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Should we start another drug war with Mexico?

  1. I think we should spend our efforts to secure our border (while providing ops for legal immigration to anyone who's willing to work and pay taxes).

  2. Let's not forget that Mexico is our largest, I repeat largest trade partner.

Bomb Mexico to What End?

History suggests that military force can beat terrorists but not drug trafficking.

Mary Anastasia O’Grady, WSJ

March 12, 2023 5:33 pm ET

WSJ Opinion: The Matamoros Kidnapping Puts Cartels in the Cross-Hairs

Journal Editorial Report: More politicians want a frontal attack on Mexico's drug gangs. Images: AFP/Getty Images/Zuma Press Composite: Mark Kelly

The brutal kidnapping of four Americans in the Mexican border city of Matamoros on March 3 horrified the public. Grim news followed when two of the victims were found murdered. The survivors have been returned to the U.S.

On the same afternoon in the same city, not far from where the Americans were attacked, there was a third fatality. The Mexican daily Reforma reported that the victim was a 33-year-old mother hit in the head by a stray bullet. She may have been caught in the crossfire of a separate shootout between a cartel and the Tamaulipas State Guard. That killing didn’t make headlines and the victim’s name hasn’t been released.

The killing of innocent Mexicans, who find themselves in the crossfire of battles to get drugs to consumers in the U.S., doesn’t get the coverage that American victims of cartel violence receive. If it did, maybe the discussion in Washington around the problem would be serious. Instead it gets sillier by the day.

The latest bromide aimed at combating the availability of dangerous drugs in the U.S. comes from conservatives inside the Beltway, who propose to use the U.S. military to take out the cartels by striking Mexico, our sovereign, democratic neighbor. This isn’t only insane, it’s unlikely to alter the availability of street narcotics in the U.S.

Even before the kidnapping and murder of Americans in Matamoros, U.S.-Mexican relations were strained. One big reason is the trafficking of opioids laced with the powerful, and often lethal, Chinese-made synthetic fentanyl. They are made in Mexico and smuggled over the southern border. Because there is an American appetite for illegal opioids, consumers buy them on the black market. Many have overdosed because they unknowingly bought a bad batch.

Some Americans want other Americans to stop doing so many drugs. Mexicans want this too, since it’s the billions of dollars their rich next-door neighbors pay in cash for the stuff that has empowered the gangsters and overwhelmed the country’s young, weak democratic institutions. The trouble is that the use of U.S. military force on foreign soil has never worked to reduce American demand for illegal drugs, and the unintended consequences could be costly.

The recent saber-rattling by American conservatives is the best thing that has happened to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in his four years in office. His policy of nonconfrontation with the cartels has been a failure. As Mexican journalist Jorge Ramos explained in a March 3 column in the newspaper El Norte, there have been 139,077 homicides in Mexico since the start of the López Obrador presidency, which runs another 18 months. To put that in context, there were 124,478 homicides during the full six years of the government of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-18) and 121,683 killed during Felipe Calderón’s presidency (2006-12).

Mr. López Obrador’s security agenda is an easy target for his political opponents. But now threats from the American right are generating a sense of wounded national pride. Pressure on the president inside the country for bilateral cooperation has been undermined by what feels like gringo bullying—not to mention the lack of accountability for drug demand.

Cartel violence wasn’t a Mexican problem until U.S. counternarcotic operations successfully blocked Caribbean trafficking routes in the 1990s. That’s when transnational criminal organizations discovered the path through Central America and Mexico. With the highest profits along the Latin American journey collected at the U.S. border, the Mexican gangsters seized control of the business. Since then they have expanded into extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking.

In the 2000s, the Bush administration put muscle behind Plan Colombia—a U.S. foreign-policy initiative designed to help that country beat back drug-trafficking guerrillas. Some have suggested that if only Mexico would cooperate like then-Colombian President Álvaro Uribe did, the same model could be used in Mexico. But the plan’s success was in re-establishing the presence of the state across Colombia during Mr. Uribe’s presidency. Cocaine flows from the Andes were little changed; producers merely shifted to other countries. When Mexican cartels began to control the business, Colombian cartels weakened, which also helped Mr. Uribe.

The U.S. military successfully intervened against terrorists in Afghanistan—until President Biden abandoned it. But U.S. troops on the ground couldn’t defeat the poppy growers.

Another American hypocrisy is the distribution, all over the U.S., of illicit substances. If U.S. institutions are so strong, why don’t they stop the drugs from moving, for example, between Brownsville, Texas, and New York City? It’s on that journey that vertically integrated transnational narco-businesses capture the highest added value.

Let’s agree that fentanyl deaths are tragedies and stopping them is a worthy goal. But there’s no upside in waging a war we can’t win against a sovereign, democratic neighbor.

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