The Corner

Chaos on Our Doorstep

Yet another police chief has disappeared, probably murdered, in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo. A predecessor in 2005 was killed on his first day on the job. Two years ago, another predecessor — a retired army general — was gunned down after about a month on the job.

This is why I shouldn’t have been surprised that, during my recent tour of the Texas-Mexico border from Eagle Pass down to Brownsville, I couldn’t find a single local who still crossed the river to visit Mexico. I asked everyone I met — Hispanic and Anglo, immigrant or native-born, prosperous and low-income, law enforcement or civilian — and every one of them said they hadn’t gone to Mexico in years, despite the fact that it’s only yards away, across a modest stream that makes the Potomac look like the Amazon. Other than Mexicans returning after working on the U.S. side (many doing so illegally with Border Crossing Cards, which don’t confer work authorization) the only people I saw crossing into Mexico were snowbirds going to the town of Nuevo Progreso for cheap teeth-whitening and breast-enhancement (or maybe it was teeth-enhancement and breast-whitening, I’m not sure).

Mexico is the most consequential country in the world from the standpoint of our national interests, and yet the violence there seldom warrants more than a news brief on page A17, if that. Its weakness and backwardness has been deeply harmful to the United States, and actual state failure there would be catastrophic, while its entry into the First World would be an incomparable boon to us. But Mexico is just not considered cool by our political and journalistic elites — as opposed to, say, Syria or Burma, neither of which is of any real importance to the United States.

I’m not sure there’s anything we can do to help Mexico through its time of troubles, but there’s nothing we can do to fix the Middle East, either, and we keep talking about it anyway. On second thought, given our track record in the Middle East, maybe Mexico is better off being considered dreary and plebeian by our ruling classes — ignoring it may result in less harm.


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