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How Seriously Should we Take The Mexican Crisis?
A little-noticed Joint Forces Command study, The Joint Operating Environment: Challenges and Implications for the Future Joint Forces has some interesting conclusions on Latin America, and particularly Mexico. A tip of the hat to David Holiday of OSI for bringing it to my attention.

While there have been several recent studies looking at future challenges, including the more heralded "Global Trends 2025" Byt he National Intelligence Council, this one actually tackles the issues of transnational crime and stateless areas. The NIC report in particular, was notably silent on the implications of failing states and criminal/terrorist pipelines.

The JOE as the report is called, is a DOD's "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."

In looking at potential developments, the report concludes:

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

That is an interesting juxtaposition for Mexico, and one that, surprisingly, has not risen to the top of the foreign policy agenda. Although president-elect Obama met with Mexican president Calderón to discuss the drug war, it is unlikely the stark terms of this issue were discussed.

Mexico is at a crucial juncture. The Calderón government has gambled that it can take on the criminal enterprises of drugs, illegal smuggling, extortion and kidnapping while having a non-functional judicial system and without diminishing the culture of impunity that allows the cartel sicarios kill the best and brightest with impunity.

He had no choice, except to accept the future of Mexico as a "narco-state." The lack of serious U.S. commitment to seeking alternatives to the existing policies, including demand reduction and a serious effort to shut down the flow of sophisticated weapons, left Mexico virtually alone.

The Merida Initiative is a step, but it is not clear what that step is toward. More than 5,700 people were killed in drug-related violence in Mexico in 2008. That is a staggering figure, and it includes dozens of policemen, journalists and the few of were willing to take on the terror of the organized criminal gangs.

It is also more than all the U.S. deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan since those conflicts began, a sobering point of reference. Yet it remains unclear how the story will end.

In reference to the collapse of Pakistan, the report concluded:

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.

The descent into chaos is a real possibility, all the more so because the new administration will struggle to meet the internal economic crisis and will have little time and few resources to look south. Unfortunately, that will only exacerbate the downward spiral there.

It is certainly not just Mexico. With Mexico will go Guatemala, Honduras and much of the rest of Central America. How it will play out in the so-far complacent states of Nicaragua and Venezuela, currently view the cartels as allies in their anti-U.S. coalition, remains to be seen.

The paper should be a starting point for far more serious discussions about a region where we remain largely blind to the threats that loom.

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