Sunday, May 02, 2010

Mexico: the real war next door

It bewilders me that my fellow citizens don't take the disintegration of government authority in northern Mexico seriously. As I've written repeatedly, no country is more important to us socially, economically and security-wise than Mexico. Afghanistan's fluff by comparison. Precisely 100 years ago, in 1910, the Mexican Revolution erupted in northern Mexico -- already the most prosperous and industrially developed portion of the country. That revolution lasted a bloody, destructive decade. It wasn't the bandido affair beloved of Hollywood knuckleheads, but a complex contest for power with large armies, strategic campaigns, major battles, trench warfare, barbed wire and machine guns. In 1915, the military vision of the self-taught Gen. Alvaro Obregon -- destined to become Mexico's president -- was more sophisticated than that of the US Army. Mexico pioneered the 20th century's revolutions. Since then, northern Mexico -- from the border cities southward through the industrial powerhouse of Monterrey -- has continued to be the country's primary agent of change. Influenced by its proximity to America, the north long has been a different country from the impoverished states south of the capital. Now a new Mexican revolution is underway in the vital north. In 1910, idealists struggled to change an autocratic regime. In 2010, criminal syndicates fight to wrest power from a democratic government and to grab market share from each other. (In an eerie parallel, a bloody strike in the northern mining center of Cananea helped ignite the 1910 revolution; today, a three-year-long strike in Cananea by mining and metal workers signals a new generation's impatience with the status quo -- and we're just not paying attention.) During that earlier revolution, the citizens of El Paso, Texas, and Douglas, Arizona, gathered to watch the battles just across the border as Pancho Villa's troops drove out the Federals, then as the Constitutionalists defeated Villa. Those spectators were confident in their immunity as American citizens. We're no longer immune...more

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