America is a Smuggler Nation, Tom Barry, counterpunch, 16/04/2013
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Smuggler Nation is revisionist history in the best sense. This is not the oft told, routinely taught story of America’s emergence as a major nation and a global power, forever bound by its commitment to the rule of law in trade and society.
Rather in Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America (Oxford University Press, 2013) we come to see U.S. history as “the story of how smuggling – and the attempts to police it – have made and remade America, from the illicit molasses trade in colonial times to drug trafficking today,” as Peter Andreas observes in the book’s introduction.
As one might expect, Andreas treats the reader to a bounty of colorful accounts illustrating how fundamental illicit trade has been to the formation and development of America – not the just the wily and powerful smugglers but also the law enforcement apparatus deployed, usually ineffectively, against smuggling. “For better or for worse, smuggling was an essential ingredient in the very birth and development of America and its transformation into a global power,” writes Andreas.
In other words, American smuggling is more than a fascinating sideshow full of flamboyant and iconic characters in U.S. history. Rather understanding smuggling – and what is now termed transnational organized crime – is essential if we are to broaden our understanding of history. More important, though, is the book’s successful highlighting of many of the fundamental policy challenges we face today as a nation – such as U.S. border security, mass incarceration, vast federally dominated criminal justice system, drug control, and trade relations. (…)
(…) The chapter on the U.S.-Mexico border tis perhaps the most topical, given the centrality of the “border security” issue to the current immigration reform debate. As such, it should be required reading for politicians who regularly pronounce about “security the border,” “smart border security,” or “regaining control of our borders.” Andreas makes the case that the surge in border security and fears is largely an important degree “an unintended feedback effect of past policy choices,” a claim he then proceeds to document. The rise of organized (and often armed) immigrant smuggling operations along the border is, Andreas writes, “part of a much older and larger pattern of government interventions inadvertently creating a thriving cross-border smuggling economy.” In other words, the more the U.S. fortifies the border the more immigrants and others are driven into newly formed bands of criminals. » (…)