“Mexico is not a failed state,” declared Patricia Espinosa at the end of last week. The country’s foreign minister was reacting to, among other things, a recent U.S. Joint Forces Command report warning that two countries-Pakistan and Mexico-are at risk of “rapid and sudden collapse.”
The Pentagon’s assessment sounds about right. The Mexican government is fighting a brutal war with drug barons, who are also fighting each other. Last year 5,300 Mexicans were killed in the various struggles, some shot in public, many beheaded or mutilated. Tijuana, the sprawling city opposite tranquil San Diego, and Juarez, across El Paso, are littered with bodies each morning. President Felipe Calderon, to his credit, deployed the army in the battle in 2006, but he has nonetheless been losing ground to the cartels, which now control large parts of the country. Earlier this month Stephen Hadley, then national security adviser, stated that the violence even threatened Mexico’s democracy.
And our nation is also endangered. “Mexico could represent a homeland security problem of immense proportions to the United States,” the Pentagon report notes. Drug violence has already spilled over the almost 2,000-mile border, the world’s most frequently crossed international boundary. “There is a wave of barbarity that is heading toward the U.S.” said one Mexican.
Whether or not Mexico is a failed state, we need to work with Mr. Calderon for the good of both of our countries. “The more secure Mexico is, the more secure the U.S. will be,” the Mexican leader said as he met Mr. Obama in Washington before he took office. There are many international challenges for the United States, but perhaps the most pressing is the one closest to home.