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Progress, not perfection

25 March 2009

While it is heartening to see the “elites” in the United States finally recognizing that the so-called “Mexican Drug War” is a bi-national issue, there are some worrisome signs of what is to come.

Ginger Thompson, in the New York Times reports:

During a news conference on Tuesday night, Mr. Obama said the Mexican drug cartels “have gotten completely out of hand,” and he praised Mr. Calderón, saying the president “has been very courageous in taking on these drug cartels.”

In a shift from the policies of previous administrations, Mr. Obama has emphasized that the drug war is a “shared responsibility,” expressing support for Mexico’s fight and vowing to lead one on this side of the border as well.

Ms. Napolitano echoed that thinking on Tuesday, calling the fight against drugs “a demand issue and a supply issue.”

An estimated 90 percent of the illegal drugs that enter the United States pass through Mexico, while some 90 percent of the weapons seized from drug traffickers or at crime scenes in Mexico come from north of the border. Meanwhile, the southbound cash flow is estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.

One positive step is the deployment of 100 more agents to check vehicles LEAVING the United States (for guns and money, presumably), but that works out to one agent every two miles. By far, the “assistance” being offered is “to support the work of local and state law enforcement agencies along the border.” In other words, more of the same nonsense about avoiding what the New York Times called on Sunday the problems when “Mexican Drug Cartel Violence Spills Over” into the United States.

If you look at the figures from Mexico’s “War on Drugs”, it’s clear the problem is the opposite of that fretted over by the Times.  It’s U.S. violence spilling over into Mexico.  90 percent of the deaths in the drug “war” is within a few kilometers of the United States border, and the United States is the source of 90% of the weapons used by the cartels, as well as nearly all their funding.  This is something the United States Senate rejects out of hand, or at least those Senators from the border states (like John Cornyn of Texas) whose constituents are most likely to be affected by any “spill-over” from Mexico.

Certainly, there’s nothing in the Obama announcement to suggest any changes in the inept Federal prosecution of gun-runners,  though there are vague promises of more federal action to stem money-laundering.  Most of the new funding — if it is really “new” is for the same old “police assistance” type equipment that props up the security industry,  the folks who profit from the narcotics trade almost as much as the narcotics dealers.

Sure, it’s helpful, and a change in attitude is welcome, but the “change” is mostly like that indicated in a recent Christian Science Monitor editorial:

Mexico’s war on the powerful drug cartels began in 2006 when a courageous new president, Felipe Calderón, realized their corrupting threat to the country’s democracy. He has deployed more than 30,000 troops to root out the gangs, igniting a secondary war between them that has hindered their trade but led to thousands of murders – some in the US.

It’s not “mission accomplished.” Mr. Calderón still needs an equal measure of courage from Washington to reduce the massive drug consumption among Americans and to curb the flow of arms to the cartels, as well as provide more aid to Mexican security forces that was promised last year….

To curb US drug use and reduce the cartels’ biggest market – about $14 billion – both federal and state governments need better prevention and rehabilitation programs in addition to antidrug enforcement.

Mexico can’t reform its society – and end the flow of migrants to the US – without America’s help in smashing the drug cartels. The cartels’ bribery of officials is as much a threat as their violence. Calderón needs Obama as a close partner just as Washington is starting to realize that it needs to help Calderón succeed on many fronts.

The Monitor is a “conservative” media source, even to those of us who don’t automatically scoff when someone talks about  “liberal mainstream media”.   One expects a conservative spin on the news, but the Monitor goes beyond spinning into re-writing history.  It overlooks the glaringly obvious fact that the “War on Drugs” in Mexico, like the “War on Terror” in the United States is largely a war of choice… undertaken to prop up the credibility of dubiously elected administrations and to stave off calls for social and economic reform.

Yes, as the Monitor says, Mexico needs to “reform it’s society”.  But it was never the narcotics cartels that prevented reforms, it was focusing on narcotics control that impeded reforms and the lack of real reform (and investment) in rural Mexico that contributed to the cartels’ growing influence and power.  And, while the Monitor wishes the Obama Administratin well in correcting some glitches in the U.S. control system, there is no suggestion that the United States needs reform.  Which a drug-addicted, violent society run by openly  corrupt elites sorely needs.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 25 March 2009 8:43 am

    I’ll add that the Obama administration has very specifically avoided the terms “drug war” and “war on drugs” when describing US policy. They appear to be moving away from that rhetoric, and hopefully the US media will follow their lead.

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