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Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Is A Little Knowledge A Bad Thing? The Case Against Stratfor

This piece of garbage is without question the most poorly reasoned scientistic claptrap I've seen this year. It's fake social science and is representative of much of the crap I've seen from Stratford. This article sucked for four reasons:

(1) Startfor: "The Mexican situation is different. When a Mexican comes to the United States, there is frequently no geographical split. There is
geographical continuity. His roots are just across the land border.
Therefore, the entire immigration dynamic shifts. An Italian, a Jew,
an Indian can return to his home country, but only with great effort
and disruption. A Mexican can and does return with considerable ease.
He can, if he chooses, live his life in a perpetual ambiguity."

A problematic conception of identity underpins this analysis. Stratfor is implicitly suggesting two specious lines of reasoning: (a) immigration represents a pure transition from one sociopolitical context to another and (b) the governable/manageable, "good" immigrants are those who only have one national allegiance.

However, we know intuitively that transferring from one cultural horizon to another is never a pure shift. Who we are is the intersection of the cultural, social, and economic factors into which we born and in which we were socialized. If Jolene was born in England as a Catholic, impoverished doorknob maker, who she is is the intersection of what those identities mean in England. When she moves to America, the cultural context shifts and the fact that she is lesbian and Pakistani might become the salient identities. She, however, always remains a person who was shaped by that British background and whose identity was forged within those social relations; how she came to know herself is only in the context of those past lived experiences. Her experiences in America add to the past experiences of who she understands herself to be, but they do not replace them.

Moreover, personal ambiguity about your relationship to the dominant social and political order is not a problem. Immigrants are not the only persons in America who have to negotiate their identities in a way that produces ambivalence about who they are and what role they occupy in society. All politicized and criminalized identities must cope with their simultaneous inclusion in the market society and their rejection by (parts of) the political and social order: the handicapped, the homosexual, women, blacks, the homeless, the felon, the religious, and the ex-con to name a few. Personal ambiguity is a defining feature of many people in this Republic; a stable, uncomplicated, and unproblematic identity is a privilege of the few.

"The Mexican", an ominous category reminiscent of the depictions of the Gypsies stealing our precious property or the Jews devouring Protestant babies, is not a uniquely dissastified actor whose existence is one of ambivalence toward the United States. Patriotism, and support for America, is never an uncomplicated story for anyone with a politicized identity.

(2) Stratfor: "a geographical concept called "borderlands." Traveling through Europe,one will find many borderlands. Alsace-Lorraine is a borderland
between Germany and France; the inhabitants are both French and
German, and in some ways neither."

Just as they muddle how identities actually work in political societies, so Stratfor obscure the intensely *political* nature of the "geographic" concept of the "borderlands." They pretend that the analytic of the borderlands is "geographic" because it is about a spatial relation between state entities: "a borderland between Germany and France." However, the real thrust of their argument is about the *political* identities of the populations inhabiting that spatial entity: "the inhabitants are both French and German, and in some way neither." As seen by their fear of Mexican ambiguity, this article is about the political identification of "the Mexican." As you will notice if you read their poor article, for them the debate over Mexican immigration is not about whether immigrants are good or bad for America, is about whether America will become the one, true love of the politically adulterous "Mexican."

Their invocation of Alsace-Lorraine is instructive here: that territory started at least two of the wars between the Great Powers: the Franco-Prussian War and the Great War of 1914. Ominous, indeed.

(3) Stratfor: "Borderlands can be found throughout the world. They are the places where the borders have shifted, leaving members of one nation stranded
on the other side of the frontier. In many cases, these people now
hold the citizenship of the countries in which they reside (according
to recognized borders), but they think and speak in the language on
the other side of the border."

Unless you weren't scared already, Stratfor warns us of the all the flash-points of the world where the inhabitants are in one country but are loyal to another. The immigrants' treason runs deeper than a lack of patriotism because they even think like the enemy: "they think and speak in the language on the other side of the border." The relationship of a person to a political regime remains as long as they think and speak like them; the article uses the language of being "an abandoned nation" in forced exile.

Citizenship in a new country is not sufficient, they argue, to create loyal patriots. The population of that territory is always waiting for the opportunity to rejoin their lost nation. However, they have not provided one shred of evidence that the populations in that territory conceive of themselves in strongly nationalist terms. They merely insinuate that the people in the territory might feel political ambiguous--who wouldn't--and are thus a liability.

(4) Stratfor: "One way to lose control of a borderland is by losing control of its population. In general, most Mexicans cross the border for strictly
economic reasons. Some wish to settle in the United States, some wish
to assimilate. Others intend to be here temporarily. Some intend to
cross the border for economic reasons -- to work -- and remain
Mexicans in the full sense of the word. Now, so long as this migration
remains economic and cultural, there is little concern for the United
States. But when this last class of migrants crosses the border with
political aspirations, such as the recovery of lost Mexican
territories from the United States, that is the danger point."

In this final quote the true point of the article emerges: the political regime must brainwash, in their language "control", the actual beliefs of the populations involved. You can't just live in America, you have to think America, and talk American for us to trust you. Even then if you have "political aspirations", a notoriously vague concept, the United States is threatened with losing its territory.

Is there are real threat of "the Mexican" taking away United States' territory? This question can only be answered by a recourse to social science and not be recourse to vague fears of disloyal, distrust, and disunion. Under what conditions does a population rebel and seek to join a neighboring state? Your basic intuitions should tell you, if you know any history at all, that populations only seek exit from a regime when the regime is either (a) killing them and (b) the political institutions have weakened to the point where it is more advantageous for political elites to secede than the political contend. Plainly, only if the United States' political institutions were crumbling, or if we were mass murdering immigrants, would any group think of seceding from the United States. In that situation, we have a lot more to worry about than the disloyalty of "the Mexican"; we might, in that situation, want to fear for own on lives.