In effect, it appears La Familia has replaced the Mexican state in Michoacan. The gang provides an export-based economy where locals actually receive the profits. It tries to protect the local population from the negative environmental effects of its industry, i.e., addiction. It offers a range of social services.
Importantly, it deploys one of the most powerful claims to legitimacy, religion. The fact that the Mexican state is rigidly secular makes the Christian identity La Familia seeks all the more effective. Very few peasants are agnostics.
La Familia’s brutal violence may work against or for its quest for legitimacy. If it uses violence carelessly so that the local population must fear being random victims, it will undermine its own legitimacy and push people back toward the state as a source of order. However, if its violence is carefully targeted so as to promote local order and enforce what may be perceived as justice, then even brutality may work in its favor.
Other gangs will undoubtedly figure out what La Familia seems to have grasped, namely that money spent to benefit the surrounding population can buy the best kind of protection, protection by the local people. What has always been true for guerrillas fighting for political goals is true for 4GW entities as well: once the government has to face a population united in support of its enemies, it has already lost.
This model - an illegal but widely profitable local economy + social services + religion - will, I think, spread widely. To succeed, it needs a weak state, one that takes from the local population but provides little or nothing in return. That kind of state is already common in much of the world and will become more so.
The Washington Times ran a header above this story that said “Second Front.” In fact, gangs such as La Familia are the first front. What is coming over our southern border is far more important to America’s future security that any of our wars in sandboxes half a world away. The story quotes Attorney General Eric Holder as saying, “Indeed, while this cartel may operate from Mexico, the toxic reach of its operations extends to nearly every state within our own country.”
Real national security is security in our homes, neighborhoods, and cities. Unfortunately, the Washington Establishment continues to define “national security” as attaining world dominion. So long as it does so, it will continue to prop open the door for La Familia and other gangs, both imported and home-grown, which understand that what is real is local.
Monday, October 26, 2009
William Lind, Familia Values