Even in terms of annual legal crossings on the U.S.Mexican border, the estimated number of 300,000 makes it the world's busiest. Yet the possibility of a failed Mexican state ranks high among American international worries.
A regular column in the International Herald Tribune asked: "What do Pakistan and Mexico have in common? They figure in the nightmares of U.S. military planners trying to peer into the future and identify the next big threats. The two countries are mentioned in the same breath in a just-published study by the United States Joint Forces Command, whose jobs include providing an annual look into the future to prevent the U.S. military from being caught off guard by unexpected developments " (Bernd Debusmann, "Among Top U.S. Fears, a Failed Mexican State," Jan. 9, 2009, p. 2).
Both of these countries are close to the top in the reported rankings of failed states subject to rapid and sudden collapse. The dangers associated with Pakistan are more painfully obvious. A retired American intelligence analyst said in December 2008 that Pakistan is "one of the single most challenging places on the planet" (ibid.).
Mexico is more of a surprise. One paragraph in the article reflects the gravity of Mexico's plight: "Vicious and widening violence pitting the drug cartels against each other and against the Mexican state have left more than 8,000 Mexicans dead over the past two years. Kidnappings have become a routine part of Mexican daily life. Common crime is widespread. Pervasive corruption has hollowed out the state" (ibid.).
Mexico's governmental infrastructure remains under continual pressure and assault by drug cartels and other criminal gangs. The Joint Forces Command study plainly stated: "Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for Homeland Security alone. One minor indication is that the Mexican border town of Tijuana is now off-limits to American marines because of its increasing violence" (Chris Ayres, "You Wanna Die Tonight, Gringo?" The Times, Jan. 23, 2009, p. 2). (Sources: The Times [London], International Herald Tribune.)