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Attacking the Cartels Will Achieve Nothing
The worst thing that the U.S. could do is to further militarize an already failed drug war.
Bill Barr wants to attack Mexico:
America can no longer tolerate narco-terrorist cartels. Operating from havens in Mexico, their production of deadly drugs on an industrial scale is flooding our country with this poison. The time is long past to deal with this outrage decisively. Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R., Texas) and Michael Waltz (R., Fla.) have proposed a joint resolution giving the president authority to use the U.S. military against these cartels in Mexico. This is a necessary step and puts the focus where it must be.
The worst thing that the U.S. could do is to further militarize an already failed drug war. Barr presents this as a way to combat the drug problem “decisively,” but it would decide nothing. At best, it would create a new theater of the drone war in which the military plays whack-a-mole using Hellfire missiles. The civilian population in the targeted areas would then live in fear of being caught in one of the blasts, and more than a few innocent people would end up as victims. Because military options would do nothing to address the causes behind the drug trade, they would succeed only in creating temporary disruptions in the operations of the cartels.
The last thing that the president needs is another authorization to wage open-ended war in another part of the world on some new pretext. We know that these authorizations are very difficult to rescind once they are approved. We also know that the executive will stretch these authorizations well past any reasonable interpretation to provide cover for operations that have nothing to do with the original purpose of the authorization. The U.S. needs to be halting its endless wars and not looking for ways to start new ones.
The U.S. would have no right to launch attacks inside Mexico without their government’s consent, and their government is absolutely not going to consent to this. There are few things that could poison relations with our neighbor more than trampling on their sovereignty and violating international law with military operations on their territory. The Mexican government has been clear in the past that it rejects any outside armed intervention.
Barr claims that the U.S. is allowed to intervene in Mexico on the grounds that its government is “unwilling or unable” to act against the cartels, but this standard would only apply if the U.S. were responding to armed attacks on its territory. This does not give a state a free pass to launch attacks inside another country’s borders in the name of drug interdiction. Barr’s legal advice is, as always, designed to give maximal power to the president to do whatever it is Barr wants the president to do. The U.S. could choose to use force on Mexican territory, but if it did so it would be violating Mexican sovereignty and breaching the U.N. Charter.
If the illegality of the intervention doesn’t concern Americans, its futility should. As long as there is sufficient demand for illicit narcotics, there will be criminal organizations that will seek to profit from providing the supply. Trying to choke off the supply through the use of force is at most a short-term remedy. It will not get the problem under control over the long term. Barr’s proposal is another mindless attempt to address some deeper social malady by throwing more weapons into the mix. The only thing that this will achieve is to get more people killed and to create more instability and insecurity inside Mexico, which will in turn lead to more people seeking to flee the chaos that this policy would create.