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Reviews

The Coming North American Order

Most of what we see and read from the government and its media organs are variations on a tired but persistent theme of irreversible progress toward utopia.  (William Pfaff has a new book arguing that secular utopianism, even more than war profiteering or career advancement, is what drives U.S. foreign policy, making it impervious to facts or evidence of failure and futility.)  Readers of this magazine know, through long experience, how officials and journalists deal with events or trends that are going the wrong way: They ignore them.  Or, when that is not possible, they treat them as temporary setbacks or “problems” safely on their way to a solution.  Why?  Because “everything is supposed to get better.”  “So we are careful in what we see and what we count and what we admit.”  Denial and forgetting: It’s how we deal with an intractable and fallen world.

Charles Bowden knows this all too well (those quotations are from him), which is why he keeps going down into Mexico, to the place “where all the proposed solutions to poverty and migration and crime are erased by waves of blood.”  He wants to wake us from our slumbers, to tear off the blindfolds, unplug the ears, jerk the heads from the sands.  When he crosses the border from El Paso into the dust-blasted and sun-tortured streets of Ciudad Juárez, he is not going back in time or experiencing an ugly...

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