A lot gets written about so-called “failed states” these days, usually by mainstream political writers who are referring to countries like Somalia, which has no government at all and no military and no navy, hence the piracy off its coasts.
Myself, I turn to the sociologist Max Weber, who defined the functioning state as having a “monopoly on legitimate violence.” So how to explain a country in which the government and its assorted security forces are powerless against armed groups within their own borders?
I’m talking about Mexico, our distant neighbor to the south, a country that most U.S. inhabitants barely know exists. Over the past weeks, no less than five top security officials have been assassinated by the highly-organized, heavily armed narcotics gangs that were one of “President” Calderon’s main priorities when taking office. He promised to curtail their power, but instead it is they who are curtailing him.
Imagine if the Mare Salvatrucha or the Crips had gunned down a top F.B.I. official in front of his house in Washington D.C., and you will have an idea of what Mexico is like. The narcos are a counter-state, who operate with impunity and for all intents and purposes control whole sections of the country. They not only out-fight the police on a regular basis but send kids to college, build schools, and construct roads in rural towns.
What’s the point of posting this? It’s part of my general quest to have folks on this side of the border pay a bit more attention to Mexico, because what happens there greatly affects us here. And no “border fence”, or legion of armed agents, or any amount of Good Old Fashioned American Isolationism can ever change that.