Friday, June 20, 2008

Victor Hinojosa's Domestic Politics and International Narcotics Control

I read Victor Hinojosa’s Domestic Politics and International Narcotics Control: U.S. Relations with Mexico and Colombia, 1989-2000. I put it on the side bar but it is currently only in hardback at over $100 a pop, so you’ll need to get to the library (with any luck it will be released in paperback).

The central question is why the U.S. treated Colombia and Mexico differently with regard to drug certification. Conceptually, it draws on Robert Putnam and others who have written about “two-level games,” i.e. the ways in which domestic politics and international politics intersect. Based on the academic literature, he comes up with four sets of hypotheses, based on electoral tests (whether a president is facing elections), presidential popularity, executive-legislative relations, and the reputation of the Colombian president. He then studies 24 different U.S.-Mexico and U.S.-Colombia negotiations to test these hypotheses.

Through the course of that analysis, hypothesis after hypothesis is discarded. For example, presidential approval ratings don’t matter much. Presidents Clinton and Zedillo followed certain policies regardless of their numbers, which varied over their presidencies. The reputation of the Colombian president did matter, at least in terms of how Ernesto Samper was treated. Hinojosa argues that he did at least as much or more to fight drug trafficking (especially in the way the U.S. wanted) than someone like César Gaviria, but was treated poorly nonetheless because of his reputation as someone who had been tied to drug cartels. The U.S. president’s relationship with Congress did seem to matter with regard to Colombia, but not to Mexico, likely because of geography. There are far fewer costs involved with punishing Colombia because it does not share a border, and members of Congress are aware of that.

It may sound odd to praise a book that finds so many hypotheses not working. But the conclusions force us to go beyond the simple idea of “intermestic” policy making, referring to domestic influences on foreign policy.* At least with regard to drugs, when viewed from a comparative perspective, there are few clear patterns.

The narrative is well done, and provides a good sense of how the drug trade and its effects increased U.S. interest in Colombia and pushed funding ever upwards. My only complaint is that it is a rather brief book—each case could’ve easily been expanded a bit.

* For a very good book examining intermestic policies, check out Russell Crandall’s Driven by Drugs: U.S. Policy Toward Colombia.


boz 9:35 AM  

There are far fewer costs involved with punishing Colombia because it does not share a border, and members of Congress are aware of that.

That's a pretty sweeping generalization about the intelligence of Congressional members :)

Greg Weeks 12:22 PM  

Funny. I need to rephrase--they are aware that there is a higher cost with a bordering country, and hopefully they know what countries we border...

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