In a rapidly changing world of complex systems, small shifts can produce very big consequences. Here are some ways that local institutions and social networks are already working along the Rio Grande border
A truck bearing Mexican and U.S. flags approaches the border crossing into the U.S., in Laredo / Reuters
If power really is shifting in part from governments to social actors and if those actors have a growing role to play in helping to solve regional and global problems, as I have been arguing, then the proof comes from through innovative partnerships, networks, and collaborations. State, local, and municipal governments also have a big role to play here, as do traditionally domestic government agencies. All of these actors fit in the broader category of non-traditional foreign policy participants. From time to time I will write a column in an ongoing series on "Getting It Done," documenting examples of the work that is happening and producing results on the foreign policy frontier. I encourage all readers to send me examples they know about, preferably through Twitter at @slaughteram, so that I can spread the news through Twitter as well as reporting on it here. But you can also write me by posting a comment here at The Atlantic.
I'm going to kick off this series with a discussion of the role of new players in performing perhaps the most sacred function of territorial states: protecting their borders. The border between the U.S. and Mexico divides two very different states, differences that give rise to many of the problems along the Rio Grande. It is certainly possible to understand much of what happens along that border in terms of clashing state interests and relative state power. The U.S. has sent troops, spies, and law enforcement agents across the Mexican border many times, in ways that will color U.S.-Mexican relations for decades if not centuries to come. The U.S.-Mexican relationship has also shaped traditional Mexican foreign policy, leading successive Mexican governments to align with the non-aligned movement during Cold War struggles between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, for example, and to rarely side with the United States on international votes.