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14 January 2010


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Just legalize it. The drug wars will fade, the border areas will grow immensely safer. Business will follow.

Adam L Silverman


I think that this is just right. When you look at the big projects we're currently involved with in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the big undertakings of the past by us and by others, what we see is that whether its called nation building or development or reconstruction, we don't seem to pay attention to the human or socio-cultural or socio-political factors. What we've learned, and I would argue it was actually relearned, the hard way in Iraq and in Afghanistan is that building things - roads, wells, electric grids - is easy. The hard part is building civil societies. After WW II in places that had greater ethno-national, ethno-linguistic, and ethno-religious homogeneity, such as Germany, France, and Japan helping to foster a new or refurbished civil society was easy. In places like Iraq or Afghanistan or Haiti its quite hard. I always thought the best parallel for Iraq was the USMC administration of Haiti from 1919 through 1934, though in that historic case everything fell right back apart once the Marines came home. The problem in Haiti then was the lack of development of a vibrant and inclusive civil society that could pull in the various sub-cultural elements and this is the problem we see today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exerting security control is doable to a point, constructing or reconstructing things is also doable, but building or repairing a civil society is very, very hard. And we can see this lesson of social reconciliation and integration in our own post Civil War history and we're going to see it if the Israelis and the Palestinians ever come to an agreement. Several generations of socio-cultural reconstruction will have to take place in order for Palestinian society not to be dysfunctional.


The United States and Mexico have a long history of inability to sort out their relations in a reasonable way. There have been wars and rumors of wars.

I would argue that relations have improved dramatically over time, though. There was some very severe animosity between the US and Mexico in the early twentieth century.

now an acceptance among most Americans that the future United States will be very strongly Mexican in culture and blood.

While there is an increasingly large Mexican influence on our culture, keep in mind not to over-estimate this - what with the way Mexican birth rates and GDP growth are going, my guess is that Mexican immigration will probably level off in the next 10-20 years.

At the same time, the US culture is having a massive influence on Mexico and its culture. That's usually what extensive trade and cross-migration does with two or more societies - it blurs the differences between them.

the disintegrating state just to the south of that border.

Calling Mexico a "disintegrating state" is a major exaggeration. While there are extensive problems with corruption and crime, the Mexican government itself is in no threat of collapse, American alarmism aside.

Farmer Don

Haiti with a population of 97,000 would heaven. With a population of 9.7 million it is hell.


NY Times blog discusses various approaches, specifically Haiti:


N. M. Salamon

With great respect to Mr. Silverman, IMO it will take Isreali sociey at least as long as for Palestinians to turn into civil society.

And moreover, there is no chance of either happening as long as the USA is the king's minion to the State of Israel!


The U.S. has been involved in Haiti for some 200 years. One has to admit though that this was not to advantage the lives of Haitians. The last not-so-silent interventions of DC were dismissing the elected president Aristide in 1991 AND 2004 again.

As for taking more care of such a "neighborhood", the all-American Heritage Foundation already has the recipe for further neoliberal disasters:

While on the ground in Haiti, the U.S. military can also interrupt the nightly flights of cocaine to Haiti and the Dominican Republic from the Venezuelan coast and counter the ongoing efforts of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to destabilize the island of Hispaniola. This U.S. military presence, which should also include a large contingent of U.S. Coast Guard assets, can also prevent any large-scale movement by Haitians to take to the sea in dangerous and rickety watercraft to try to enter the U.S. illegally.

Meanwhile, the U.S. must be prepared to insist that the Haiti government work closely with the U.S. to insure that corruption does not infect the humanitarian assistance flowing to Haiti. Long-term reforms for Haitian democracy and its economy are also badly overdue.

Sure, the U.S. teaching the world about corruption ...

Patrick Lang


I think Germany should accept reponsibility for Haiti since we have made such a hash of it. pl

Patrick Lang


I stand by the word "disintegrating." Why don't we just merge the two countries? pl

William R. Cumming

The Haitian Earthquake is the natural disaster with the most impact on the most humans since Columbus landed. The oldest and richest democracy (US--really a republic) will be watched closely by the world to see how we handle this event 700 nautical miles offshore.
There are going to be huge impacts for the US and the countries of the western hemisphere from this event. Perhaps we are lucky that it was not the "Big one" long expected in S.CA. Haitian population is only an estimate and some think closer to 12 million. Also in normal January there are almost 100,000 visitors to Haiti. It appears that the largest MEDEVAC op in world history is about to be launched by the US. All states and their health systems including hospitals will be impacted throughout the SE US! DOD has been slow off the starting line. This real world event will be interesting to watch in light of all the discussion of improvements since Katrina. Hoping so but doubtful IMO. Drinking water issues starting to loom larger.

Adam L Silverman

Mr. Salomon: You are absolutely correct that both Israelis and Palestinians will have civil society work to do, however, I think the issue is I was not quite clear enough. There are two parallel and two different sets of socio-cultural reconciliation and reconstruction issues for both groups. For the Palestinians many will need to adapt to the concept of having an actual state to be part of, political participation, institution building, etc. The greatest challenge, one that actually has plagued the Israelis, is sort of a political science axiom: when you treat people despotically and tyrannically, then free them and let them set up their own system it tends to be or have elements of despotism and tyranny. The Israelis still struggle in their internal and external politics and relations with the legacy of never being full citizens in most places capped off by WW II and the Holocaust. The Palestinians who have been, in many ways, the flotsam and jetsam of the Middle East will have to overcome these same problems. Their second set of issues is how they reconcile religion within their civil society. Will Islam dominate Christians, Druze, and others or will there be some other resolution.

In the case of the Israelis they will have to learn to interact with the world not as an occupier, but just as another state and society in the region. They will also have to learn to do without the societal role that the Palestinians played: the other, cheap labor, the not quite full citizen. This is where the parallel comes in: will the Israelis further stratify themselves by ethnicity? Ashkenazic versus Sephardic (including Arab Jews) versus Ethiopic Jews (the Falashas) versus the much more recent Russian emigres? These differences have played a major role in Israeli politics; until recently the Israelis of Ashkenazic descent had significant control of the political system. And like the Palestinians the Israelis have a religious issue to deal with, though in this case its going to between the secular, the less devout, the devout, and the ultra-devout. Every so often we see some of this bubble up, within both Israeli and Palestinian societies, but then it gets pushed aside as the focus gets put back on the other party in the dispute.

Charles I

Pat, rest assured I'm a firm believer in borders, the Canada - US border, at any rate. As well as in the fact that if your wonderful country did not exist, we would have to invent it. Thank heavens the US is on our border and not Mexico or Haiti.

No matter how I rail at you, who else is going to step up but America. Fine tuning it to focus on the neighbours might be as prudent and altruistically self-interested as preventing another wave of Hatian boat people by massively assisting them in place.

In any event, Obama's fervently signed on. Again you will be the indispensable nation. Maybe it'll draw resources away from foreign wars a bit. Haiti is as screwed as ever, poor souls.

Good luck and God bless with Mexico, legalization's' your only hope, dunno what you'd do about their society, other than man the border as best you can.

Patrick Lang


Surely you do not think that we are going to lagalize heroin or cocaine?



Haiti assistance is a natural act by the USA. As to how long we are there, who knows, but every dollar spent now may offset what could be spent in social services here in the USA in the short term by incoming refugees.

As to borders with Mexico you either have and hold the present one or you need one on Mexico's southern border. A stand is needed now. Legalizing/Taxing drugs is not an act that is fully thought out as the black market will flourish with this stuff if it is. You will only sate the habit of self serving individuals.

The bigger dollar problem is the nation building while the perceived enemy moves on to other areas to re-surface once we depart.

Now all the above will drive us to bankruptcy, oops we are broke but have not filed. When will the adults take charge and straighten this out!

Cold War Zoomie

Sure, the U.S. teaching the world about corruption...

We've got nothing, and I mean *nothing* compared to much of the world. We're not Scandinavia, but it's not as bad here as you think.

Spend a year or so in any central american country, except Costa Rica, to get a flavor of how a totally corrupt government actually operates.

The mind boggles.

We're mere amateurs compared to those guys down south although our sums of money can get much larger.



Surely you do not think that we are going to lagalize heroin or cocaine?"

I don't think it, but I do recomend it. Baby steps. Start with marijuana and go from there. Barring that, I don't foresee any change in the drug wars.


Well, I would hope we're not going to legalize heroin or cocain (or meth either) - although if we did I really think Wal-Mart would wipe the floor with the cartels, both in terms of sheer competitiveness and absolute cold-blooded heartless cruelty (although the corporate version is much more dispassionate).

Regarding your post as such, which I take to be the posing of a question regarding nation-building vs addressing critical national priorities: I would suggest that the idea of "nation-building" has subsumed within it several concurrent agendas. Perhaps the largest is that 'if we can only bring these benighted people close to the light, they will see the error of their ways and instantly become like "us" - middle-class Midwestern Americans'. That's obviously (to me, at any rate) not going to happen.

However, I think that there is a justification for (limited) "nation-building" as such - what we need to be trying to do in states that are utterly collapsed, is create a minimal infrastructure (which is tailored to the cultural norms at hand) that can ensure that the population under its control will interact with the rest of the world in a rational manner.

In some sense, "nations" are entities created to assure other "nations" that they aren't going to let individuals behave in a fashion that creates a problem of any other nation. So, for instance, if I (as a citizen of the US) buy 3 tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, some detonators, rent a truck to carry it, and begin to post online comments suggesting that I have a horrible beef with Mexico, the FBI exists here as an institution to prevent anything from coming of that) - (full disclosure! I haven't done any of that and I have no problem whatsoever with Mexico!) - In a failed state like Yemen or parts of Pakistan, that preventional infrastructure does not exist, and THIS is what allows those areas to be dangerous to us.

We need to be doing whatever is needed to promote or create a state, or an infrastructure of whatever sort, in those areas that can (i) control their citizens so that they don't become a danger to people living in other parts of the world, and (ii) can interact with the other nations of the world on a rational basis. These may end up being representative democracies (I doubt it and I guess I really don't care), federations of tribes, or theocracies. But they need to be there one way or another, and putting resources into making that happen, IMO, would be justified.


Re Mexico: It doesn't help that the MSM only reports drug violence. CNN spent an entire week doing their broadcast from Juarez, having the same conversation every night with the head of the police department. The swine flu coverage didn't help either. All of the above has killed Mexican tourism, one of their bread and butter industries.

FYI, I spent Thanksgiving snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez just off the coast of Loreto. My stay could not have been more delightful. Lovely people, comfortable lodging, awesome food. Nary a drug dealer in sight. Just warm clear water, white sand, and friendly fish.


"...you do not think that we are going to leagalize heroin or cocaine?"

no, decriminalization by stages & facto will do - status quo ante.

N. Anderthal

One of the reasons we have so many of the old Mexican territories was part Imperialism and part neglect from the center. Mexico is a city state and all that matters is Mexico city. When I say Imperialism I mean the best kind ... when one colonial power steals from another.

Break off the northern Mexican states like pieces of a chocolate bar with promises of eventual statehood. Teach the Mexican government that if we take your people we take your land. It will save the poor migrants a longer walk.

I recall reading once that Emperor Maximilian offered to sell the US Government the Yucatan. Not as big a prize as the Louisiana Territories or Alaska but they still should have taken them up on the offer.

Bill Wade, NH

I firmly believe heroin should be medicalized. There are heroin addicts and there are "about to become' heroin addicts. Medicalize it for those who are addicts and you accomplish:

Less theft

Less prostitution

Less HIV

A more dignified life for the addicts and a chance to kick the habit under medical supervision

No allure for the "about to become' addicts "just not cool to get high at the Dr's place" No "street" market either.

Cocaine - none of the above will work.


blog entry. after magnitude 7.0 quake.

Haiti ceases to exist. Now what?


From the reports I have seen, my tentative conclusion is that the country as a whole is currently below the subsistence level and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, the U.N. Mission has collapsed, the government is not working (was it ever?), and hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of people are living in the streets without reliable food or water supplies. The hospitals and schools have collapsed. The airport is shut down. The port is very badly damaged. The Haitian Penitentiary has collapsed and the inmates -- tough guys most of them -- are running free for the foreseeable future. There is no viable police force or army.

In other words, it's not just a matter of offering extra food aid for two or three years.

Very rapidly, President Obama needs to come to terms with the idea that the country of Haiti, as we knew it, probably does not exist any more.


Bill Clinton attempted to help Haiti with lot of spending and foreign investments, but he failed to understand the "human or socio-cultural or socio-political factors."

A friend on mines explain that smaller organizations, with less money using "Micro Loans" or "Micro Projects" had better success because they avoid the elites and corruption by focusing on "human or socio-cultural or socio-political factors."

Maybe we are a "forest" point-of-view nation that doesn't understand problems with individual trees.

That same point-of-view-problem can be applied to the Mexicans and Palestinians.

For example, we throw money to the corrupt Palestinian Authority while Hamas provides "Micro Loans" or "Micro Projects" to ordinary Palestinians.

Then we Americans wonder why "our guys" lose elections and we are hated.

The Col., is correct we need "to think about basic priorities."


Drug smugglers and illegal migrants (not the same people) create what is, in the end, an impossible situation, a situation that contributes to crime, vice and levels of greed otherwise most likely to be found on Wall Street and among defense contractors.

Great quote. I saw Lloyd Blankfein on the tube testifying before Congress the other day. What an unrepentent, arrogant, fast-talking slimeball. He reminds me of a Russian oligarch under Yeltsin.

As for defense contractors, the Boeing "We know why we're here" ads make me sick. All I can think of is http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=11780 >the Darleen Druyun case, among others.

I basically agree "that the future United States will be very strongly Mexican in culture and blood," but I would qualify the statement by substituting "Latin American" for "Mexican." I see many more Central Americans and South Americans in my immigration practice than I do Mexicans, and the net effect of the South to North migration will be far more culturally diverse than a simple "Mexification" of our society. Of course, I'm way up in New Jersey, not in Texas.

I've represented many Haitians in immigration matters over the years. I really like most of them, but was ripped off by a few on fees early on. Watch your wallet; get the money up front; and run whenever you hear, "No prob-lem" in the peculiar French-Creole accent of theirs!

I feel Haitians are a lost people in many ways. Their part of Hispaniola is way beyond being a failed state. It is truly man-destroyed earth. The ecological damage there from the impoverished millions is utterly unrecoverable IMO. And the country has no real economy or viable political culture. I think the only real "Haitian solution" is a permanent and total diaspora in which the whole population leaves and the land is given a few centuries without man to heal itself. I'm not kidding; the place is that much of a hell-on-earth.


If we can't legalize heroin or cocaine, what do you think about marijuana? I don't use it but it seems such a piddling thing and so many are in jail for really small amounts. And not that the gov't would pay for a study, but there are medicinal uses, glaucoma comes to mind as well as nausea. And it would make the old hippies so happy.

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