out-going Bush Administration exacerbated chronic problems with the consumerist society, the people in the United States didn’t get into their present fix overnight… but they’re demanding imediate solutions.   U.S. media is filled with stories about “out of control violence” in Mexico, and even sane, sober observers sometimes using phrases like “failed state“, and the right-wing and populist complaints about immigration focus on Mexico.

The fact that the “drug war” is — at tremendous cost — working (the gangsters are being pushed out of the country … into the United States) and that the immigration issue is basically resolving itself (Mexico reached the point this year where more people die than are born, and the population has started to fall… meaning in the long run, Mexico may need immigrants itself!), but that takes one thing the people in the United States do not have: patience.

There are some reports now that the cartels are seeking a truce in Tijuana.  True or not (and a few commentators on the AFN article suggest the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency — accused of narcotics dealings in other countries — is involved in a not very honorable role), it suggests that either the “drug war” is winding down, or that the gangsters are getting desperate.  I’d argue the latter, given the recent attack on a Monterrey TV station which, U.S. (and pro-Calderon Administation media, including Televisa, which was the target of the attack) was meant to bring attention to claims by whomever threw the grenades that the Calderon Administration was not doing anything about narcos in its own ranks… only about crooks outside the government.

That seems to be the real issue… not that there are crooks in the government (as in any government, or any alternative government), but that the Calderon Administration — still has not established itself as legitimate in the eyes of a good number of Mexicans.  The next bunch (including the crooks) are likely not to give carte blanche to U.S. interests.  And may not even try to allow U.S. companies access to the oil fields.

And, given the violence of the U.S. proxy “drug war”, is losing more support every day.  Of course the violence will “spill over” into the United States… forcing the cartels out of the country was the point, after all.  And it’s not like “narcotics related crime” is something that hasn’t been reported ad nauseam in the U.S. for at least the last thirty years.  Just that it’s been retail, not wholesale.    The next bunch may not buy into “Plan Merida” or may want to renegotiate the NAFTA agricultural agreements (something both Calderon and Obama specificially did not talk about last week).

I’m sure the people who put together the Joint Operating Environment Report were all very smart, and very well paid for their time.  But, they can stick the plan back in the file drawer and maybe start working on something productive… you know, the kind of things we think about in our “failed state” … building energy efficient cars, and rural bus routes, and expanded vaccination programs and, even, books.

Another article making the blogo-rounds this week was Carlin Romano’s “Another Mexico” for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  Romano reports on the Guadalajara Book Fair, one of the more important literary events in the world and something barely mentioned in the United States.   The Roman Catholic Church is holding an important meeting among the higher clergy this week in Mexico City.  The public health service is so pervasive that there are complaints about its paperwork.  My neighbors just bought a second jeep for their two-car garage.  I just bought a microwave oven.

By failing to live up to U.S. interests, I suppose Mexico could become a “failed state” but normally, a “failed state” is one in which cultural life is at a stand-still, the state is unable to fulfill its basic obligations and normal civil life is impossible.  And that just ain’t the case here.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 16 January 2009 7:58 am

    Every policy speech offered by Obama on Latin America has been the same old crap (I had some links up for a while – I should put them back). As Tariq Ali points out in Clash of Fundamentalisms, you really have to be smoking some good stuff (my wording) to see a significant difference in US foreign policy under a Democrat or a Republican.

    At the AHA in 2007 I met a guy interviewing for an analysts position and I realized the sort of folks that are providing the research and analysis on Latin America for the US government – it ain’t pretty.

  2. Luis Gutierrez permalink
    17 January 2009 5:48 am


    interesante articulo.

    El comentario que haces acerca del crecimiento poblacional de Mexico, me podrias proporcionar la fuente?

    Durante anyos he tenido la impresion que el crecimiento poblacional de mexico habia llegado a su maximo por ahi de 2001-2003, pero que la poblacion seguia en aumento, y que llegaria a 140 m para 2050.


  3. 19 January 2009 11:09 am

    El problema con México es que la suma de su inteligencia permanece constante pero su población sigue creciendo.

    Just kidding!

    I have seen good opinion about the “drug war” that it’s happening right now on Mexico, at least on Guadalajara. By the way thanks for mentioning the FIL. It’s so crowded that I just could not get in this year.


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