An untimely cold finally gave me a chance to watch The Godfather (I and II)—30 years late, but just in time for fitting juxtapositions. I spent my down time sleeping, reading news about Mexico’s ongoing narco-cartel bloodbath, and reviewing former U.S. Amb. Jeffrey Davidow’s book, The Bear and the Porcupine. Most poignant were the similarities between the Sicilian Mafia’s culture of unmitigated and ruthless violence, corruption, and paternalism and Mexico’s.
The Bear and the Porcupine is a phrase coined by Davidow to describe the overbearing tendencies of the U.S. government and the porcupine-like paranoiac defensiveness of the Mexicans toward their northern neighbors. Despite this 30-year Foreign Service apparatchik’s terminal diplomacy and conciliatory inclinations, much truth about the character of the Mexican nation comes through in his book.
This highly readable testimony is packed with back-to-back accounts of Mexican corruption, criminality, incompetence, inefficiency, and triumphant self-defeat. Davidow gathers insights not only from his four-year tenure as U.S. ambassador to Mexico (1998-2002) but through his extensive travels throughout the republic with his wife, Joan. “I learned more,” he says,
about Mexico—the dimensions of poverty and disease in the countryside, the lack of rule...