The Wall: The Real Costs of a Barrier between the United States and Mexico

Brookings Institution Press

In her Brookings Essay, The Wall, Brookings Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown explains the true costs of building a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, including (but not limited to) the estimated $12 to $21.6 billion price tag of construction. Felbab-Brown explains the importance of the United States’ relationship with Mexico, on which the U.S. relies for cooperation on security, environmental, agricultural, water-sharing, trade, and drug smuggling issues. The author uses her extensive on-the-ground experience in Mexico to illustrate the environmental and community disruption that the construction of a wall would cause, while arguing that the barrier would do nothing to stop illicit flows into the United States. She recalls personal interviews she has had with people living in border areas, including a woman whose family relies on remittances from the U.S., a teenager trying to get out of a local gang, and others.
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About the author

Vanda Felbab-Brown is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. She is an expert on international and internal conflicts and nontraditional security threats, including insurgency, organized crime, urban violence, and illicit economies. Her fieldwork and research have covered, among others, Afghanistan, South Asia, Burma, Indonesia, the Andean region, Mexico, Morocco, Somalia, and eastern Africa. Her books The Extinction Market: Wildlife Trafficking and How to Counter It (Hurst, 2017) and Shooting Up: Counterinsurgency and the War on Drugs (Brookings, 2009). She received her doctorate in political science from MIT and her bachelor’s from Harvard University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Aug 22, 2017
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Pages
26
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ISBN
9780815732952
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / American Government / Executive Branch
Political Science / International Relations / Diplomacy
Political Science / International Relations / Trade & Tariffs
Political Science / Public Policy / Immigration
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Most policymakers see counterinsurgency and counternarcotics policy as two sides of the same coin. Stop the flow of drug money, the logic goes, and the insurgency will wither away. But the conventional wisdom is dangerously wrongheaded, as Vanda Felbab-Brown argues in Shooting Up.

Counternarcotics campaigns, particularly those focused on eradication, typically fail to bankrupt belligerent groups that rely on the drug trade for financing. Worse, they actually strengthen insurgents by increasing their legitimacy and popular support.

Felbab-Brown, a leading expert on drug interdiction efforts and counterinsurgency, draws on interviews and fieldwork in some of the world's most dangerous regions to explain how belligerent groups have become involved in drug trafficking and related activities, including kidnapping, extortion, and smuggling. Shooting Up shows vividly how powerful guerrilla and terrorist organizations — including Peru's Shining Path, the FARC and the paramilitaries in Colombia, and the Taliban in Afghanistan — have learned to exploit illicit markets. In addition, the author explores the interaction between insurgent groups and illicit economies in frequently overlooked settings, such as Northern Ireland, Turkey, and Burma.

While aggressive efforts to suppress the drug trade typically backfire, Shooting Up shows that a laissez-faire policy toward illicit crop cultivation can reduce support for the belligerents and, critically, increase cooperation with government intelligence gathering. When combined with interdiction targeting major traffickers, this strategy gives policymakers a better chance of winning both the war against the insurgents and the war on drugs.

After more than a decade of great effort and sacrifice by America and its allies, the Taliban still has not been defeated, and many Afghans believe that a civil war is coming. Aspiration and Ambivalence analyzes the U.S. and international efforts in Afghanistan and offers detailed recommendations for dealing with the precarious situation leading up to the 2014 transition to Afghan control and beyond. Vanda Felbab-Brown argues that allied efforts in Afghanistan have put far too little emphasis on good governance, concentrating too much on short-term military goals to the detriment of long-term peace and stability. The Western tendency to ally with bullies, warlords, smugglers, and other shady characters in pursuit of short-term military advantage actually empowers the forces working against good governance and long-term political stability. Rampant corruption and mafia rule thus persist, making it impossible for Afghans to believe in the institutional reforms and rule of law that are clearly necessary. This must change— otherwise, the chances of building responsive and sustainable governmental structures are slim, indeed.

Felbab-Brown combines thorough research and analysis with vivid personal accounts of her time spent in the war-torn nation—powerful vignettes illustrating the Afghan aspirations for peace, stability, and sovereignty and the stubborn obstacles to securing them.

"The year 2014 will mark a critical juncture in Afghanistan's odyssey. After more than a decade of arduous fighting and political involvement, the U.S. and international presence there will be significantly reduced and circumscribed. Although the international community has committed itself not to abandon Afghanistan as it did in the 1990s, the onus will be on the Afghan government to provide for the security of the country, its economic development, and governance that attempts to meet the needs of the Afghan people. Difficult challenges, major unresolved questions, and worrisome trends surround all three sets of processes. The biggest hole in the U.S. strategy and international efforts to stabilize the country is the failure to adequately address the country's fractured and brittle political system and very poor governance."—from Aspiration and Ambivalence

Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett reveals the real story behind Hillary Clinton’s deep state collaborators in government and exposes their nefarious actions during and after the 2016 election.

The Russia Hoax reveals how persons within the FBI and Barack Obama’s Justice Department worked improperly to help elect Hillary Clinton and defeat Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

When this suspected effort failed, those same people appear to have pursued a contrived investigation of President Trump in an attempt to undo the election results and remove him as president.

The evidence suggests that partisans within the FBI and the Department of Justice, driven by personal animus and a misplaced sense of political righteousness, surreptitiously acted to subvert electoral democracy in our country.

The book will examine:

How did Hillary Clinton manage to escape prosecution despite compelling evidence she violated the law?Did Peter Strzok, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Loretta Lynch, and others obstruct justice by protecting Clinton?Why was there never a legitimate criminal investigation of Clinton in the Uranium One case?Are the text messages exchanged between Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page evidence of a concerted effort to undermine the electoral process?Was there ever any real evidence of "collusion" between Trump and the Russians?Did Trump obstruct justice in the firing of Comey or was he legally exercising his constitutional authority?Did the FBI and DOJ improperly use a discredited "dossier" about Trump to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on Trump associates?Should Muller have disqualified himself under the special counsel law based on glaring conflicts of interest?Was fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn unfairly charged with making a false statement?

With insightful analysis and a fact-filled narrative, The Russia Hoax delves deeply into Democrat wrongdoing.

Most policymakers see counterinsurgency and counternarcotics policy as two sides of the same coin. Stop the flow of drug money, the logic goes, and the insurgency will wither away. But the conventional wisdom is dangerously wrongheaded, as Vanda Felbab-Brown argues in Shooting Up.

Counternarcotics campaigns, particularly those focused on eradication, typically fail to bankrupt belligerent groups that rely on the drug trade for financing. Worse, they actually strengthen insurgents by increasing their legitimacy and popular support.

Felbab-Brown, a leading expert on drug interdiction efforts and counterinsurgency, draws on interviews and fieldwork in some of the world's most dangerous regions to explain how belligerent groups have become involved in drug trafficking and related activities, including kidnapping, extortion, and smuggling. Shooting Up shows vividly how powerful guerrilla and terrorist organizations — including Peru's Shining Path, the FARC and the paramilitaries in Colombia, and the Taliban in Afghanistan — have learned to exploit illicit markets. In addition, the author explores the interaction between insurgent groups and illicit economies in frequently overlooked settings, such as Northern Ireland, Turkey, and Burma.

While aggressive efforts to suppress the drug trade typically backfire, Shooting Up shows that a laissez-faire policy toward illicit crop cultivation can reduce support for the belligerents and, critically, increase cooperation with government intelligence gathering. When combined with interdiction targeting major traffickers, this strategy gives policymakers a better chance of winning both the war against the insurgents and the war on drugs.

After more than a decade of great effort and sacrifice by America and its allies, the Taliban still has not been defeated, and many Afghans believe that a civil war is coming. Aspiration and Ambivalence analyzes the U.S. and international efforts in Afghanistan and offers detailed recommendations for dealing with the precarious situation leading up to the 2014 transition to Afghan control and beyond. Vanda Felbab-Brown argues that allied efforts in Afghanistan have put far too little emphasis on good governance, concentrating too much on short-term military goals to the detriment of long-term peace and stability. The Western tendency to ally with bullies, warlords, smugglers, and other shady characters in pursuit of short-term military advantage actually empowers the forces working against good governance and long-term political stability. Rampant corruption and mafia rule thus persist, making it impossible for Afghans to believe in the institutional reforms and rule of law that are clearly necessary. This must change— otherwise, the chances of building responsive and sustainable governmental structures are slim, indeed.

Felbab-Brown combines thorough research and analysis with vivid personal accounts of her time spent in the war-torn nation—powerful vignettes illustrating the Afghan aspirations for peace, stability, and sovereignty and the stubborn obstacles to securing them.

"The year 2014 will mark a critical juncture in Afghanistan's odyssey. After more than a decade of arduous fighting and political involvement, the U.S. and international presence there will be significantly reduced and circumscribed. Although the international community has committed itself not to abandon Afghanistan as it did in the 1990s, the onus will be on the Afghan government to provide for the security of the country, its economic development, and governance that attempts to meet the needs of the Afghan people. Difficult challenges, major unresolved questions, and worrisome trends surround all three sets of processes. The biggest hole in the U.S. strategy and international efforts to stabilize the country is the failure to adequately address the country's fractured and brittle political system and very poor governance."—from Aspiration and Ambivalence

Conventional political theory holds that the sovereign state is the legitimate source of order and provider of public services in any society, whether democratic or not. But Hezbollah and ISIS in the Middle East, pirate clans in Africa, criminal gangs in South America, and militias in Southeast Asia are examples of nonstate actors that control local territory and render public services that the nation-state cannot or will not provide.

This fascinating book takes the reader around the world to areas where national governance has broken down—or never really existed. In these places, the vacuum has been filled by local gangs, militias, and warlords, some with ideological or political agendas and others focused primarily on economic gain. Many of these actors have substantial popularity and support among local populations and have developed their own enduring institutions, often undermining the legitimacy of the national state.

The authors show that the rest of the world has more than a passing interest in these situations, in part because transborder crime and terrorism often emerge but also because failed states threaten international interests from trade to security. This book also poses, and offers answers for, the question: How should the international community respond to local orders dominated by armed nonstate actors? In many cases outsiders have taken the short-term route—accepting unsavory local actors out of expediency—but at the price of long-term instability or damage to human rights and other considerations.

From Africa and the Middle East to Asia and Latin America, the local situations highlighted in this book are, and will remain, high on today's international agenda. The book makes a unique contribution to global understanding of how those situations developed and what can be done about them.

This title is part of the Geopolitics in the 21st Century series.

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