What If Mexico Loses Its Drug War?

What If Mexico Loses Its Drug War?

By INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, January 14, 2009 4:20 PM PT

Security: A new Pentagon forecast warns that Mexico is so embattled by drug lords it could rapidly collapse. The study says the only other state so threatened is Pakistan. This ought to be a wake-up call about U.S. priorities.

Read More: Latin America & Caribbean


As the Obama administration moves into office, new faces at the national security establishment with fresh perspective and a few long memories will be a good thing. That’s because the U.S. may be forced to shift national security resources toward Mexico, based on the grim possibility that it might not make it out of its drug war.

Vicious traffickers plaguing its border cities have a good chance of taking over the nation. If the worst happens, it will have major implications for the U.S. It’s time to pay attention now.

In its assessment of worldwide security threats, known as the “Joint Operating Environment,” or JOE 2008 report, the United States Joint Forces Command warns that Mexico and Pakistan face the possibility of a “rapid and sudden” collapse.

“The Mexican possibility may seem less likely, but the government, its politicians, police and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels. How that international conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state. Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone,” the report said.

Some of those implications are very grim indeed.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said last week that the U.S. needed to be prepared for a spillover of the drug violence into the U.S. and would have to be prepared to fight it.

That means a military surge — not to defend faraway Iraq, but defending our own homeland. A collapsed state will bring millions of Mexicans spilling over our border, not as illegal immigrants, but war refugees, fleeing for their lives from violence.

The U.S. will have no choice but to accept such refugees on humanitarian grounds, just as Pakistan, Thailand and Venezuela have had to do from over their own borders in the past. Criminals often embed themselves among them, to prey on the helpless and to expand their operations, creating a new internal threat to the U.S.

It sounds like extreme contingency planning to warn of these threats, but history, for one, is not entirely on Mexico’s side.

Mexico’s history has been of warring caudillo fiefdoms, which drug lords thrive in. Mexico’s history as a modern state is brief, dating from 1930 after PRI socialists consolidated power.

Its history as a democracy is even briefer because the PRI went on to rule as a one-party state for 70 years, stunting democratic development, although it inched forward and gained a two-party system in 2000.

That leaves Mexico with only eight years of multiparty democracy. Again, it’s ideal for drug traffickers, whose aim is to corrupt it to their own ends — just as in Colombia, where a duly elected government is at war with Marxist FARC narco-guerrillas.

That’s where Mexico could be not too long from now and unlike any other drug empire, it sits right on our border waiting to spill over. Clearly, some important action needs to be taken.

First, the U.S. must find more money to strengthen and support the $1.4 billion Merida Initiative designed to professionalize Mexico’s military and civil forces to fight the well-armed and well-funded drug traffickers. The U.S. has given out the first $400 million, but in an era of big bailouts it should find room to give Mexico the additional resources it has asked for.

Second, U.S. defense contingency plans need to be stepped up, as the report implies. We shouldn’t be caught napping.

Third, we need to educate the public about the threat so that Congress will have less trouble scaring up the resources.

All of these things are important, and will undoubtedly be considered by the Obama administration.

If there is one sign of hope from this Pandora’s box of coming trouble, it’s that President Clinton and then-Senator Joe Biden took the lead in helping to crush the drug war in Colombia in 1998.

A Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden are likely to understand the implications of a potential narco-state, and on our border no less.

Let’s hope they put the experience and success of 1998 to an even greater task of defending the U.S. from an outside threat every bit as serious as that seen in Pakista

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