A Tale of Two Eagles

A Tale of Two Eagles

The US-Mexico Bilateral Defense Relationship Post Cold War

Craig A. Deare

Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland, 2017, 430 pages

Book Review published on: October 27, 2017

A Tale of Two Eagles: The US-Mexico Bilateral Defense Relationship Post Cold War is an institutional case study of the defense relationship, or lack thereof, between Mexico and the United States. Nonetheless, A Tale of Two Eagles is not limited to institutional explanations. Using his personal experiences, an impressive set of interviews with primary actors, and extensive historical background, Craig Deare broadens institutional explanations to include the power of narratives and human agency as well. For example, the book is ostensibly about the post-Cold War era since 1991. However, it also contains a useful and succinct historical summary of relations since the founding of the Mexican Republic. Deare uses history to identify resilient and often unhelpful national narratives influencing cooperation.

Like much political literature about Mexico, A Tale of Two Eagles measures time and change in terms of sexenios, reflecting the six-year terms of the powerful Mexican presidency. The Mexican presidency is only one of several institutional factors Deare posits affect bilateral relations. The book comprehensively covers additional institutions such as the Mexican army, the Mexican navy, the U.S. joint staff, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the United States Northern Command. Despite the book’s subtitle, the end of the Cold War seems to have had less effect on the relationship between the two countries than the emergence of democracy in Mexico in 2000 with the ousting of the Institutional Revolutionary Party and the focus on continental defense and security in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks.

A Tale of Two Eagles makes three contributions. First, it is a comprehensive examination of the largely ignored yet immensely important bilateral defense relationship between two neighbors. The bilateral relationship will only become more salient in the twenty-first century, and the book is invaluable for serious students of strategy, security, and diplomacy. Second, Deare captures the ability, or perhaps necessity, of senior leaders to overcome narrative and institutional induced inertia. This informs practitioner strategies for reform, foremost of which is capturing the attention of senior leadership. Third, Mexican perspectives are well represented. Deare exploits his personal involvement in coordinating security cooperation and interviews with Mexican officials to good effect. The reader is not left with a one-sided framework for a multisided issue. The book also does an excellent job of dispelling any notion there is a single Mexican, or United States, perspective. Deare effectively exposes the range of often incommensurable national views on the bilateral relationship.

A Tale of Two Eagles is not flawless. The author has an annoying and repeating habit of bringing up some interesting aspect of the bilateral relationship or history, and then informing the reader the subject is complex and his explanation is really too short to be sufficient. This raises the question, why did the author not just write more about it? Second, the writing style is conversational in places where a third-person, disinterested observer approach would be more appropriate. The first person, conversational style works well with interviews and personal experience but not for the analytical portions of the book. Finally, chapter subtitles do not always contain all the corresponding topical material. This distraction is rare, but it does occur more than once. Regardless of these stylistic drawbacks, I highly recommend A Tale of Two Eagles for security community readers, especially those interested in Mexico, homeland security, Latin America, and security cooperation. The book comprehensively covers the defense relationship from the founding of Mexico through the early years of the Nieto administration.

Book Review written by: Richard E. Berkebile, PhD, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas