MEXICO CITY – Shortly before America’s elections last November, then vice-presidential candidate Joseph Biden was widely criticized for predicting that an Obama administration would almost certainly be tested by what he called a “generated” international crisis, in much the way that the Soviet Union “tested” John F. Kennedy shortly after he assumed office. Biden did not point to a specific region of the world, but mentioned the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent, and Russia as the likeliest sources of trouble for the new president.
Impolitic or not, Biden’s anxieties seem to have informed several of the administration’s early foreign policy decisions. These include Biden’s own extension of an olive branch to Russia at the recent Munich Security Conference, and Barack Obama’s appointment of Richard Holbrooke as special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan and of George Mitchell to a similar post for Israel-Palestine.
But, as pressing as the Middle East, south Asia, and Russia (as well as Iran and North Korea) are, another crisis far closer to home could create as much peril as a nuclear-armed Iran, an aggressively resurgent Russia, or even an Islamist-dominated Pakistan.
That crisis is located in Mexico, which is in freefall, its state institutions under threat as they have not been since at least the Cristero Uprising of the late 1920’s and possibly since the Mexican Revolution of 1910. While the Obama administration is obviously aware of what is happening south of the Rio Grande, the threat simply does not command the attention that its gravity requires.