It is interesting to live in a time of a first truly global hegemony scenario. The United States is currently in the best position in which a civilization has managed to put itself in during history. It has a quasi-total control over the global ocean, it has the most strategically comprehensive military base pattern scattered over the planet and it has the highest number of satellites in space. The fundamental premises of American geopolitical agenda dictate policy towards maintaining a tight dominance within the Western Hemisphere and a general control of world trade routes on sea.
Western Hemisphere – America for Americans
Even though, as noted in many geopolitical and foreign policy sources and think tanks, there is a general accepted concern on the slow but gradual process of degradation that our current international system is undergoing under the pressure of terrorism, political extremism and economic polarization, the pace of these changes and the current status quo calls for a more realistic view for at least the next twenty-thirty years. It is quite clear that America cannot be challenged in a militaristic fashion in the next decade. The lack of a challenging naval opponent, superior power projecting capabilities and a constant forging of experience through war since the end of WWIII have put the United States in a position that is unique in history.
It benefited a great deal from excellent application of doctrines and theses from outstanding political persona and military strategists. Notably for this analysis is the comprehensive use of Alfred Thayer Mahan’s theories on naval power and its role in large scale conflicts, theories stated and synthesized in his 1890 book, “The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783”. Thoroughly applying his concepts of free trade control over sea lanes, investing and constantly upgrading a national fleet capable of protecting geostrategical locations such as ports, chokepoints, canals and landing areas, combined with the growing might of the American industrial push at the dawn of the 20th century, severely limited foreign invasionary options. It intertwined with the December 2, 1823 address from President James Monroe to the American Congress, in which he stated the principles of American foreign policy in the Western Hemisphere, later named “the Monroe Doctrine”, which transformed over the decades from a diplomatic tool to align with Britain against monarchical tendencies that were promoted by the Holy Alliance in Europe and consequently in Spain, endangering U.S. trade with Latin America, into an assertion of hegemony that was used vocally by John F. Kennedy or Ronald Reagan to underline the fact that America will act as it fits in order to protect its interest in the Western Hemisphere.
This correlation turned the tide of American foreign policy from relating and adjusting to cope with European geopolitics, to acting as a Great Power in the global West. It had a corollary in 1904, in the form of the “Roosevelt Corollary”, an appendix to the doctrine which stated the rightful obligation of America to intervene anywhere in Latin America in the case of “flagrant and chronic wrongdoing by a Latin American Nation”. This type of hemispheric hegemonic behavior based on a pan-idea of “America for Americans” even spawned similar foreign policies, in the case of Japan and the idea of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. This geopolitical doctrine, first stated by Yosuke Matsuoka, was clearly influenced by the Roosevelt Corollary, promoting Japanese imperialism under the flag of an united East Asia against historic European intrusion. It was an “Asia for Asians”. The power of its example, the resilience of this policy over many presidential administrations and most significantly, it’s gradual increase in geopolitical scope and intensity, all come to prove that the United States have reached to an implied understanding of its dominant position in the Americas.
Forwarding time to our present day, this statement has never been more valid. Threats in the Western Hemisphere have a lower intensity and priority on U.S. geopolitical agenda than threats that are coming from Asia. Even though major criminal cartels, drug trafficking and political instability from Latin America are undoubtedly under U.S. scrutiny, the emergence of China as a global contender, the terrorist hive in Afghanistan and central Asia, Islamic conflicts in the Middle East, the nuclear danger of the Pakistan-India territorial conflict and the constant challenge from Russia on all fronts, all of them John Quincy Adam’s “monsters”, build Asia as the main focus for U.S. foreign policy strategy. But what could hail as a profound and ethically confusing challenge, right from the southern border of the United States?
Brief History of Mexican-American Relations
If one would try to reiterate the nature of the Mexican-American relations from the inception of the United States up to the present day into a mathematical diagram, it would be very oscillating with hills and valleys representing the fluctuations in policy from the United States and consequently from Mexico. The two countries share a 3.170 kilometer long border stretching from the Pacific in the west, to the Atlantic in the east. It is the most circulated border in the world with over 350 million people legally crossing it each year. As a direct consequence of geographic proximity, the United States and Mexico share deep economic ties in terms of trade. According to the World Trade Organization, Mexico is the third partner for the U.S. in terms of exports, totaling 216.000 million dollars in 2012, two times more than China and three times more than Japan. In terms of imports, the United States reported for 2012 a total of 280.000 million dollars worth of merchandise, making Mexico its fourth largest importer. The population ratio is approximately 3 to 1 in favor of America but Mexico has a higher population growth rate of 1.07%, as opposed to a 0.9% for America.
The 1994 multilateral treaty of NAFTA helped tremendously in increasing direct investments in Mexico by American investors and also encouraged border traffic and economic exchange on a scale never seen before. Notable events that determined current geopolitical status quo between the two nations include the Texas Revolution, the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), the Mexican Cession, the Gadsden Purchase and recent developments of large scale drug trafficking and immigration issues. The 1821 Mexican independence won from Spain was the first milestone in bilateral relations between the two North American countries. The first major issue that sparked controversy was the territorial status of Texas, which according to the 1819 Adams-Onís treaty signed by America and Spain, gave the right of rule over Texas to Spain in exchange for territories purchased in present day Florida. Immediately after the proclamation of independence from Mexico, diplomatic ties were made by signing the Treaty of Limits in which Texas was given to Mexico, cession that caused unrest and disappointment among political leaders in America. Increased migration of Americans in the Mexican territory of Texas and their inability to cooperate with the Mexican government led to a revolution and a declaration of independence that created the Republic of Texas.
The incorporation of the new republic into the United States in 1845 meant war between Mexico and America. The conflict was disastrous for Mexico, losing approximately 50% of its territory to the United States in the Guadalupe-Hidalgo treaty of 1848 and also sovereignty over Texas. This event marked a turning point in the geopolitical balance of the region, firmly portraying the United States as the undisputed hegemon of the North American continent. This expansionistic move had a Manifest Destiny substrate to it, achieving the dream of a coast to coast America. This convulsive period of Mexican history is crucial for the point that this article is trying to make. Due to political disagreement and a constant increase in difference in military capabilities, a large portion of Mexican population that traditionally held territories in California, Arizona, New Mexico were stranded from their native country, population that had been enduring for many generations in the regions that were subject to the cession, propagating their culture, as seen in the above map of demographic dynamics in the United States.
The present day status quo is not painted in clear black and white. Whilst American hegemony is uncontested, the substance that makes up the body of American-Mexican relations is very complex and tainted by drugs and illegal immigration, two problems that have long lasting effects on the United States. The cartelization of crime in Mexico, crime mainly based on drugs, is shaping into a serious geopolitical threat for America. Cartels are now shaped in transnational organizations with complex hierarchy, massive budgets, superior logistics and hundreds of thousands of armed foot soldiers. Immigration is also a major source of resource depletion for the U.S. as it has to cope with more than 6 million illegal immigrants. This is a cause of political tensions as the Mexican government has not discouraged this practice, and objectively cannot stop the allure of jobs and better pay that the American society is having. Furthermore, Mexican officials from the large network of consulates operating in the U.S. offer the Matrícula Consular, an identification card that allows Mexican nationals on foreign soil to have access to services such as opening bank accounts.
The Friedman prediction, the capillarity phenomenon and the threat of secessionism
As we have already understood that the history of Mexican-American relations has generated complex issues that revolve now around the border between the two nations, is there a new demographic phenomenon that America is facing with geopolitical consequences in the next century and if so, can we label and define this process?
In fluid dynamics, capillarity is a phenomenon that occurs when a liquid manages to surpass external forces acting on it, such as gravity and fill narrow spaces under the force of surface tension. We can easily accept an analogy between demographic samples of populations and fluids, as both have a tendency to fill empty spaces, both take the shape of the surrounding environment, as seen in global population dispersal which is heavily influenced by geographic factors, and both have a dynamic character in the sense that they flow from one point to another depending on pressure differential, in the case of demographics, pressure being social hardships and opportunities, new economic developments, work placement and urbanization. When applying capillarity to demographics we se how forces that act against the gravitational center of the respective population’s homeland, drive humans in large numbers to fill narrow spaces in other adjacent territories. Taking the case of Mexico and the United States we clearly can see these pressure differentials in the form of higher wages and better standard of living in the American sector, as opposed to the hardships that vast numbers of Mexicans are facing. Pressure is building not only from macro social and economic vectors but also from demographics itself.
Between 1900 and 2013 America’s population grew from 75 million to 317 million people, which means an increase by a factor of four. In the same period, Mexico had an increase from 15 million to 116 million people, an almost eight-fold increase. As seen in the map above, areas ancillary to the border have the highest concentration of Mexican population. In the south and southwest of Texas, in the proximity of San Antonio, the percentage of Mexicans from the total population is higher than 60%. The same is true for the south of New Mexico. Mexican population is also prevalent in the area of the Mexican Cession, such as north Nevada, south and central Idaho and east Oregon. In California, Mexican population never drops under 6%, with almost a quarter of the state housing percentages between 16% and 35%. It is clear that based on capillarity, Hispanic population is gaining ground fast and becomes a majority in many regions. The data that is projected in the map above is available for the year 2000. It was used by George Friedman, chairman of Stratfor, a private intelligence corporation, in his book, “The Next 100 Years”, in his last chapter called “U.S., Mexico and the struggle for global power”. Following predictions made for each decade of the next century, Friedman carries his logic throughout the book, emphasizing on the shift in immigration policy, making immigration desirable and trying to attract foreign nationals to work your country. In 2080 he sees Mexico as a rising global economic power, unscathed by a global conflict that occurred in the 2050’s and ready to challenge American power. One of the most subtle and complex ways it can do this is to use its vast majorities of Mexicans that currently exist and are expanding in many American states, to encourage secessionism. His worrisome prediction is backed by data that is publicly available from a 2004 report of the United States Census Bureau that states that by the year 2050 from a total population of 420 million Americans, 103 million people will be of Hispanic origin, vastly Mexicans but also Cubans, Puerto Ricans and other Latin Caribbean descendents. A 25% of the total population that will concentrate itself in the Southern part of the U.S., near its homeland of Mexico.
Friedman’s hypothesis claims that having this population so close to the cultural motherland of Mexico and the fairly easy possibility to cross the border, bypasses the adherence to a new culture process that original American colonists experienced when arriving in the New World. Mexican loyalty lies with Mexico. Furthermore a convulsive past filled with resents from the hegemonic overtaking of the Mexican Cession and the present day tensions generated by drugs and immigration adds to a feeling of distancing from the U.S. and retaining core Mexican cultural values. This process is described in another context by Samuel P. Huntington in his “Clash of Civilizations” where he uses Joseph Nye’s concept of soft power or “smart power” and hard power to tell us that current member nations of the Western world, mainly the U.S., are having their capacity to project soft power eroded by multiple factors. Instead, a process of indigenization, where non-Western civilizations abandon kemalism and return faith to their own cultural values, occurs. This is certainly the case in what is happening in southern U.S.A. A kind of cultural syncretism is forming, where Mexicans retain their background and allegiance to Mexico but are starting to share American type of prosperity. This is a slow developing process but could have tremendous consequences on the long run. Friedman imagines a scenario where Mexicans have representation in U.S. Congress and start to raise questions on their right to self-govern or even annexation to Mexico. There is a high probability based on the above arguments that these congressmen will feel that they are Mexican representatives in America rather than Americans representing a minority.
From this point there are many possible scenarios ranging from extreme hostility to moderation. In many ways this hypothetical situation is similar to the process happening in present day Caucasus between Russia and the myriad of local minorities. Like the Mexicans, the Turk descendent populations share a common religion, a past filled with war and territorial amputation with Russia and a strong animosity between the two parties. Russia nowadays struggles to keep its grip on the immensely strategic important area of the Caucasus, first of all to prevent secessionism that could threaten to dissolve the country as a whole. The real question now is what will be the American reaction and if this situation will turn out to be a reality in the future, what will be the ethical base for the American reaction?
Indeed, the United States has its hands full with Eurasia but in the same time benefits from a huge military advantage that commands stability and confidence. But as terrorism and pandemic outbreaks showed us in the beginning of the 21st century, there are threats that carriers, drones and stealth bombers cannot tackle. Capillarity is a reality today. Mexican population is increasing via immigration and faster birth rates. This process has not been completely overlooked in Washington. In fact this is a subject that sparks controversy and even challenges some fundamental statements behind American leadership in the world. First of all there is no simple solution such as mass deportation, even if America would choose to ignore human rights and impose a more dramatic policy. The cost of removing the approximately 10 million illegal immigrants present on U.S soil is in the tens of billions per year. There is precedent in what Columbia University and author Mae Ngai called “a racial removal program”, the forced removal of 500.000 Mexicans in the 1930’s. Operation Wetback is also a mass deportation project from the United States government with the help of the Mexican authorities that had over one million apprehensions and was widely criticized for abuse and racism. People were questioned merely on there Hispanic appearance, were amputated from their belongings in the U.S. and sometimes entire families were left in the deserts of Mexico to find their own way.
In recent years, after 9/11, the Patriot Act under the Bush administration gave somewhat discretionary powers to the Attorney General and Secretary of State to designate organizations as suspicious of terrorist activity and all its undersigned members could be deported without judicial hearings. This is a prime example on how threat perception in governance could lead to abusive policies. We can extrapolate this example and use it to project predictions on how U.S. policy will act on grounds of Mexican demographic encroachment. Presuming that the degradation of the ability to use “smart power” will continue and Mexican culture will keep its roots and path, the alternative will be hard, military power. The reason for Mexico’s neutrality and somewhat lack of visibility on the international stage is its understanding that it cannot challenge the United States Monroe Doctrine. It is just another moon orbiting around a gas giant with its core heated by the intense economical gravity exerted by its massive neighbor. Point in case is the famous Zimmermann Telegram in which Germany proposed Mexico to join the Central Powers in World War I in the eventuality of U.S. enacting war on the German Empire and its allies. The U.S. could ultimately and naively use its military to balance this threat in the same manner Russian tanks sent Tbilisi a message that the Caucasus is under Russian influence. Even if we take out of the discussion the prospect of military conflict, what are the ethical grounds on which U.S. could argue that secession based on demographic reality is contradictory to their own rhetoric on auto determinism? The reason why Mexican demographic capillarity is so dangerous for American politics is that it could highlight American hypocrisy when preaching democracy, human rights and liberalism, the foundations of national and foreign policy and instead acting based on Realpolitik and with abusive, racist measures. This challenge is one with no easy solution, if there is one and is a challenge that will definitely shape U.S. geopolitical agenda in the second part of the 21st century.