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A New War On Drug Terror
On Bombing Mexico Because You Can't Stop Your Kid From Doing Drugs
“And so, as a result of our wealth, extravagance and greed with arrogance assaulted our youth: they raped and devoured; they considered their own possessions worthless and desired the possessions of others; decency and chastity, things human and divine alike, they held nothing of value or moderation…A soul imbued with wicked tendencies does not easily do without what it craves. And so they became in every way all the more inordinately addicted.” - Sallust [Catiline’s Conspiracy, 12-13]
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Introduction: Zombie People, Zombie Policies
For some years now, segments of American society have been in the grip of an opioid epidemic, most of all involving the highly potent synthetic opioid fentanyl. If you’ve been to the city or watch the news you’ve seen these shadows of humans wandering around their tents like zombies or sleeping on the sidewalks. It is truly a sad thing. Increasingly, the populist right has framed this as a problem which the elites don’t care about as it does not impact their children; this is true to some extent, as it is primarily those who lack opportunity and a sense of purpose who become enslaved body and soul by opiates. However, rhetoric on this issue has rapidly escalated, with Republicans calling fentanyl trafficking by drug cartels, who have operated in our country for several decades, a “war” against us, and placing a great deal of blame on the governments of their origin countries, specifically Mexico. This is replete with scare tactics from the media and politicians from both sides about how fentanyl seized would be enough to overdose the entire continent; this ignores multiple things about how opiates work, most notably that tolerance is such that an addict may take enough in a day to kill multiple non-users simply to feel “normal.” The derangement has reached a fever pitch, with the Republican Presidential field coalescing around the idea of demanding cartels be labeled terrorist organizations. No word yet on in what sense they use violence to achieve political aims, a definitional requirement of being a terrorist, but I suppose in our war against fentanyl, as in Corcyra’s revolution, “words had to change their ordinary meaning and take that which was now given them” [Thucydides, 3.82.4.]
The Mexican President Obrador has cooperated with US narcotics efforts to an unprecedented degree, but has made it clear he intends to preserve Mexico’s sovereignty in the face of Republicans campaigning on bombing Mexico. Instead, Obrador has denied his country’s role in the crisis, and further told them to mind their own children and the country’s moral decay, which is infuriating due to its truthfulness. He went so far as to say he would persuade Hispanics to not vote for candidates who want to bomb his country, which people are quite upset about because Americans are so ludicrously entitled that bombing other countries is normal political discourse but heaven forbid the target countries protest. The War on Drugs and War on Terror have both been massive failures which have made the respective problems worse. It is not my purpose here to explain the failures of drug prohibition as a concept, so I will only discuss potential responses within our existing framework. Instead, my purpose is to explain this: a war on drug terror in Mexico- that could turn into the normal kind of war- has the potential to be an economic, diplomatic, and military disaster for the United States, which harms both countries while intensifying the problems it seeks to solve. I can’t believe I have to say this, but, “Hands off Mexico!”
Background: A Nation Respected Everywhere Else
It shouldn’t be necessary to give a background of Mexico to my mostly American audience, as if it is an obscure country thousands of miles away. To my non-American audience, you may find it hard to believe how incorrect, condescending, and disrespectful Americans are about and towards our southern neighbor. In the minds of people in the United States, Mexico is a source of cheap labor, a destination for cheap vacations, and is impoverished and infested with crime. I myself grew up with aspects of this thinking, and only came out of some of it relatively recently, specifically viewing Mexico as a sort of failed state, through my love of international television. It’s true that television always shows a certain wealthy segment of society, but television Mexico is basically indistinguishable from television United States besides people speaking Spanish and fewer non-white people. If anything, Mexico City is too beautiful to be in the United States. Mexico has strong institutions and is clearly a functional nation-state. Over 1 million American citizens live in Mexico, far and away the most of any foreign country. Large numbers moved to Mexico City [the largest Spanish speaking city in the world, and roughly tied with Sao Paolo as the largest city in the Americas] to “work from home” during the covid “pandemic.” [Obrador was widely criticized for his “lax” response to The Great Virus.] Further, while Mexicans who come to the US are often poor laborers, it is wealthy, well-educated Mexicans who go to other countries as tourists, students, or expatriates working as businessman, traders, and lawyers. This class of Mexicans whom you would never see on American television come to America for the same reasons.
The truth is Mexico is a large, populous, middle-income country with a complex economy. Mexico is the world’s 13th largest country by size, has the 10th largest population, and the 13th largest economy by PPP. Mexico is also 69th in the world for GDP per capita by PPP, putting it above every BRICS economy besides Russia in terms of average wealth. Mexico is highly urbanized, with 80% of the population living in cities. It is the largest Spanish speaking economy, having recently surpassed Spain, and the the third largest economy in the New World, behind the United States and Brazil. Mexico is an important hub for trade and manufacturing. The company Co-Production International [which is in the business of Mexican manufacturing,] advertises the following benefits of manufacturing in Mexico: stable trade relationships, including having the most free trade agreements of any country on Earth, access to both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, duty free imports of machinery and raw material, advanced infrastructure, deep water ports connecting it to the entire world, and of course, proximity to the United States, the world’s largest consumer market. I can’t say of the United States and Mexico which is more reliant on the other. However, in the event of trade breaking down, we can be sure the that Mexicans can better withstand poverty than Americans. Mexico is not a mere “banana republic” or “narco-state.”
Perhaps most importantly, Mexico has an outstanding diplomatic reputation. Though Peru’s government is currently mad at them, the Mexican government in its modern form has never harmed any other country. The CIA Factbook describes Mexico’s only existing territorial dispute as follows, “Mexico and Belize are working to solve minor border demarcation discrepancies arising from inaccuracies in the 1898 border treaty.” A territorial dispute with France over an uninhabited atoll was settled after international arbitration awarded the island to France in 1934 and Mexico accepted the ruling, relinquishing its claim. Mexico has long favored a “multi-lateral” and non-interventionist approach to foreign policy. This includes ambiguity on the Russia-Ukraine War, where the country has condemned Russia’s invasion and supported humanitarian aid to Ukraine while refusing to participate in sanctions or providing military supplies.
I have long praised Mexico’s foreign policy as something Ukraine could have learned from, in that they have adeptly managed living next to a wealthier, meddlesome neighbor; Mexico generally goes along with the United States as much as necessary while maintaining its neutrality and sovereignty. In terms of Mexico’s relationship with other countries, the United States has broadly respected its position for many decades. While there have been problems regarding immigrants and cartels for years, these are broad, regional issues of which Mexico is but one component. With the improved economy, very few illegal immigrants these days are Mexican, and instead immigrants are people traveling through Mexico. Mexicans are now under half of the total illegal immigrants in the United States, and have been leaving at a faster rate than new ones arrive. People of Mexican heritage are a major part of the United States population, especially in the Southwest; 25 million native born American citizens were of Mexican heritage as of 2017.
These facts combined bring about some important realizations. Most importantly, Mexico is only small, weak, and poor relative to the United States. Relative to anywhere but the “Euro-Atlantic” states it is an enormous, important, and relatively wealthy country. It is connected to the entire world economy as a major producer and consumer of raw and manufactured goods. Mexico is not “some small crappy little country” that the United States can “throw against a wall” to prove a point, Ledeen Doctrine style. Mexico is not an international pariah like Saddam’s Iraq or Gadaffi’s Libya. Mexico is not a failed state like Somalia. The excuse “we’re targeting cartels not the Mexican government” will not suffice for unlawful military action in Mexico. If the United States launches violent ground attacks or drone bombings on Mexican soil without bending permission out of the Mexican government, and Mexico protests, it will be a diplomatic disaster. What credibility for “moral” global leadership and the “rules-based world order” the United States somehow still has will scatter as sand into the Mexican desert winds. And Obrador has made it clear he would protest, saying,
“We are not going to allow any foreign government to intervene, much less a foreign government’s armed forces. We are not a protectorate of the United States, nor a colony of the United States. Mexico is a free, independent, sovereign state.”
Would Obrador respond with military force? I don’t know, and I don’t want to find out.
Fentanyl: The New Little Blue Pill
I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me: opioid addiction and overdoses are a social catastrophe in contemporary America. The overdose death numbers are tragic. However, there are also a lot of misunderstanding about fentanyl, which is no surprise in a country with a proud history of drug and vice panics, dating back to being a world leader in the Temperance Movement, at the time the largest mass movement in the country’s history. Here is Rep. Matt Gaetz, whom I often like, showing stunning ignorance about the nature of the situation:
People indeed seek out fentanyl. It is a powerful and cheap synthetic opiate. The vast majority of fentanyl consumption is surely by people who seek it out. Granted, accidental overdoses are probably disproportionately people who accidentally took it, but junkies are intentionally doing fentanyl, as are kids in their drug-trying phase. Further, we can be sure at least some people are lying about their deceased loved ones not being intravenous [IV] drug users, and instead saying they accidentally took a tainted painkiller.
I used to be a drug addict, so let me give some explanation here. Back in 2011, when I did hard drugs, illicit fentanyl was a new thing. This was shortly after brand name Oxycontin truly disappeared following Obama’s prescription opiate crackdown, which forced Perdue to reformulate Oxycontin to be “tamper proof.” Though Oxycontin was over-prescribed and highly addictive, it had the great safety benefit that it was pharmaceutical grade and thus a reliable dose and free from dangerous contamination. It could be taken by any common method a person would do drugs, that is to say, swallowed, smoked, snorted, or injected. When it became tamper proof the remaining supply of the original formulation became extremely expensive [it got as high as $2 or more a milligram, or $160 for the largest pill size; a hardcore junkie might need 2 OC 80s a day to function.] This caused black tar heroin to regain popularity among the addicted. [I live in the western United States, the East Coast tends to get powder heroin from Asia.] Generic oxycodone, colloquially called “roxies,” also became more popular, though they were not as perfect for abuse as brand name. Roxie look-alikes are the most common thing fentanyl is pressed into now, the blue pills with an M on one side and a 30 on the other. There is every reason to believe they are intended to be roughly the same potency as legal oxycodone pills.
At that time, synthetic fentanyl, what we called “gunpowder,” had originated as a major drug problem in Eugene, Oregon and was gaining popularity elsewhere. Eugene was already having the serious overdose problems that the rest of the nation would see later. At the time, fentanyl came in tar form, and you bought a “point” [1/10th gram] for I believe around 1/3rd or 1/4th the cost of a gram of heroin, which made the potency for cost [of what we got at the time] comparable. Fentanyl is relatively less euphoric than heroin or Oxycontin, but it gets the job done, so to speak, and the differences between specific kinds of opiates are primarily a matter of personal preference: a junkie will always take opiates over no opiates.
The real problem with fentanyl is simply that it is extremely potent by weight, so the active ingredient is a tiny amount of any formulation. This leaves tremendous potential for human error if it is mixed in clandestine laboratories by non-professionals [though international drug cartels are actually quite professional.] It is difficult for an adult human to overdose on opiates any way besides injecting them, due to the body’s natural ability to process toxins, unless that person is on another depressant such as alcohol. The potential for unevenly cut fentanyl makes IV use highly dangerous. Though surely some ecstasy, which is by its nature a drug cocktail, must contain fentanyl due to its cheapness, and things can be contaminated for a number of reasons [including intentionally poisoning a competitor’s clientele, a practice known as “hot shots,”] the great majority of people who take fentanyl are doing so intentionally. I don’t know why “rainbow fentanyl” exists, though the idea that it is to trick children is nonsense. It seems most likely it is either for marketing or to make it clear the product is not pharmaceutical grade oxycodone. [Just speculating, but unlike people who make ecstasy with a huge variety of designs, fentanyl is probably pressed at such a scale they only use one kind of press, and further, want people to know what it is.] In the same sense that anyone who sells intoxicants is poisoning people for money, the cartels are poisoning the American public, but they have not “declared war” on us, nor are they poisoning their customers for kicks: it is bad business and draws police scrutiny.
The only meaningful difference between fentanyl and Oxycontin or heroin is that it has become extremely cheap [my understanding is around 1/10th the price I used to pay] and the potency of the active ingredient makes an uneven mixture a much bigger risk. Again, this is mostly a problem for IV drug users- who are usually already quite far down the road of addiction- or people who stupidly take a pill when drunk. There are actually some advantages to fentanyl being cheap, in that it being affordable reduces related property crime and junkies who have had a fix are calm. However, it is also much easier to become addicted to something cheap than starting at $60 a pill.
The bigger problem than fentanyl’s existence and availability is that we live in a post-modern cultural wasteland where men are being left behind. What the common man needs is to be treated like a valuable member of society, not a hated oppressor, and to have access to normal, genuinely useful jobs like construction and manufacturing.
Controlling fentanyl availability and police action against cartel violence are important components to staunching the bleeding of this epidemic, but Obrador is sadly correct about the root of the problem. He said, “Why don’t you take care of your young people? Why don’t you take care of the serious problem of social decay? Why don’t you temper the constant increase in drug consumption?” He further said that Americans are turning to the drug because of single parents, kicking adult children out of homes, and the elderly being thrown in nursing homes where they are only visited once a year. In short, people are isolated from the things that make life meaningful due to our deranged value-free consumption society, which I can speak from personal experience is commonly true of drug addicts. [This is yet another example, as have been discussed by many, that in non-Anglo countries, the economic left is quite socially conservative.]
Unfortunately for Obrador, Mexico, and perhaps most of all, us, that would all require personal responsibility, and it is much more in keeping with our character as a nation to declare an abstract war and then bomb Mexico.
Republicans Sell Panic to a Willing Population
I knew fentanyl panic was gearing up from the experience of living in this society. For example, I live near the horrific University of Idaho murders, and when it was reported that four bodies were found most people on local social media speculated it was a mass fentanyl overdose. This shows a real misunderstanding of how opiate use works, in that an overdose happens rapidly, people have different tolerances, and commonly help each other inject. That is to say, you shouldn’t have four people overdosing together with no one to call an ambulance. However, the DEA has encouraged such beliefs, releasing a statement last year that “mass overdose” events in 7 cities, where 3 or more people overdosed at around the same time and in the same location, resulting in 58 overdoses and 29 deaths. I am fluent in government bullshit, and will tell you this means in the same decayed neighborhood or abandoned building serving as a shooting gallery. In at least most instances, they don’t mean showing up in a room where everyone was dead, even though that is what it sounds like. Further, overdose can just mean someone that a paramedic judged was too high, not someone in real danger.
I didn’t conceptualize how dire the situation had become until I was inspired to write this piece. That came from this insane statement from Republican long-shot candidate, former CEO Vivek Ramaswamy, who wants to to launch a drone war in Mexico without the government’s permission:
We need to be clear about something: cartels or not, violating Mexico’s sovereign territory in this fashion is an act of war against Mexico. He admittedly does broadly have a point about it being allowable under the “law of war,” insofar as stopping bandits your neighbors can’t or won’t stop is relatively common cause or pretext for wars, though generally you then conquer that region to stop the problem. Some examples include Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul or the French conquest of Algeria to end piracy originating in the region. However, Caesar doing that was illegal, and the French did that in an era where colonial powers could do whatever they wanted to non-European countries. Further, the best historical precedent here are the Opium Wars, where the British forced China to allow opium trafficking into their country. Given most fentanyl precursors come from China, though they have tried to crack down on this trade, it is a sort of just desserts for the Anglosphere. I would love to see Ramaswamy produce a piece of any international treaty that the United States is a party to which allows you to bomb a sovereign nation over drug trafficking, absent a UN Resolution [which would not be forthcoming.] This is all the more true, as Obrador has increased the militarization of Mexico’s drug war and worked with the United States to an unprecedented degree, so claims that Mexico isn’t dealing with the problem are outright lies.
It isn’t just this guy, unfortunately. Philip Wegmann at Real Clear Politics published a piece titled “GOP Presidential Field Rallies Around One Idea: Declare Drug Cartels Terrorists.” It’s alleged the purpose of such a declaration is for increased ability to seize assets and to prevent any foreign “formally” associated with cartels from entering the country, however such things already apply since cartels are ongoing criminal conspiracies. Former President Trump wants to deploy special forces against cartels to destroy their infrastructure and operations and “declare war on the cartels.” Trump did not do so during his Presidency at the request of Obrador; at the time Obrador thanked Trump for respecting Mexico’s sovereignty. Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley similarly said she wants to declare cartels terrorists. Former Defense Secretary Mike Pompeo is taking “credit” for media reports during the Trump Administration that they wanted to bomb cartels, that is, taking credit in the sense of saying it was his idea at the time, not that he leaked it to stop it from happening. I don’t see a statement from DeSantis on the issue. We know John Bolton has never seen anything he didn’t want to bomb.
Outside of the Presidential field, Senators Roger Marshall and Rick Scott have re-introduced legislation to brand the cartels as terrorist organizations. Crazed eye patch man Dan Crenshaw introduced an Authorization of Use of Military Force [AUMF] against the cartels. He has taken to Twitter to say that no one is advocating bombing Mexico, and then immediately afterwards said it would give the President unilateral authority to bomb Mexico.
Besides Ramaswamy few are currently advocating bombing Mexico, they are simply setting things up for a nearly inevitable escalation. The effete lunatic Lindsey Graham is wholly on board:
Former Attorney General Bill Barr is also all in, saying cartels are “more like ISIS than the American Mafia.” He stated in an Op-Ed,
“Congress should pass a joint resolution authorizing select military capabilities to beat back drug traffickers in the provinces of Sinaloa and Jalisco.
Optimally, the Mexican government will support and participate in this effort, and it is likely to do so once they understand that the US is committed to do whatever is necessary to cripple the cartels, whether or not the Mexican government participates.”
The cartels are perhaps more like Colombia’s FARC than the American Mafia, however, the reason FARC were “narco-terrorists” is that they were primarily an ideological political rebellion funded by drug trafficking. Beyond which, that policy did not work well. Barr’s statement is from several days before Crenshaw claimed no one is trying to bomb Mexico, and Barr said he wants to launch military operations in Mexico, only “optimally” with Mexican government support. The implication is clear.
Marjorie Taylor Greene came in with a particularly stupid take.
Ignoring for now whether or not that thing she showed a picture of is a bomb, it needs to be noted that of every job in the country, Border Patrol Agents decided to do the specific one where is is their responsibility to try and stop bombs from coming across the border. [Edit 3/19: I thought this video showed a picture of the “bomb.” The Border Patrol Chief verified it was a duct tape ball of sand.] You know they are also there to stop the Radical Islamic type of terrorists [IE actual terrorists] from crossing the border. She proceeds to say, “we need to treat the cartels like criminals, which they are.” Any normal person who looks at the news sees stories about cartel drug traffickers being arrested all the time. This is just a recent one in my state where 27 kilos of fentanyl were seized after a large-scale investigation. No one is not treating the cartels like criminals. For-profit crime and terrorism are different things and require different solutions [though yet again, these strategies by themselves don’t work on terrorism either.]
Regarding this claim that “cartels have declared war on us,” which she is far from the only one to repeat, they have done no such thing. There are stories about fentanyl overdoses and drug arrests all the time, but one never sees stories about large-scale violence from cartels directed towards American citizens or government agents. There is certainly violence associated with drug trafficking, but cartels rarely seem to be implicated in the out of control violence in American cities, though they have business connections with street dealing. Alternately, in Mexico, 29 people were killed in an enormous gun battle when they captured drug lord “El Chapo”s son Ovidio for the second time. That is what a war with the cartels look like. The cartels are not at war with us, they are selling us cheap drugs and we are buying them.
The rhetoric may by nonsense and this may be a terrible idea, but they have the public on board:
All of these things considered, it seems overwhelmingly likely Republicans will make it an official platform and campaign on designating the cartels terrorists. Everyone old enough to read this remembers the Global War on Terror. They will hunt them at home and abroad by any means necessary, national borders and civil liberties be damned. As it stands, the cartels are all business, they understand it is their job to break the law and law enforcement’s job to stop them. Both in America and Mexico, as criminals, they have the right to trial, and thus the government must attempt to capture them alive; bombing cartel hideouts ups the ante in the worst way. If the government treats this like a war on terror, cartels may fight back, including with terrorism.
Falling Into An Hundred Errors
In “Letter to a Member of the National Assembly,” Edmund Burke wrote, “Men sometimes make a point of honour not to be disabused; and they had rather fall into an hundred errors than confess one.” We can be sure that the people promoting the drug-terror war will be completely devoted to this policy of not having their fallacious notions disabused. It should be obvious to anyone the basic consequences which will spring from this. Just like the original War on Terror, civil liberties will be taken at home and brown people killed abroad, and seemingly perhaps at home as well. [it should be noted that while the majority of Mexicans are white, the social class from whom the cartels draw members is usually darker.] Drugs will somehow get ever stronger, and the state’s response will make cartels more violent, putting innocent people in danger. If a terror war on Mexico’s soil is launched, how long will it be before they accidentally drone a wedding party, or blow up a fentanyl lab next to a river and poison a village? Has anyone even bothered to look into the environmental impact of bombing a fentanyl lab? What will happen if the cartels, or worse, the Mexican government, shoots back? How will Americans respond if a Seal team is wiped out by cartels in a failed raid? I assure you they won’t look to Reagan leaving Lebanon for inspiration. And once again, Mexico is a sovereign nation, dropping bombs on its soil is an act of war against Mexico.
This situation is a rare instance for me. Much of my writing is about our inept elite policy classes and their terrible decision making. This time, the policy class is almost entirely in the clear, and it is right wing populist types driving this idiocy. I personally believe in ending the drug war, but that isn’t actually a policy possibility so it is not useful to discuss for our purposes here. Further, it’s quite clear that a hands-off approach at this point will not remove the power of the cartels nor help the nation’s many opium zombies. However, there are degrees of bad policy, and it is well established that this sort of militarization won’t work. Of all places, MSNBC published a good article about this, which I suppose makes sense being as they have a partisan reason to do so and it’s an obviously bad policy. Zeeshan Aleem writes,
“Let’s be clear: It is not a good idea to send missiles or troops into Mexico to deal with the fentanyl problem. It is a violation of national sovereignty. It could spark a war with a neighbor and ally with a population of over 100 million. And past attempts to stamp out the drug trade using brute force are not successful.”
This is what is key here, brute force has been tried. We know this doesn’t work. A militarized response is always a failure and generally has a lot of unwanted consequences. The risk of harm to bystanders is great. It does nothing to reduce demand but does create the bad social conditions that encourage demand and drive people to drug dealing.
The most clear example of the failure of such policies is what was known as Plan Colombia. Plan Colombia was a coca eradication program carried out with the full support and cooperation of the Colombian government and it caused vast social, economic, and environmental damage to rural Colombians while only destabilizing the country and making Colombia’s drug gangs more brutal. [West Point’s Institute for the Study of War takes a minority view, calling Plan Colombia a model of “a successful counter-insurgency campaign.”] Aleem spoke with drug policy writer Zachary Seigel, who told him,
“The idea that the U.S. military would go into Mexico and bomb and raid these labs is quite the wild idea because it is the same militarized approach they did in Colombia with cocaine. Not only did that not stop cocaine production, it sparked a wave of terror across the country as drug production became a high-stakes war.”
Everyone who seriously looks into drug policy knows this doesn’t work. What’s more, they are creating as situation where Obrador won’t cooperate because of their irresponsible rhetoric regarding him and Mexico. Obrador came in campaigning on different approaches to drugs and immigration, and in both situations doubled down on the classic approach. He disbanded the corrupt Federal Police and replaced them with a National Guard he then moved from civilian to military control. He has doubled the amount of military on Mexican streets. Trump got him to deploy troops to the border to reduce illegal immigration. However, while stopping illegal crossings is a component, the vast majority of fentanyl seized at the border is discovered at legal ports of entry and carried by US citizens; commerce between the countries is so vast both economies would be paralyzed with the level of scrutiny required to find the majority of fentanyl. The policy class is well aware that Obrador’s militarized response has made the problem worse. No one can honestly claim he “doesn’t care” about the problem of cartels. I don’t know if Dan Crenshaw is just lying or didn’t do the most cursory research when he says of Obrador, “He’s clearly not against the cartels. He’s clearly defending the cartels at the detriment of his own people.” Absolute nonsense, but it plays into America’s negative perception of Mexico.
Of course, this militarization against cartels would not be limited to Mexico. The whole thing is to bring the war on the cartels to where ever they are, and that is often in the United States. I don’t mind using the military to guard the border, as the border at least has an obvious connection to national security, unlike most things the US military does. However, that is different from using the military for domestic law enforcement. Of all people, Bush Administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales explained why this would be a civil liberties disaster. This is incredible, given that the Bush Administration was extremely hostile to civil liberties. Gonzales said in an interview with NewsNation,
“There’s been a long standing tradition that we don’t use our military within our borders related to enforcement matters. What are the rules of engagement and things of that nature? It just remains to be seen whether or not this can be sufficiently cabined in a way that won’t have the military and law enforcement falling over each other, that we don’t have the military, battling the rights of American citizens in this country.”
Yes, Gonzales is concerned about the military battling the rights of American citizens. This appears to be such a danger that the guy who oversaw warrant-less surveillance and torture is scared of the implications. He also said,
“We need a better handle on and we need to be able to provide assistance to Mexico, whether its (their) inability, lack of will, whatever it is, we need to help Mexico our friends on the south deal with this with this issue.”
Perhaps it isn’t concern for civil liberties, and Obrador was correct that Americans of Mexican descent would be politically hostile to Mexico being treated this way; given the enormous population of Mexican descent in this country, that should concern Republicans a great deal.
Further, one does not simply conquer modern Mexico. If the Mexican military resists United States military action and an American soldier dies the American public will be out for blood, while not actually having the mettle to successfully complete such a project. Mexico may not have a strong military compared to the United States, but it is an enormous country with a huge population. The military force required to conquer and occupy a country of that size would have to be several times our current military. I don’t believe any external force in human history has conquered a country with Mexico’s population, the only comparison would be Britain taking India, which was done over time through a complex system of vassalage and involved limited warfare. Much of the terrain of Mexico is rugged and inaccessible. Further, as Humphrey Bogart famously said to the Nazi officer in Casablanca, “there are parts of New York you shouldn’t go.” Even if one doesn’t fear the government, the cartels themselves are formidable. Add the Mexican military and the general public, and a second Mexican-American War would be an absolute disaster. And once again, an American-launched war of any size on Mexico’s soil will face extreme criticism from the rest of the world.
We must not allow things to escalate with Mexico.
One has to respect how Obrador has handled this situation. You can’t help but to admire a politician who is willing to tell such a brazen lie. He said, “Here, we do not produce fentanyl, and we do not have consumption of fentanyl.” Everyone knows the first part of that isn’t true. In fact, in February Obrador himself touted busting the biggest fentanyl lab in Mexico’s history, with materials to make an estimated 130 million doses; the laboratory was said to have a value of around $80 million. What Obrador’s lie shows us is he is not having it with Republican rhetoric. He further said he would convince Mexican-Americans to not vote for Republicans:
“This proposal by the Republicans is an offense against the people of Mexico. If they do not change their attitude and think that they are going to use Mexico for their propaganda, electoral, and political purposes, we are going to call for that party not to be voted for as interventionist, inhumane, hypocritical, and corrupt."
I don’t know if it is wise for him to antagonize an American political faction like that, but I think he is correct that Hispanic voters will be hostile to this kind of violent, unwanted intervention in Mexico and it won’t take much to convince them to vote for the other party. Of course Fox News is concerned about this “election meddling” but launching unapproved military operations in Mexico is fine.
It is incredible that Obrador is facing this after cooperating with the United States to an unprecedented degree. This sends a clear message that the deranged nature of United States domestic politics make it an unreliable partner. It would be one thing with Vivek Ramaswamy who is a sort of outsider “ideas man,” but Donald Trump is a former President and far and away the front runner in the primary. It further shows that nothing Mexico does will gain it the respect of its northern neighbor. Mexico is a very different country than it was in the ‘90s, but few in America have noticed. With the Russia-Ukraine war the world as a whole has changed. Going forward, Mexico needs to make itself less reliant on the United States, the most unreliable of partners.
There is a lot of discussion of the premise of Mexico joining BRICS. This is a bad idea because Mexico already trades with everyone and it would unnecessarily antagonize the United States. Further, Mexico is for the most part substantially more advanced than those economies. However, at the same time, Mexico further increasing its trade relationship with India would be a great plan, as India has a lot of raw materials, is an enormous consumer of many products, and is a neutral country which pursues policies similar to Mexico’s. This would reduce Mexico’s economic dependency on trade with the United States.
The most important thing Mexico can do, both in terms of protecting itself from a potential conflict with the United States and protecting itself in the event of the United States falling apart or losing power, is to increase its military size and spending. Mexico currently only has around 330,000 military personnel and spends .8% of its GDP on the military. This has made sense, as its military was domestically focused and further the United States’ Monroe Doctrine [and the ocean] protect Mexico from every country but the United States. Mexico only has tiny, weak neighbors to its south, and can only be accessed from that direction through a narrow jungle isthmus. Mexico produces some basic military equipment such as transport vehicles and light arms, but primarily relies on United States equipment for defense. Importantly, complex military equipment generally contains software that the source country maintains control of, something which commonly comes up with air defense systems, where it can require permission from the United States to launch. This is, of course, a problem if it is the United States bombing you.
Mexico’s best defense move, and this goes for trade as well, is to pull itself as close to France as possible. The reason for this is that France is the only country with a sufficient military manufacturing capacity that is not either seen as hostile by the United States or is a pawn of the United States. If Mexico were to buy air defense systems from Russia, the United States would lose its mind, far more so than the dispute with Turkiye over the same matter. If it were to rely on the United Kingdom or Germany, the United States could cut off the supply at will. However, the United States cannot produce any public reason that is not nefarious to oppose this sort of defense cooperation between Mexico and France. This would also give Mexico a reliable 3rd Permanent Security Council vote if a problem arose with the US, so it would not be reliant on Russia and China and the ensuing smears. France has shown it will not always go along with the United States, especially involving illegal wars. Further, due to Mexico’s advanced, adaptable manufacturing sector and position between Europe and East Asia, it would make a wonderful component manufacturer for French military equipment, which could be framed as a benefit for both nations. It is perhaps taking it too far to think such a move is necessary, but a wise leader should always plan for future wars, and there is no downside to such an arrangement and broadening Mexico’s defense options.
In the mean time, it seems clear that US-Mexico relations will continue to deteriorate throughout the campaign season, at least, and none of it will benefit America’s mass of drug addicts.
Conclusion: When Rhetoric Makes Reality
Many will say that I am too concerned with these developments, or that I am downplaying the cartels or the problem of fentanyl. None of that is true, the real issue is that the bigger a problem is, the more harmful counter-productive measures will be, and the more important it is to stay calm. It’s easy to imagine many scenarios where this gets out of control. Mexico is not North Waziristan, the world will see and care what happens there. One drone operator mistaking a family home for a fentanyl lab will be enough to make both countries explode in protest. The Mexican people, cartels, and government could respond in any way. The politicians want us to believe this won’t escalate, but when does it ever not? We could talk about potential scenarios all day, but really need to look no further than what we already know about the failures of the wars on drugs and terror. This crazed drug terror rhetoric is already beginning to create its own reality.
Most of all, Obrador is right that this country will not deal with social decay. Our society has become ludicrously top-heavy with neurotic people with Master’s Degrees filling ridiculous, counter-productive positions while they mock disadvantaged men and tell them to learn to code; they are too stupid and malicious to understand the huge number of problems when men, many of them veterans, do not find a place in society. Men and women don’t feel they can afford to get together and buy houses and start families, while many states and cities remain hostile to construction. Religion is unpopular and normal support systems barely exist, while drug treatment is expensive and jail is the only reliable place to detox. Many of our cities are barely policed as homeless camps sprawl and our streets fill up with shit and needles. Citizens are harassed by criminals and crime. Law enforcement, from street level arrests to international investigations is one component of getting this under control. Finding better ways to monitor the border itself and find fentanyl at points of entry can be another component. Properly funding treatment centers so we can get our loved ones off of drugs is important, as is the overdose medication Nalexone to help them live long enough to get into treatment.
More than anything, we need to mind our children. We need to overcome some of our differences and rebuild our country into one where the youth feel like they have futures, and families and honest trades are promoted. Look at our media and cities and culture. The kids have been assaulted with nonsense and never taught anything of value. Why wouldn’t the youth embrace a kind of soma. In modern America, opium is the opiate of the masses. We have to find a way to make life not miserable.
Of course we won’t deal with any of these problems, that would all be far too difficult. Instead we’ll just ban Tiktok and bomb Mexico about it. This is, after all, America.
Update 4/10: In a surprising turn of event, Politico reported the following regarding John Bolton:
“Not all Republican leaders are behind this approach. John Bolton, Trump’s third national security adviser who’s weighing his own presidential run, said unilateral military operations “are not going to solve the problem.”
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