Saturday, April 21, 2012

On Bonner's Bizarre NY Times Piece

Earlier this week, I wrote a rebuttal to former DEA honcho Robert Bonner's op-ed in the NY Times, which canned be summed up with a short compound sentence: Calderón is super, that is all. Highlights:
Bonner points to Colombia as an example of the kingpin strategy successfully deployed, yet close to 13,500 people were killed in 2011, good enough for a murder rate of roughly 30 per 100,000 residents. In Medellin, the supposed site of a historic public security miracle brought about in part because of the application of the kingpin approach, more than 1,600 people were killed in 2011, a larger figure than in Juarez. In contrast, Mexico, for all its notorious travails with criminal groups, had a rate of about 20 murders per 100,000 residents last year. If Colombia’s “victory” is actually a model for Mexico and not just a convenient comparison, why is the state of public security in the former nation so precarious?
Bonner's piece has other weaknesses, but most glaring is that he makes no mention of Mexico’s recent spike in violence whatsoever, though he does refer dismissively to the “negative headlines” early in the piece. His point seems to be that the violence receives too much attention, and that bloodshed notwithstanding, Calderon’s strategy has proven very effective. But while may be an easy argument to make while living in Washington, the case is rather more difficult to make in Juarez, Acapulco, or Torreon, and Bonner never examines the counter to his point. The two perennial goals in security policy -- in a nutshell, weaker gangs and safer streets -- are often in conflict, and reasonable people can disagree as to which of the two is more important in a given moment. However, no reasonable analysis entirely ignores either objective, which is precisely what Bonner has done here. As far as we can tell from his piece, spikes in violence don’t matter, period.
Given that the historic increases in murder, extortion, kidnapping, and other crimes in Mexico provoke no self-reflection from Bonner, it’s worth asking if there even exists a threshold at which Bonner would begin to question the soundness of Calderon’s approach. It appears that there is not, which, to anyone who has followed Mexico with an objective set of eyes over the past five years, is simply baffling.
Bonner's op-ed will be expanded and published in Foreign Affairs next month. I am skeptical that the added space will make his argument more persuasive.

No comments: