La evolución de la agenda de seguridad México-Estados Unidos.

Autor:Santa Cruz, Arturo
Cargo:Texto en inglés - Ensayo

Security in Parts: The Evolution of the Mexico-United States Security Agenda

Mexico's security relationship with the United States has historically been characterised by distance--geographical contiguity between the two countries notwithstanding. But it was precisely this proximity, or rather the opportunity this closeness meant for the stronger party to take over part of the weaker one's territory in the nineteenth century, which set the tone for the distal approach on security affairs during most of the twentieth century. I say during most of the twentieth century because during the last years of the Porfirio Díaz regime (1876-1910) there was a rapprochement on security matters. (1) However, over the last century there was one particular event of an internal nature that would go farther in explaining Mexico's resilient attitude in security affairs toward its northern neighbour: the 1910-1920 revolution.

The Revolution created a new sense of national purpose and state identity, and with it a new understanding of its sovereignty. The post-revolutionary identity's defining characteristic as it regards the outside world, and particularly the U.S., was keeping the northern neighbour at arms length--except in critical times--in order to protect its sovereignty. Thus, during World War II (WWII) there was bilateral cooperation on security matters--but even then Mexico's was rather aloof. After the extra-continental threat disappeared, so did Mexico's cooperation with Washington on security affairs. However, there were also some lesser threats, both to US interests and particularly to the post-revolutionary political regime, which made cooperation possible. In these matters, such as the perceived 'Cuban Communist threat', Mexico City and Washington shared a basic interest and, accordingly, cooperated--even if this was done in a most subdued fashion. Of a different, and at the same time more complex and fundamental nature, drug trafficking became a central concern (first due to US pressure and later chiefly to the threat it represented internally) of the bilateral security agenda. It would actually be this composite item in the bilateral security agenda, as crystallised in the 2007 Mérida Initiative, that would lead to what might amount to a novel understanding of Mexico's security relationship with its northern neighbour.

In this article I review the evolution of the U.S.-Mexico security agenda since the relationship between the two countries became fully normalised, in the 1940s, taking the post-revolutionary state identity, Revolutionary Nationalism, as the key explanatory factor in the process. The first section is mostly analytical; in it, I elaborate on the construction of identity and its multifaceted meanings. In the second, taking a more historical stance, I look at Mexico's post-revolutionary identity as the bedrock of the country's security relationship with its northern neighbour. In the following three sections I look at the above mentioned cases: WWII, Communist Cuba, and drug trafficking, in that order. While discrete, as a whole the three cases point to the broader context that has served as the foundation for the sporadic bilateral cooperation on security matters. Resting on a minimalist common understanding of security, whilst Mexico's Revolutionary Nationalism as state identity unfolded, various elements seem to have started adding up--and the construction of a 'security in parts' in this North-American dyad seems to be emerging.


It has commonly been observed that the modern state system is a bifurcate one. It is composed of international ordering principles on the one hand, and of distinctive political units on the other. The divide, however, is not clear-cut. Thus, for instance, one of the system's ordering principles, sovereignty, is shot through and through by unit-level features. It is a structural intervening variable whose content, at the state level, is filled by the projection of domestic purpose. Since sovereignty is an internationally recognised status, it is only logical that states seek to imbue it with their national object. It is not that the principle as such is directly concerned with it, that is, with the individuality of the states, but rather that it sets the stage for them to provide its content while 'doing' their sovereignty (Werner and De Wilde 2001, 297; Wendt 1999, 182-183; McSweeney 1999, 165).Thus, states' patterns of authority and culture produce a particular sovereign-identity that is in turn projected onto the international system.

Identity as a social category contains two dimensions, which vary with time: its content and the degree to which it is contested. The purpose of the collectivity, its worldview, is part of the first dimension. The second refers to the extent to which the content of identity is accepted by members of the group (Abdelal et al. 2006, 696). Whereas the contentious nature of identity points to its fluidity, its substantive component directs us in the opposite direction: its (relative) permanence. Once established, identity creates interests and limits the range of choice--not 'everything goes with a given identity (Katzenstein 1996, 30). (2) This is not to suggest that only one, overarching identity exists --state identities often vary according to the issue area in question. However, not all identities carry the same weight nor have the same endurance. Some have a greater prominence and resilience than others--and changing these identities, like altering any tradition or customary practice, is not easily done(Legro 2009, 44). But even these heavier, more salient identities do change--and it is easier to grasp this mutation by disaggregating them, as I do here with regard to the security component of Mexico's sovereign identity vis-á-vis the United States.

The multifaceted practice of sovereignty endows the term with multiple meanings, depending on time and context. Thus, for instance, whereas 'economic sovereignty' has been crucial for some countries in some periods, it has ceased being considered so in others. To a large extent, the multi-vocal and changing understanding of sovereignty ows to its being part of a bipartite normative structure. The twofold nature of international politics thus points to the one important element: identity is constructed on two fronts (McSweeney 1999, 160). That is, states' identities are contested and defined by political processes taking place both inside their borders--by the contestation among sub-national groups--and outside--by the interaction states have with other states and other actors in the international arena. Hence, the successful construction of sovereignty requires achieving cohesion internally and distinctiveness and respect internationally--an eminently political process (Subotic 2011, 312; Kowert 2007, 5; Werner 2001, 308).

Moreover, identity is relational. Self-definition depends in part on others, to whom the self is constantly contrasting and comparing (Smith 1998, 181). However, 'others' are not static, nor do actors have 'objective' knowledge about them. Hence, one's understanding of others is predicated not only on the moment a specific interaction takes place, but also on both the historical baggage of the relationship and the perception of self in the mirror of others.

That is why not only identity, but also the construction of national narratives is a deeply political process--also anchored in history. Founding myths and historical watersheds intermingle and vie for political salience in this undertaking, in which collective memory plays a fundamental role. Without collective memory both the solidarity anchored in the past and the notion of a common future that imbues the state with a sense of purpose would not coalesce to form the identity any collectivity needs to function (Kratochwil 2008, 455; Abdelal et al. 2006, 699). Traumatic events, such as civil wars, genocide or foreign invasions, are particularly salient in this respect. They create a culture of memory that survives in the collective imaginary and oftentimes institutionalises it. (3)

Relatedly, collective memories are instrumental in limiting the range of what is politically feasible by creating taboos. Accordingly, the more hegemonic the collective memory on a historical event becomes, that is, the closest it is identified with the orthodoxy, the more discursive power it enjoys in shaping the interests and identities of society. That is why the construction of a national narrative is actually a political process (Langenbacher 2010, 13, 27, 32-33; Fossaert in Gall 2004, 223).

Nationalism is a particularly salient identity of nation-states. It is in part the product of cultural innovations--a fact that is often neglected in international relations literature (Cf. Waltz 1979. Breuilly 1985, 67). In the case at hand, the brand of nationalism that came out of Mexico's Revolution was the direct effect of the new concept of collectivity produced by the armed conflict. It was only at this point that Mexico started to posses and display both national coherence as well as a distinct identity in the international system. It is important to note the continuum between the domestic and the international components on identity: it was only by virtue of the internal coherence as expressed in the new, post-revolutionary identity that Mexico's relationship with the United States would radically change (Kowert 2007, 1, 6-7). The two facets of this identity were a new nationhood--the domestic, purposive content of revolutionary nationalism--and a new statehood--the new conception of state sovereignty contained in revolutionary nationalism and projected internationally--particularly in the security arena, as discussed below (Jepperson et al. 1996, 59). (4)


As noted, Mexico's foreign policy doctrine, its practice, and the way the country understood and...

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