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American fiddles in Asia while Mexico burns on our very border

2 October 2009

While we squander our resources on the other side of the world, our neighbor to the South deteriorates — desperately needing aid.  In Mexico we see the decline of the State accellerating into what might soon become an advanced state of decay.  As Martin van Creveld said over a decade ago, Mexico might turn out to be the greatest threat to America’s sovereignty that we have even encountered.

Contents

  1. Desertion, Low Morale, and Readiness: Assessing the Mexican Army’s Involvement in the War Against the Cartels and its Impact on Capabilities for Traditional Responses“, Alejandro Schtulmann, RGE Monitor, 29 September 2009
  2. Mexico: Emergence of an Unexpected Threat“, Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 30 September 2009
  3. FM recommendations about Mexico
  4. Other useful articles about Mexico
  5. Afterword and other posts about Mexico

(1)  A rare in-depth look at the military of another nation

Desertion, Low Morale, and Readiness: Assessing the Mexican Army’s Involvement in the War Against the Cartels and its Impact on Capabilities for Traditional Responses“, Alejandro Schtulmann, RGE Monitor, 29 September 2009 — Excerpt:

The Mexican army’s increasing role in the war against drug cartels has prompted concerns about a potential overstretching of its deployed troops and the impact this could have on morale as well as the army’s capabilities for traditional responses, including natural disaster relief and stationary deployments for guarding strategic facilities and infrastructure such as oil pipelines.

During the Calderon era, the number of soldiers assigned to antinarcotics operations has almost doubled from 23,000 to 45,000. At the same time, the number of soldiers deserting the army has increased to unprecedented levels, without the Federal Government taking meaningful steps toward reversing this trend or making the army more efficient.

The army’s reputation as a professional, well-disciplined force is being eroded as respected watchdog groups, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, document escalating allegations of human rights abuses by the Mexican military.

Background

According to statistics from the Ministry of Defense (SEDENA), between January 2002 and December 2006, more than 140,000 soldiers deserted the Mexican army. Although to a lesser degree, this trend has continued into the Calderon era with at least 48,000 soldiers deserting between in 2007-2009, despite improvements in salaries and fringe benefits during this era. While the majority of desertion has taken place among low-ranking troops, the number of army specialists deserting is on the rise—a previously unseen phenomenon.

The first part of this report looks into the causes of desertion and the impact this might have on the army’s capabilities for traditional responses as well as in the war against drug cartels. The second part of this report takes a broad view of the army’s structural problems and other emerging factors, which will be obstacles for the army’s performance in the long run.

Causes of desertion, low morale, and corruption

Sources interviewed for this report concur this is rooted in the army’s low salaries and poor working conditions, which are particularly acute for low-ranking troops with a poor educational background. Another related factor is distance from family; it is not being far away from family per se that discourages the troops, but the fact that travel expenses paid by the army are minimal (often less than 15% of total). Thus, the farther a soldier is stationed away, the more expensive it is for him to visit his family.

Sources cite the principal reasons for low morale are the many sacrifices imposed by the army’s involvement in the war against drug cartels. During the Calderon era, the number of soldiers assigned to antinarcotics operations has almost doubled from 23,000 to 45,000; plus 5,000 navy and 5,000 transferred from the army to the federal police.

Remaining sections of this article

  • Army rotation as a cause of desertion and low morale
  • Other related factors of desertion and low morale
  • Desertion, Deployment Rotations: Implications on the Mexican Army’s Capability
  • Joining the Enemy’s Ranks
  • Training, Ethics, and Human Rights Violations
  • Deficient Recruiting System
  • Implications on the War Against the Cartels
  • Corruption also at the Higher Levels
  • Lack of Transparency and Accountability
  • The Army’s View
  • Outlook: Increased Discontent and Political Pressure
  • Pipe Dreams

Click on the title above to read it in full.

About the author

Alejandro Schtulmann is the founder and president of Emerging Markets Political Risk Analysis (EMPRA), a political risk advisory and consulting firm focusing primarily on Mexico. EMPRA delivers critical intelligence and independent analysis on political and security developments and their impact on key areas of the economy. EMPRA’s services help decision-makers anticipate changes in the political spectrum and formulate timely, successful strategies in the face of sudden changes and uncertainty.

Prior to founding EMPRA in 2007, Mr. Schtulmann worked as an independent consultant on energy issues and Latin American politics. Between 2001 and 2005 he worked as a research analyst for Eurasia Group in the Stability Index Project, and as a consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank. From 1997 to 1999, Mr. Schtulmann worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mexico where he oversaw the coordination of a wide range of OECD policy issues within the federal government agencies.

Mr. Schtulmann is a frequent commentator in Mexican and international media on Mexican and Latin American Politics, as well as on geopolitical issues. He has a B.A. in International Trade from the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. He earned a M.Sc. in Economic Development from the University of London and a MIA in International Economic Policy from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

Source: RGE Monitor.

(2)  The latest analysis from Stratfor

Stratfor’s coverage of Mexico is second to none.  Posted in full with permission.  “Mexico: Emergence of an Unexpected Threat“, Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 30 September 2009:

At approximately 2 a.m. on Sept. 25, a small improvised explosive device (IED) consisting of three or four butane canisters was used to attack a Banamex bank branchin the Milpa Alta delegation of Mexico City. The device damaged an ATM and shattered the bank’s front windows. It was not an isolated event. The bombing was the seventh recorded IED attack in the Federal District — and the fifth such attack against a local bank branch — since the beginning of September.

The attack was claimed in a communique posted to a Spanish-language anarchist Web site by a group calling itself the Subversive Alliance for the Liberation of the Earth, Animals and Humans (ASLTAH). The note said, “Once again we have proven who our enemies are,” indicating that the organization’s “cells for the dissolution of civilization” were behind the other, similar attacks. The communique noted that the organization had attacked Banamex because it was a “business that promotes torture, destruction and slavery” and vowed that ASLTAH would not stop attacking “until we see your ashes.” The group closed its communique by sending greetings to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the “eco-pyromaniacs for the liberation of the earth in this place.” Communiques have also claimed some of the other recent IED attacks in the name of ASLTAH.

On Sept. 22, authorities also discovered and disabled a small IED left outside of a MetLife insurance office in Guadalajara, Jalisco state. A message spray-painted on a wall near where the device was found read, “Novartis stop torturing animals,” a reference to the multinational pharmaceutical company, which has an office near where the IED was found and which has been heavily targeted by the group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). Novartis is a large customer of Huntingdon Life Sciences, the research company SHAC was formed to destroy because Huntingdon uses animals in its testing for harmful side effects of drugs, chemicals and consumer items. A second message spray-painted on a wall near where the device was found on Sept. 22 read, “Novartis break with HLS.” Two other IEDs were detonated at banks in Mexico City on the same day.

These IED attacks are the most recent incidents in a wave of anarchist, animal rights, and eco-protest attacks that have swept across Mexico this year. Activists have conducted literally hundreds of incidents of vandalism, arson and, in more recent months, IED attacks in various locations across the country. The most active cells are in Mexico City and Guadalajara.

For a country in the midst of a bloody cartel war in which thousands of people are killed every year — and where serious crimes like kidnapping terrorize nearly every segment of society — direct-action attacks by militant activists are hardly the biggest threat faced by the Mexican government. However, the escalation of direct-action attacks in Mexico that has resulted in the more frequent use of IEDs shows no sign of abating, and these attacks are likely to grow more frequent, spectacular and deadly.

The Wave

Precisely quantifying the wave of direct-action attacks in Mexico is difficult for a number of reasons. One is that the reporting of such incidents is spotty and the police, the press and the activists themselves are often not consistent in what they report and how. Moreover, is often hard to separate direct-action vandalism from incidents of plain old non-political vandalism or tell the difference between an anarchist IED attack against a bank and an IED attack against a bank conducted by a Marxist groupsuch as the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR). Then there is the issue of counting. Should a series of five Molotov cocktail attacks against ATMs or the destruction of 20 Telmex phone booths in one night be counted as one attack or as separate incidents?

If we count conservatively — e.g., consider a series of like incidents as one — we can say there have been around 200 direct-action attacks to date in 2009. But if we count each incident separately, we can easily claim there have been more than 400 such attacks. For example, by our count, there have been more than 350 Telmex phone booths smashed, burned or otherwise vandalized so far this year. (Activists will do things like glue metal shavings into the calling-card and coin slots.) However, for the sake of this analysis we’ll go with the conservative number of about 200 attacks.

Now, Telmex seems to be the most popular target so far for direct-action attacks. In addition to hitting phone booths, activists also have attacked Telmex vehicles and offices and have cut Telmex cables. From their statements, the activists appear to hold a special hatred for Carlos Slim, one of the richest men in the world and the chairman of Telmex and several other companies. In many ways, Slim — a patriarchal billionaire industrialist — is the personification of almost everything that the anarchistic activists hate. In addition to Telmex and banks, the activists also have attacked other targets such as restaurants (including McDonald’s and KFC), meat shops, pet shops, fur and leather stores, luxury vehicles, and construction equipment.

The activists’ most common tactics tend to be on the lower end of the violence scale and include graffiti and paint (frequently red to symbolize the blood of animals) to vandalize a target. They also frequently release captive birds or animals as well as use superglue and pieces of metal to obstruct locks, pay phones and ATM card readers. Moving up the violence continuum, activists less frequently will break windows, burn buildings and vehicles, and make bomb threats — there have been at least 157 incidents involving arson or incendiary devices so far in 2009. To help put this into perspective, these activists have conducted more arson attacks in Mexico to date in 2009 than their American counterparts have conducted in the United States since 2001.

At the high end of the violence spectrum are the IED attacks, and this is where there has really been an increase in activity in recent weeks. In the first six months of 2009, there were several bomb threats and hoaxes and a few acid bombs, but only two real IEDs were used. In June, July and August there was one IED attack per month — and so far in September there have been seven IED attacks in Mexico City alone and one successful attack and one attempted attack in Guadalajara. Again, by way of comparison, these eight IED attacks by Mexican activists in September are more than American activists have conducted in the United States since 2001.

Proliferation of IEDs

There are several factors that can explain this trend toward the activists’ increasing use of IEDs. The first is, quite simply, that IEDs generate more attention than graffiti, glue or even an arson attack — indeed, here we are devoting a weekly security report to activist IED attacks in Mexico. In light of the overall level of violence in Mexico, most observers have ignored the past lower-level activity by these activist groups, and IEDs help cut through the noise and bring attention to the activists’ causes. The scope and frequency of IED attacks this month ensured that they could not be overlooked.

The second factor is the learning curve of the cells’ bombmakers. As a bombmaker becomes more proficient in his tradecraft, the devices he crafts tend to become both more reliable and more powerful. The improvement in tradecraft also means that the bombmaker is able to increase his operational tempo and deploy devices more frequently. It is quite possible that the few IEDs that were reported as hoaxes in March, April and May could have been IEDs that did not function properly — a common occurrence for new bombmakers who do not extensively test their devices.

The third factor is thrill and ego. In many past cases, militant activists have launched progressively larger attacks. One reason for this is that after a series of direct-action attacks, the activists get bored doing lower-level things like gluing locks or paint-stripping cars and they move to more destructive and spectacular attacks, such as those using timed incendiary devices. For many activists, there is a thrill associated with getting increased attention for the cause, in causing more damage to their targets and in getting away with increasingly brazen attacks.

Finally, in recent years, we have noted a shift among activist groups away from a strict concern for human life. Many activists are becoming convinced that less violent tactics have been ineffective, and if they really want to save the Earth and animals, they need to take more aggressive action. There is a small but growing fringe of hard-core activists who believe that, to paraphrase Lenin, you have to break eggs to make an omelet.

The Ruckus Society, a direct-action activist training organization, explains it this way in a training document: “There is a law against breaking into a house. However, if you break into a house as part of a greater good, such as rushing into the house to save a child from a fire, it is permissible to break that law. In fact, you can say that there is even a moral obligation to break that law. In the same way then, it is permissible to break minor laws to save the Earth.” In general, activists do not condone violent action directed at humans, but neither do they always condemn it in very strong terms — they often explain that the anger that prompts such violence is “understandable” in light of what they perceive as ecological injustice and cruelty to animals.

In recent years there has been a polarization in the animal rights and environmental movements, with fringe activists becoming increasingly isolated and violent — and more likely to use potentially deadly tools like IEDs in their attacks.

Confluences

The very name of ASLTAH — the Subversive Alliance for the Liberation of the Earth, Animals and Humans — illustrates the interesting confluence of animal rights, ecological activism and anti-imperialism/anarchism that inhabit the radical fringe. It is not uncommon for one cell of independent activists to claim it carried out its attacks under the banner of “organizations” such as ELF, ALF or SHAC. In true anarchistic style, however, these organizations are amorphous and nonhierarchical — there is no single ELF, ALF or SHAC. Rather, the individual activists and cells who act on behalf of the organizations control their own activities while adhering to guidelines circulated in meetings and conferences, via the Internet, and in various magazines, newsletters and other publications. These individual activists and cells are driven only by their consciences, or by group decisions within the cell. This results in a level of operational security that can be hard for law enforcement and security officials to breach.

As noted above, these activists have been far more active in Mexico than they have in the United States. One reason for this is that the operating environment north of the border is markedly different than it is in Mexico. In the United States, the FBI and local and state police agencies have focused hard on these activists, and groups like ELF and ALF have been branded as domestic terrorists. There have been several major investigations into these groups in recent years.

South of the border it is a different matter. Mexican authorities are plagued with problems ranging from drug cartels to Marxist terrorist/insurgent groups like the EPR to rampant police and government corruption. Simply put, there is a vacuum of law and order in Mexico and that vacuum is clearly reflected in statistics such as the number of kidnappings inside the country every year. The overall level of violence in Mexico and this vacuum of authority provide room for the activists to operate, and the host of other crime and violence issues plaguing the country works to ensure that the authorities are simply too busy to place much emphasis on investigating activist attacks and catching those responsible for them. Therefore, the activists operate boldly and with a sense of impunity that often leads to an increase in violence — especially within the context of a very violent place, which Mexico is at the present time.

This atmosphere means that the activist cells behind the increase in IED attacks will be able to continue their campaigns against assorted capitalist, animal and ecological targets with very little chance of being seriously pursued. Consequently, as the IED campaign continues, the attacks will likely become more frequent and more destructive. And given Mexico’s densely populated cities and the activists’ target sets, this escalation will ensure that the attacks will eventually turn deadly.

(3)  FM recommendations about Mexico

  • Don’t press and threaten their sovereignty
  • Offer aid as requested:  financial, training, diplomatic
  • Contain the problem by strengthening the border
  • Build deep intelligence in Mexico (this will conflict with the first above)
  • Stay cool; ultimately we can do little

(4)  Other reports about Mexico

  1. Mexico: On the Road to a Failed State?“, George Friedman, Stratfor, 13 May 2008
  2. Mexico: Examining Cartel War Violence Through a Protective Intelligence Lens“, Stratfor, 14 May 2008
  3. Crime and Punishment in Mexico: The big picture beyond drug cartel violence“, posted at Grits for Breakfast, 18 May 2008
  4. State of Siege: Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency“, John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus, Small Wars Journal, 19 August 2008
  5. After Action Report – Vistit Mexico“, General Barry R McCaffrey USA (Ret), 29 December 2008
  6. Mexico Security Memo – Year-end Wrap-up“, Stratfor, 5 January 2009
  7. The Long Arm of the Lawless“, Fred Burton and Scott Stewart, Stratfor, 25 February 2009
  8. Survey Shows Pull of the U.S. Is Still Strong Inside Mexico“, New York Times, 24 September 2009

(5a)  Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling). 

(5b)  For more information from the FM site

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

Posts on the FM site about Mexico:

  1. Is Mexico unraveling?, 28 April 2008 — summary of Stratfor’s warnings about Mexico.
  2. “High Stakes South of the Border”, 13 May 2008
  3. Stratfor: the Mexican cartels stike at Phoenix, AZ, 6 July 2008
  4. “Drug cartels ‘threaten’ Mexican democracy”, 24 July 2008
  5. Stratfor reports on Mexico, news ignored by our mainstream media, 19 August 2008
  6. Nonsense from StrategyPage: Iraq is safer than Mexico, 17 December 2008
  7. New reports about Mexico, the failing state on our border, 9 January 2009
  8. Stratfor writes about “the third war” in Mexico, 15 April 2009
  9. Stratfor: “When the Mexican Drug Trade Hits the Border”, 20 April 2009
  10. One of America’s few wise men tells us about Mexico, 6 May 2009
  11. The sky darkens over Mexico, 11 July 2009
  12. Stratfor reports about “The Role of the Mexican Military in the Cartel War”, 1 August 2009
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24 Comments leave one →
  1. Oblat permalink
    2 October 2009 3:12 am

    Mexico needs to realize that they can’t win by further militarizing the problem. At the end of that path is an insurgency generously funded by the US consumer. In reality it is a strategy that serves the US at the expense of Mexico. Unfortunately a vacuum in law and order is a good condition for a right wing military coup, and if that happens then militarization is inevitable.

    Unless Mexico can quickly displace the trafficking to another country, it is facing a pretty dire few decades of military rule, associated economic stagnation, insurgency and social upheaval. i.e: a typical US stabilization program.

    Instead of this it could start negotiating with the traffickers now. Realizing that the root cause is US consumption, disassociate itself from what is ultimately a US problem. America’s wrath in being forced to clean up it’s own problem is hardly going to be worse than the current prognosis, the worst they could do is force Mexico back onto the current path.

    Like

  2. Major Scarlet permalink
    2 October 2009 3:35 am

    perhaps since the US funds the mexican insurgency, mexico should build the border to cut off the funding and the US can limit the War on (some) Drugs.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: You speak of Mexico as a unitary entity, with one set of interests. The essense of this is the decline of the State, a period in which that is no longer true.

    Like

  3. billy-bob permalink
    2 October 2009 4:14 am

    There’s an old saying in Mexico, “Pobre Mexico. Tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca a los Estados Unidos.”

    Translation: Poor Mexico. So far from God and so close to the United State.

    The Mexican military has historically been a way out of dirt poverty–although the wages and benefits have always sucked.

    Now the under-funded, under-gunned military men have to do battle with extremely well-funded, well-armed “Narco militias”. Now throw into the mix a corrupt political class that in some cases facilitates, participates, and profits from drug trafficking. Who wouldn’t desert under such conditions?

    I wasn’t aware of the activist groups pursuing violent means, but haven’t really been following the goings-on in Mexico that closely in recent years.

    Like

  4. Pete permalink
    2 October 2009 5:18 am

    If things deteriorate further in Mexico, and we need troops along the border, what will Washington do then? The military has been understaffed for years, and has allowed unglomorous but essential gear to become worn-out, out of date, or has failed to replace it entirely (see the book “What We Need” by Barrett Tillman for an analysis of this problem). We don’t have enough troops to patrol the Mexican border, and wage war in two hotspots internationally; a flare-up in Mexico could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. I can’t document it with a specific reference, but I have heard that the Border Patrol is short of people also. Their personnel policies may have something to do with this state of affairs; a good friend of mine – who is a fluent speaker of Spanish, and wants to work in LE – can’t apply with the BP because he is over age 39. This man is an outstanding candidate, and is off-the-charts physically, mentally, you name it – but he cannot work as a BP agent due to his being 43 years old. He applied with ARNG, seeking to be an MP, and with the USNR, seeking to be a master-at-arms (MA)but ran into age cutoffs there also. The critical item here is that these agencies of the government are not allowing guys like my friend the opportunity to compete, to succeed on merit – but rejecting them before the fact, strictly on a actuarial basis. Especially in the case of the BP, when the man speaks Spanish, it does not make sense IMO. But hey – what do I know? Our over-stretched forces on the border don’t need help or anything like that, right?

    Declaring the misbegotten “war on drugs” ended wold help, too, but there isn’t much chance of that happening anytime soon. Didn’t anyone on Capitol Hill study the Prohibition in history class? Apparently not.

    Like

  5. 2 October 2009 6:01 am

    Pete: “Support the troops” has been a mantra in recent years; one which has been sustainable in large measure because they have been deployed far away against an unpopular enemy, the Muslims.

    Deploy them on the border, and you immediately place them at odds with a large portion of the domestic Hispanic population.

    A different situation, IMHO.

    Like

  6. senor tomas permalink
    2 October 2009 6:06 am

    If Mexico becomes a failed state in the extreme sense – and I mean a really failed state like Somalia – the United States might seriously consider annexing Mexico. The half that is left, that is. After all, we already annexed the other half in 1848.

    Like

  7. Major Scarlet permalink
    2 October 2009 9:57 am

    senor,
    duncan has a good point about why annexing mexico may be difficult. would mexico voluntarily allow themselves to become a part of the US or would we have to send in troops? if the latter, there are probably a lot of mexicans already here in the states that won’t like that too much and we would have a very large internal crisis to deal with.

    Like

  8. Xiaoding permalink
    2 October 2009 1:31 pm

    Mexico has to learn to solve it’s own problems. Despite it’s current problems, it’s on the way to being a world power, according to a book I read the other day.

    Best way to help is stay far away. Perhaps we could help with special ops, kill some of the corrupt elite. The problem with that, is that the war on drugs colors our thinking.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Mexico’s oil is running out; it will become an exporter sometime in the next decade. Oil provides (from memory) over half the income of Mexico’s government. Bankruptcy seems more likely in Mexico’s future than becoming a global power.

    Like

  9. Captain Ramen permalink
    2 October 2009 2:42 pm

    The Mexican people will never allow us to annex them. Given the incredibly difficult time we are having subduing Iraq and Afghanistan it makes me wonder why anyone entertains this idea at all.

    The troops don’t need to be ‘on the border.’ They need to be deployable to the border in response to a crisis.

    Like

  10. vp075 permalink
    2 October 2009 3:01 pm

    This name, the Subversive Alliance for the Liberation of the Earth, Animals and Humans, sounds too absurd to be real even given the regional penchant for dramatic names… Even if they are for real, where are the explosives coming from? Qui bono? I’d be surprised if the narco groups didn’t have a hand in supporting these guys, it is in their interest to have a weak state with multiple distractions, and they have the means to provide help.

    Like

  11. Greg in Mexico permalink
    2 October 2009 3:03 pm

    Calderón has had to use the only reliable means of combating the cartels at his disposal and, while I agree that further militarization is not good, I believe Calderón is trying to bring the federal police forces up to standard. This is where the Mérida Initiative funding can do a lot of good. As far as negotiating with traffickers … that certainly seems like a Faustian deal to me and would only be a return to the PRI era of “look the other way”.

    Overall and in spite of the constant bad press, I do not believe that Mexico is on the road to being a failed state. It’s actually an up and coming country with massive potential to be a world class leader in many areas. To support my point I direct you to the March 2009 issue of the British magazine “Monocle” where they did a 36-page national survey of Mexico.

    Like

  12. 2 October 2009 4:37 pm

    (Snipped. A speech, not a comment. Violates the comment policy as not related to the topic under discussion}

    Like

  13. Major Scarlet permalink
    2 October 2009 4:47 pm

    Poor Mike,
    Since you are probably a college student in Eugene, let me give you an assignment. Go research how many Socialist countries are true “economic democracies”. By that I mean the people get to decide where the money goes and the government fulfills their wishes. Good luck on your project and try not to cover up your analysis with wishful thinking.

    that has to be the worst off topic post i’ve ever seen on FM.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree on all points.

    Like

  14. anna nicholas permalink
    2 October 2009 9:54 pm

    The role of an army should be to defend the land and people , all the people , good or bad , against external threats . Even if an army has nothing to do except strut round the borders , they should not act as police .

    Like

  15. larrydunbar permalink
    3 October 2009 12:37 am

    “Go research how many Socialist countries are true “economic democracies”.”

    How many capitalistic countries are? I am not sure “democracies” is the key word here. lets see there is China, Russia, Brazil, and India. Is that 50% or 25%.

    Like

  16. 3 October 2009 2:34 pm

    The role of an army should be to defend the land and people , all the people , good or bad , against external threats . Even if an army has nothing to do except strut round the borders , they should not act as police .

    Obviously bad for civil society, but it would also degrade the military’s ability to effect its intended purpose.

    The troops don’t need to be ‘on the border.’ They need to be deployable to the border in response to a crisis.

    What scenarios do you envision in which soldiers – as opposed to firemen, policemen, firefighters, first aid workers, etc. -would be the appropriate agents to respond. Do you think the drug lords are going to form batallions which will, rank and file, attempt to occupy San Diego?

    A drug lord confronting the military would not take it on directly; that would be suicide. It would attack the various contractors and logistical supports. The Halliburtons and Blackwaters. Are there any country clubs, private schools, vacation resorts their stockholders, bankers, and executives families attend? Those would be toast.

    Like

  17. Jorge permalink
    3 October 2009 3:40 pm

    Just some quick comments from a citizen and resident of Mexico.

    1. Stratfor, as usual, is heavily influenced by what pleases the CIA.

    2. The idea that “nearly every segment of society” lives terrorized is nonsense. Neither I nor anyone I know is even remotely terrorized.

    3. Unquestionably, the drug problem in Mexico is extremely serious, including the corrupt involvement of local governments and the police. The killings, however many thousands they may be, do not affect the ordinary citizen directly: it is rival drug members and government officials who get murdered in this struggle.

    4. There is only one serious solution to the drug problem: stop making profitable. Legalize it. The rest is hot air and continuing profits for the corrupt and the criminal.

    5. There is no question that US intervention–like US intervention anywhere and everywhere else–would be the worst possible “solution.”

    6. The US itself would do well to concentrate on its own immense, and probably self-destructive problems, rather than continuing its suicidal international interventions. Mexico would indeed be a profitable undertaking for the Pentagon…very tempting. The US military accounts for most of the current real value of the dollar.

    7. The most dangerous threats to American sovereignty are entirely internal.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Thank you for posting a comment! A Mexican perspective on this is valuable. I strongly agree with #4 and #5!

    “Stratfor, as usual, is heavily influenced by what pleases the CIA.”

    Not exactly. I believe that Stratfor’s views mirror those of the US ruling elites (corporate and government) — as does the view of the CIA (as an organization).

    “I nor anyone I know is even remotely terrorized.”

    “{E}very segment of society” means a broad range within society, in terms of class and geography. It does not mean “every person.”

    “The most dangerous threats to American sovereignty are entirely internal.”

    Considering Martin van Crevled’s incredible record of forecasts, I suggest we take this seriously.

    Like

  18. atheist permalink
    3 October 2009 3:57 pm

    FM recommendations:

    Don’t press and threaten their sovereignty
    Offer aid as requested: financial, training, diplomatic
    Contain the problem by strengthening the border
    Build deep intelligence in Mexico (this will conflict with the first above)
    Stay cool; ultimately we can do little

    These seem like great recommendations to me, especially the first one and the last one.

    I would argue that there are also two difficult changes we could possibly make to own nation which would benefit Mexico, and therefore indirectly benefit ourselves. Please let me know what you think of them. The first one would be to stop, or at least turn down the heat, on our absurdly counterproductive “War on Drugs”. It may at least be possible to decriminalize certain drugs in particular areas… I am particularly interested in decriminalizing marijuana, whose growth has been one of the few US industries currently doing well. The second change would be to alter NAFTA, which has increased poverty among Mexico’s agricultural class. Either of these changes would be very difficult, as they are both against the interests of powerful elements in US politics.

    Like

  19. atheist permalink
    3 October 2009 4:12 pm

    From #18 — “2. The idea that “nearly every segment of society” lives terrorized is nonsense. Neither I nor anyone I know is even remotely terrorized.”

    I tend to concur with this. My mother & stepfather live approximately four months out of the year in Puerto Vallarta. My aunt and uncle have bought a house in Puerto Vallarta and live there about half the year. Neither of them complain of any social chaos or vacuum of law. I wonder if there are in fact areas of Mexico which are rather lawless, and other areas which are not.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: “every segment of society” means a broad range within society, in terms of class and geography. It does not mean “every person.”

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  20. 3 October 2009 5:35 pm

    Let’s not become so obsessed with Mexico that we forget about Guatemala. See, eg: Budget woes weaken Guatemala army in drugs war

    The economic crisis has squeezed Guatemala’s coffers and left the army strapped for cash and scrambling to pay for gear and supplies as it tries to battle rich and well-armed drug cartels.

    In the vast Peten jungle in northern Guatemala, drug gangs operate with impunity, laying clandestine landing strips for planes loaded with South American cocaine which is then trucked over the porous border with Mexico and up to the United States.

    Soldiers patrol a scattering of basic security posts in the rainforest like one near the Mayan archeological site of El Peru, an hour’s drive from the Mexican border, where a small band of 15 unkempt soldiers mans a cluster of wooden huts.

    Drug smugglers, by contrast, have the cash to buy private planes and powerful weapons, build roads through the jungle and recruit ex-soldiers to their side with generous wages.

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  21. anna nicholas permalink
    3 October 2009 8:22 pm

    Perhaps to extend the role of an army in defending the people from external threats , they could also have a xth Battalion , the Orators . Who would stand up and query whether external threats included immigration of low paid workers, foreigners buying their oil or gold at low prices , foreigners buying their utility companies , treaties that enabled other countries to fish the waters , etc etc .
    Or for example the Somali armed forces ( united by a national cause )would attack foreign trawlers , not their own pirates .
    Most situations I can imagine where the Police would need to call for backup from the Army , surely need instead the gov to change its policies . ( Eg legalise drugs in Mexico , reduce unemployment in Afgh . )

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  22. Major Scarlet permalink
    3 October 2009 10:11 pm

    my wife is from el salvador.. the same thing is said about her country.. that it is the murder capital of central america.. i’ve been there several times and i’m going again in a couple of weeks. the violence tends to be gang on gang or police on gang (with the occasional death squad hit). it also tends to be confined to areas outside of population centers where gangs control small towns.

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  23. Oblat permalink
    6 October 2009 2:11 am

    >Given the incredibly difficult time we are having subduing Iraq and Afghanistan it makes me wonder why anyone entertains this idea at all.

    Indeed against a insurgency there aren’t even enough troops to occupy Mexico City

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