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More on Mexico as Failing State

A post by "Chris Brown" |

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Having looked further into the matter, it appears that the Mexico failed state media narrative was spawned by a November 25, 2008 report issued by the United States Joint Forces Command Center for Joint Futures, The Joint Operating Environment (JOE).

Here is the specific language from the report which seems to have set off the narrative:

C. Weak and Failing states
Weak and failing states will remain a condition of the global environment over the next quarter of a century. Such countries will continue to present strategic and operational planners serious challenges, with human suffering on a scale so large that it almost invariably spreads throughout the region, and in some cases possesses the potential to project trouble throughout the globalized world.

Yet, there is no clear pattern for the economic and political troubles that beset these states. In some cases, disastrous leadership has wrecked political and economic stability. In others, wars among tribal groups with few cultural, linguistic, or even racial ties have imploded states. This was the case in Africa and the Middle East, where in the nineteenth century the European powers divided frontiers between their colonies on the basis of economic, political, or strategic necessity and paid scant attention to existing linguistic, racial, or cultural patterns of the tribal societies. These dysfunctional borders have exacerbated nearly every conflict in which our forces have been involved in these regions.

Many, if not the majority, of weak and failing states will center in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. A current list of such states much resembles the lists of such states drawn up a generation ago, suggesting a chronic condition, which, despite considerable aid, provides little hope for solution. There have been a number of nations that have escaped poverty — their successes resulting from intelligent leadership and a willingness to embrace integration into the global system. To date, the remaining weak and failing nations have chosen other paths.

There is one dynamic in the literature of weak and failing states that has received relatively little attention, namely the phenomenon of “rapid collapse.” For the most part, weak and failing states represent chronic, long-term problems that allow for management over sustained periods. The collapse of a state usually comes as a surprise, has a rapid onset, and poses acute problems. The collapse of Yugoslavia into a chaotic tangle of warring nationalities in 1990 suggests how suddenly and catastrophically state collapse can happen—in this case, a state which had hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics at Sarajevo, and which then quickly became the epicenter of the ensuing civil war.

In terms of worst-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.

Some forms of collapse in Pakistan would carry with it the likelihood of a sustained violent and bloody civil and sectarian war, an even bigger haven for violent extremists, and the question of what would happen to its nuclear weapons. That “perfect storm” of uncertainty alone might require the engagement of U.S. and coalition forces into a situation of immense complexity and danger with no guarantee they could gain control of the weapons and with the real possibility that a nuclear weapon might be used.

The Mexican possibility may seem less likely, but the government, its politicians, police, and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure 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.

This, despite the fact that the report projects Mexico to have the world’s tenth highest per capita income and the world’s sixth largest GDP by the year 2030, larger than that projected for Brazil, with about 80 million more inhabitants than Mexico and often cited as an emerging global economic power.

Keep in mind that the very beginning of the JOE, even before the the title, includes this disclaimer:

About this Study
The Joint Operating Environment is intended to inform joint concept development and experimentation throughout the Department of Defense. It provides a perspective on future trends, shocks, contexts, and implications for future joint force commanders and other leaders and professionals in the national security field. This document is speculative in nature and does not suppose to predict what will happen in the next twenty-five years. Rather, it is intended to serve as a starting point for discussions about the future security environment at the operational level of war. Inquiries about the Joint Operating Environment should be directed to USJFCOM Public Affairs, 1562 Mitscher Avenue, Suite 200, Norfolk, VA 23551-2488, (757) 836-6555. [emphasis added]

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4 Comments For This Post

  1. perro malo Says:

    wow.. this stuff is pretty interesting… thank you so much for posting it!!

  2. expatruminations Says:

    My pleasure, bad dog.

  3. JEQP Says:

    Thanks for putting this up. On the note that Mexico will have the world’s tenth highest per capita income by 2030, even if it were true there are still vast inequitites between the rich and the poor. Addressing these inequities is more important than raising GDP.

  4. The Murder and War Death Index Says:

    This is a weird one as Mexico remains a country of very average violence for LatAm.

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