Endless Curiosity

October 20, 2009

Forget Afghanistan – let’s nation build in Mexico

Filed under: Politics — Alec @ 6:41 am

In the November issue of Harper’s Magazine, Andrew Bacevic has a fascinating article called The War We Can’t Win. In it he agrees with me! But seriously, he asks the question of why we care about Afghanistan, and wonders why there’s no debate on this question.

It turns out—apparently—that the president genuinely views this remote, landlocked, primitive Central Asian country as a vital U.S. national-security interest. What is it about Afghanistan, possessing next to nothing that the United States requires, that justifies such lavish attention? In Washington, this question goes not only unanswered but unasked.

But we’ve all wondered why we are in Afghanistan – haven’t we? Where Bacevich gets really interesting is when he suggests that if we really want to get into nation building, we should consider doing this in Mexico, a country of far greater importance to us than Afghanistan. Let the next two paragraphs wash over you and see what you think of the idea. For me, the thought that we could “fix” Mexico is laughable, yet we believe we can “fix” a country that has never known democracy and has a culture than is far, far more alien to us than the culture of Mexico. Weird.

For those who, despite all this, still hanker to have a go at nation building, why start with Afghanistan? Why not first fix, say, Mexico? In terms of its importance to the United States, our southern neighbor—a major supplier of oil and drugs among other commodities deemed vital to the American way of life—outranks Afghanistan by several orders of magnitude.

If one believes that moral considerations rather than self-interest should inform foreign policy, Mexico still qualifies for priority attention. Consider the theft of California. Or consider more recently how the American appetite for illicit drugs and our lax gun laws have corroded Mexican institutions and produced an epidemic of violence afflicting ordinary Mexicans. Yet any politician calling for the commitment of 60,000 U.S. troops to Mexico to secure those interests or acquit those moral obligations would be laughed out of Washington—and rightly so. Any pundit proposing that the United States assume responsibility for eliminating the corruption endemic in Mexican politics while establishing in Mexico City effective mechanisms of governance would have his license to pontificate revoked. Anyone suggesting that the United States possesses the wisdom and the wherewithal to solve the problem of Mexican drug trafficking, to endow Mexico with competent security forces, and to reform the Mexican school system (while protecting the rights of Mexican women) would be dismissed as a lunatic. Meanwhile, those who promote such programs for Afghanistan, ignoring questions of cost and ignoring as well the corruption and ineffectiveness that pervade our own institutions, are treated like sages.

1 Comment »

  1. Right . . . . America’s hunger for drugs and our weak gun laws are responsible for eroding the otherwise untainted and pefectionistic land and people of Mexico. Only someone indiginous to that country or with misguided sympathetic ties could have styled such a response. France and a host of other countries all hate the United States for all of their vices which would never have materialized if it weren’t for the U.S. and its policies. In fact, there are cultures within the U.S. itself who all claim their misfortune is a direct result of the United States and its policies.

    If we hadn’t “stolen” California, it would have only existed as an extension of the corrupt-ridden culture and opportunisitc predation that currently prevails in Mexico proper, a place where your safety is as much at risk from poor sanitation conditions and ineffectual government as it is from their corruption and drug violence.

    It’s like a broken record; “Oh, woe is me . . . we flourished and had absolute Shangra-la until the United States came about. They did it to us . . . all those bad, bad things . . . it’s all their fault and they should be made to give all their amassed wealth, power and success to us. We deserve reparation.”

    Resentment comes in many forms, none of which are above reproach and go a long way to identify why the U.S. prevails and all those who cry foul continue to sprial down.

    As for Afganistan, it’s just another pile of rubble in a land of constant turmoil and violence all in the name of fundamentalist religious practices that in time, will ultimately commit self-destruction despite our best efforts to prevent it.

    Naturally, the U.S. is responsible for these cultures’ failure to thrive as well . . . . right.

    Comment by John — October 21, 2009 @ 6:23 am

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