What happens when you start a war and lose it?

Posted by: Phineas on January 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm

That’s the question Sara Carter asks about Mexico in the Washington Examiner:

The violent deaths of nearly 35,000 in Mexico in the past four years symbolize a growing crisis for the United States as its southern neighbor is increasingly destabilized by competing drug organizations that have infiltrated every level of government, according to numerous U.S. officials.

President Felipe Calderon’s efforts to dismantle the drug gangs since taking office in 2006 has increased the number of grisly killings without diminishing the strength of the various criminal groups so far, experts said. That has placed U.S. security and Mexican security at risk.

“Mexico needs to take down the major cartel players or ask for our help to get it done,” said a U.S. official who is familiar with operations in the region. “Mexico is at a crisis point, and the situation is getting worse. We are left with an insecure border controlled by drug cartels, and our ability to limit their operations starts on our side. Unfortunately, that’s not good enough.”

There’s no doubt the situation in Mexico is bad and getting worse; as Carter points out, cartel-war related killings have increased 60% in just a year. The border city of Reynosa actually saw the Mexican Army trapped on its base as rival cartels fought a gun battle in the streets. The State Department has warned Americans to get their children out of Monterrey, because of the danger of kidnapping and being caught in a crossfire. Ciudad Mier is now a ghost town — government control is a sick joke. The discovery of beheaded corpses is now commonplace.

And that anarchy is more and more spilling over the border onto our side, most recently in the murder at Falcon Lake, the killing of a Border Patrol agent, and shots fired at a Hudspeth County, Texas, road crew.

Treating it as a law-enforcement matter looks less viable with each passing day. The corruption of local and state authorities in Mexico is notorious — and often fatal to those seeking redress under the law. It’s even a serious problem at the federal level.

And yet, to ask Lenin’s famous question, what is to be done? President Calderon has already involved the Mexican military, with at best mixed results: Mexican Marines, for example, captured 30 gang members in Reynosa,but then there’s that embarrassing incident with the Army. Should Calderon declare formal state of insurrection, give up any pretense of this being a law-enforcement matter, and go to full-scale war? And, to be blunt, is the Mexican state up to the task?

The anonymous US official cited above hints at more than police cooperation between our two countries, yet US military involvement would be controversial, to say the least. Even if it were limited to intelligence and Special Forces assistance, Mexican pride has been sore ever since that little dust-up between us from 1846-48, and any Mexican president openly acquiescing to US military operations on his country’s soil would pay political Hell for his choice, no matter how logical it may be.

But it may come to that, especially if the violence spills over to our side in ways that even Washington cannot ignore, whether directly or from a flood of refugees.

The risk of Mexico becoming a failed state is a serious problem for us, and it is one that has no good answer.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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One Response to “What happens when you start a war and lose it?”

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  1. The events in Mexico have exceeded the capacity of law enforcement. Calderon has started this and now it looks as if he cannot finish it. Make no mistake, Mexico is in a
    Civil War at this point. Why the President is dragging his feet to protect U.S. citizens from foreign aggression is unfathomable. What is worse, is that this situation is not new.

    American citizens have been kidnapped and murdered along our Southern border by Mexican thugs for near a decade without anything being done about it. There are “no go” areas of the United States that are controlled by Mexican drug cartels and even Federal law enforcement does not go there.

    It was time to place the American military on the Southern border five years ago. As time passes, the cartels become more entrenched on American soil, American law enforcement becomes exhausted, and more American citizens become the victims of violent crime. Personally, I don’t care what Calderon does. Americans deserve the protection of their own government. End of story.