from Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program

Two Nations Indivisible

Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead

Through an in-depth analysis of modern Mexico, Shannon O'Neil provides a roadmap for the United States' greatest overlooked foreign policy challenge of our time: relations with its southern neighbor.

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

Read an excerpt of Two Nations Indivisible.

Over seventy thousand people have been killed in narco-related crimes in Mexico in the past six years. Tales of grisly murders conveyed by American media shape the widespread perception of Mexico as a dangerous place, overrun by brutal drug lords. But there is far more to Mexico's story than this narrative would suggest, writes CFR Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies Shannon K. O'Neil, in Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead.

"While thugs have been grabbing the headlines, Mexico has undergone an unprecedented and under-publicized political, economic, and social transformation," argues O'Neil. "The United States is making a grave mistake by focusing on the politics of antagonism toward Mexico. Rather, we should wake up to the revolution of prosperity now unfolding there."

The news that is not being reported is of a more hopeful Mexico, with a globally competitive economy, a rising middle class, and increasingly influential pro-democracy voters. It is also a Mexico whose people, communities, companies, and commerce are intricately tied to the United States. O'Neil warns, "It is past time for the United States to forge a new relationship with its southern neighbor—in no uncertain terms, our future depends on it."

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In a related essay in the March/April 2013 issue of Foreign Affairs, O'Neil observes that "new administrations are beginning their terms in both countries. In Mexico, Peña Nieto has six years to overcome his country's remaining economic, social, and political barriers. Obama has the opportunity to strengthen U.S. manufacturing, production, and security by working with the United States' increasingly prosperous neighbor."

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Reviews and Endorsements


San Antonio Express-News

Shannon O'Neil's new book Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead insightfully analyzes and explains the different and at times paradoxical aspects of modern Mexico. Throughout the book, O'Neil livens the narrative with well-told anecdotes drawn from her own experiences in Mexico City and other parts of the country. She distills more than two decades of research into straightforward prose and also shares the stories of the friends and acquaintances she met through the years.

In her book Two Nations Indivisible, Shannon K. O'Neil dissects the complicated, symbiotic and often testy relationship between the United States and Mexico as they charge ahead in the 21st century.

Texas Tribune

[O'Neil] provides both a readable recent history of Mexico and a cogent argument for why U.S. policymakers, business leaders and citizens should care about the future of their southern neighbor . . . The book will interest those who are concerned about the future of U.S.-Mexico relations, but it is also an indispensable account of Mexico's recent history—including its processes of democratic opening and political reform. The author manages to cover in less than 200 pages most of the major developments that have shaped Mexico's emergence as a democracy and modern economy, as well as the work that needs to be done to make those changes permanent. And the writer's easy style makes it a quick and accessible—even exciting—read without sacrificing depth.

Americas Quarterly

The U.S.-Mexico relationship is as complex as it is misunderstood. Shannon O'Neil provides a lucid and timely correction to the many myths that have long plagued this relationship.

Moises Naim, senior associate in international economics, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Two Nations Indivisible is an in-depth analysis of the relationship between two nations that together can play a major role in the twenty-first century.

Claudio X. Gonzalez, chairman, Mexico Business Council

Shannon O'Neil has combined her deep knowledge of Mexico with illuminating anecdotes and insightful analysis to set out the opportunities and challenges for Mexico and to persuasively make the case that a successful Mexico is of vital importance to the United States. In that context, she thoughtfully explores the policy paths that Mexico and the United States should pursue to realize the potential for Mexico's success that she strongly believes in. And, while this discussion is serious and important, it is also well written and engrossing.

Robert E. Rubin, former U.S. treasury secretary

Wedded—for better or for worse. Trade booms, they reshape each other's societies, and Mexico democratizes. Yet, Mexico's thugs get weapons in the United States; U.S. kids get cocaine from Mexico. Shannon O'Neil's smart, articulate, well-researched, and illuminating book sheds light on this binational intimacy, its tragedies and hopes, and sets the path for a better future.

Jorge Domínguez, professor and vice provost for international affairs, Harvard University

Two Nations Indivisible provides a brilliant, well-documented roadmap showing how and why the United States and Mexico could and should collaborate to solve shared economic, social, and security challenges and in doing so advance their respective national interests. Leaders, public and private, on both sides of the border should take note.

Carla A. Hills, former U.S. trade representative, and chairman and CEO of Hills & Company

Shannon K. O'Neil's Two Nations Indivisible challenges us to delve beyond how and what we think of Mexico and its splashy headlines. Shannon has written an absorbing book about our two nations' common border and mutual destiny, a critical read to grasp turbulent but pivotal and promising Mexico. This is a revealing, fresh look into a country undergoing transformation, a book brimming with insight and thoughtfulness about a strange and difficult neighbor that many of us claim to know, yet so few of us really understand. I was instantly captivated.

Alfredo Corchado, Mexico correspondent for the Dallas Morning News, and author of Midnight in Mexico

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