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Mexico, The Coming Collapse
by Austin Bay
February 2, 2009

The internet has been rife with reports that US Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) is predicting the collapse of Mexico. The root of this story lies in a study produced by JFCOM entitled; The Joint Operating Environment (JOE). The report appeared in November 2008, and was intended for use in "long range planning guidance." It was not meant to predict anything. Media sensationalists latched on to the comments about "rapid collapse" scenarios in the JFCOM speculative study and totally missed the point that this was a "what if?" scenario for planning purposes, not a prediction. JFCOM's long-range planners thought Pakistan and Mexico were "worst cases" of rapid collapse. Okay, this is fodder for wargaming and long-range planning excursions. No doubt a Mexican collapse would have huge effects on the US. However, the direct comparison to Pakistan was a huge stretch. For numerous reasons we will get to in a moment -- though we were glad to see JFCOM discussing Mexico and its complex security challenges.

Mexico is a huge security concern for the US, but that isn't a new phenomenon. We've been covering Mexico since 1999 and have covered the Cartel War (our original name, by the way) since December 2006 when the Mexican government decided to treat the cartel threat as the serious national threat it is. But Mexico is not Pakistan. It is not collapsing. It is not a "near failed state." Mexico is a threatened state, but the country has political will to confront the threats posed by violent drug cartels and its own legacy of corrupt politics. Even accounting for Chiapas (Maya land) and numerous wannabe separatists, Mexico also has money, education, and a comparative political-social coherence the entirety of South and Central Asia should envy.

Meanwhile, there are economic issues. From the Mexican perspective, NAFTA has been a means of "modernizing" the Mexican economy by evolution rather than revolution. The government, albeit slowly, has used NAFTA as a tool for streamlining the economy and reducing corruption. The government is directing a complex war that includes judicial and legal reformation ? dead serious counter-corruption drives that have put senior officials in jail. No, bliss is not around the corner, but this is a real path to real change.

GEN Barry McCaffrey's recent report to the West Point social sciences department on Mexico (memo dated December 29, 2008) makes the point about political will in Mexico is very explicit, "Now is the time during the opening months of a new US Administration to jointly commit to a fully resourced major partnership as political equals of the Mexican government. We must jointly and respectfully cooperate to address the broad challenges our two nations face. Specifically, we must support the Government of Mexico's efforts to confront the ultra violent drug cartels. We must do so in ways that are acceptable to the Mexican polity and that take into account Mexican sensitivities to sovereignty. The United States Government cannot impose a solution. The political will is present in Mexico to make the tough decisions that are required to confront a severe menace to the rule of law and the authority of the Mexican state?" McCaffrey's report also noted:  "President Calderon has committed his government to the "Limpiemos Mexico" campaign to "clean up Mexico". This is not rhetoric. They have energized their departments of Social Development, Public Education, and Health to be integral parts of this campaign. Finally, there is a clear understanding that this is an eight-year campaign-not a short-term surge?" The former SOUTHCOM commander and US drug czar sees the problem but sees what Calderon and his government are doing.

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