Thursday, May 12, 2011

Calderón in the US, Part 1: Iraq as a Model for Mexico

Calderón has had a number of interesting things to say about a number of different topics (which is in and of itself interesting, because in the past he has focused like a laser on insecurity) during his trip to the US. The first I'd like to mention is his rejection of the Iraq-Mexico comparison:
No, it has nothing to do with Iraq, and sending soldiers over there, hundreds of miles away to fight for a cause that has this or that justification. This is our land, our people, these are our families and our duty is to defend them.
Hear hear. You see the comparison made for two basic rhetorical reasons: 1) to tar Calderón with W'ism, and 2) to point out that more Mexicans have been killed in Calderón's term than Americans in Iraq. As far as the second point, that's true enough, but more Americans are killed in violent acts in the US than soldiers have been killed in Iraq as well. The reason, of course, is that there have not been more than 150,000 or so Americans troops in Iraq since the immediate aftermath of the invasion, but there are 110 million Mexicans and 300 million Americans. I don't believe anyone would argue that it's safer to have been a soldier with three tours in Baghdad over the past seven years than a Mexican in Querétaro. Furthermore, if you consider all of the dead in Iraq, and not just the American troops, the number of killings in Iraq is far, far greater since 2003 than in Mexico.

With regard to the implicit Bush-Calderón comparison, I just don't see it at all, even if you really dislike Calderón. Bush invaded a foreign nation on a false pretext, upsetting what was essentially a stable situation, precipitating the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and sparking a major international rift. Calderón, in the least charitable telling, made a pressing domestic problem much worse with an ill-advised approach. A key distinction there is domestic versus foreign, as Calderón notes, but the scale of violence and the danger to international stability as a result of Calderón's combat of organized crime are both also far less than what resulted from the Iraq invasion. Furthermore, the prescriptions resulting from the comparison are incoherent; the US, you could argue, should pull out of Iraq, but how does Mexico pull out of Mexico? In other words, this is an absurd comparison that trivializes the blunder that was the invasion in 2003 and offers little insight in how to proceed, neither in Iraq nor in Mexico.

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