by Jacob G. Hornberger
According to a front-page article in today’s New York Times, Mexico’s top presidential contenders are signaling a shift in how Mexico intends to fight the drug war. While the movement is in a positive direction, unfortunately it still doesn’t go far enough. Mexico should just end its entire participation in the drug war. It should legalize drugs.
Six years ago, the newly elected Mexican president, Filipe Calderon, decided that he was going to really crack down in the drug war, apparently with the aim of finally winning the war. Since the president is limited to one six-year term, Calderon figured that he had that period of time in which to defeat the drug cartels, the drug lords, and the drug gangs.
Calderon figured that to win the drug war, he had to rely on much more than just the police. And who’s best at waging war but the military? So, Calderon deployed Mexican troops to wage the war on drugs, especially in the northern region, along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Needless to say, U.S. officials were ecstatic.
Now that Calderon’s term is coming to an end, can he claim victory in the war on drugs? Has his fierce military crackdown been successful?
Nope. It’s the exact opposite. The drug dealers, drug cartels, and drug gangs are still smuggling and distributing drugs, just like they were six years ago. In fact, the lack of victory is reflected by the fact that U.S. officials are saying that it’s more important than ever that the war on drugs continued to be waged into the indefinite future.
Of course, there is one big factor that the Mexican presidential candidates and the Mexican citizenry have to consider: Some 50,000 people are now dead who were alive six years ago.
Yes, 50,000 people. Think about that. That’s almost the number of U.S. soldiers killed during the Vietnam War. And they’re dead owing to Calderon’s fierce, six-year military crackdown in the war on drugs.
Now, that’s not to say that Calderon’s forces didn’t kill, arrest, jail, and destroy plenty of drug lords and drug gangs. Sure they did. But as soon as they’d knock off one drug dealer, ten more would pop up to take his place.
You see, the more they cracked down, the greater the risk for drug dealers. The increased risk caused drug prices and drug profits to soar. The soaring drug profits lured new people into the drug trade.
In other words, the more successful Mexican forces were in killing or capturing drug dealers, the further away from “victory” Mexico found itself.
All this should be a lesson for American drug-war proponents, especially those who say that the problem is that the U.S. government really hasn’t truly cracked down in the war on drugs. They ought to bring the U.S. military to the border, the American drug warriors have long exclaimed, especially combat-hardened troops who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Mexican military, in its fierce quest to win the drug war within 6 years, was notorious for violating the civil liberties of the Mexican citizenry. Military forces trying to win wars are never too concerned about civil liberties. Many Mexican citizens began demanding that the troops be withdrawn from their cities, preferring to take their chances with the drug lords.
Mexico apparently has had enough. According to the Times, “The candidates, while vowing to continue to fight drug trafficking, say they intend to eventually withdraw the Mexican Army from the drug fight. They are concerned that it has proved unfit for police work and has contributed to the high death toll, which has exceeded 50,000 since the departing president, Felipe Calderon, made the military a cornerstone of his battle against drug traffickers more than five years ago.”
U.S. officials have been careful to stay out of the presidential race, to avoid the appearance of meddling in Mexico’s internal affairs, but there is no question but that they are seething over the probable shift in direction. Congressman Ben Quayle, an Arizona Republican, reflected the mindset of the Washington establishment with his pointed exclamation: “Will there be a situation where the next president just turns a blind eye to the cartels, or will they be a willing partner with the United States to combat them? I hope it’s the latter.”
Mexico has paid a big enough price for the U.S. government’s failed, immoral, and destructive decades-long war on drugs. Mexico should reject halfway measures in the war on drugs. It’s time to have the courage and fortitude to openly admit, no matter how angry U.S. officials become, that the drug war is evil, immoral, deadly, and destructive. All the drug war has done is enrich the bank accounts of drug dealers and government officials, including those in the United States.
It’s time Mexico went its own way in the drug war. The best thing Mexico could ever do is dissolve its drug-war partnership with the U.S. government by fully and completely legalizing the possession and distribution of all drugs. As the front-runner in Mexico’s presidential race, Enrique Peña Nieto, put it, Mexico should not “subordinate to the strategies of other countries.”
And who knows? By fully and completely ending its participation in the U.S. government’s war on drugs, Mexico could lead the world, including the United States, out of the drug-war morass of death, destruction, violence, and corruption.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.
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