This is another throwback I decided to post. This article was published in March 2009 in the University of Las Vegas, Nevada Rebel Yell
History supports the administration’s hands-off decision
The media has been ablaze with the current violence surrounding Mexico’s drug cartels. It has caused some to criticize President Barack Obama’s administration for its unwillingness to intervene.
After all, the violence brought on by Mexico’s drug cartels has literally found its way to America’s backdoor. Despite the escalating violence, the Obama administration may be on point with its hands-off approach.
It would be almost impossible for the U.S. to win a war on drugs in Mexico without developing an aggressive foreign policy that would aid the country in restructuring itself socially, economically and politically.
The drug culture flourishes in Mexico largely because of the country’s weak government and its even weaker economy. Mexico suffers from limited job opportunities and high inflation.
Drug trafficking offers high paying employment to Mexican citizens, government officials and the police — who are sometimes paid to turn a blind eye to drug smuggling and other crimes in the region. What results is a complicated web of dependency and corruption.
If the U.S. were to intervene it would not be enough to simply dismantle the existing drug cartels. We would need to help Mexico with completely rebuilding its economic system and permanently strengthening its government by revamping its political system. Do we want to be this involved in another country? This may not eliminate the country’s drug problem completely, but it would make Mexico inhospitable to future drug cartels.
Mexican drug lords do not obtain power solely by violence and intimidation. They use an arrangement known as the Padrino system. In Latin America, this system manifests when members of a powerful family or group gain the trust of their community by offering favors in return for loyalty.
These favors include, but are not limited to money, jobs and protection. A recent example is seen in Monterey, Mexico. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, a drug cartel known as the Zetas is buying public support by reaching out to the poor and offering money in exchange for participation in demonstrations against the local police.
This is a highly effective tactic for several reasons. First, it insures that no one will turn on the system that is sustaining them. Second, it weaves drug culture into Mexico’s social fabric. In addition, Mexican citizens harbor a deep mistrust of its police. This renders police enforcement ineffective, as it is unlikely that Mexican citizens will turn against their support system in order to aid a government they distrust.
It would be safe to assume that if Mexican citizens do not cooperate with their own government, they would not cooperate with any foreign government.
Engaging Mexico’s drug cartels would be the equivalent of engaging in a war. Latin American drug cartels often operate using the same terrorist tactics employed by guerilla groups. It is not uncommon for cartels to acquire and use military-grade weapons.
Currently, Mexican drug cartels are engaged in an arms race in which items such as grenade launchers and anti-tank rockets are being smuggled into the country. If the U.S. were to combat such a force there is no doubt that the obligation would be costly and time consuming. U.S intervention would not be a short-term commitment.
With our country’s current economic crisis and wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it is unlikely that we can shoulder the extra responsibility.
Mexico’s drug problem is not new. The issue was raised in the Reagan and Clinton administrations. Both attempted aggressive anti-drug policies that ultimately failed.
The Obama administration is wise to learn from its predecessors. Considering Mexico’s history, non-intervention may be the most practical way for the U.S. to deal with this current crisis.
Latoya Thurman-Springer is an administrative assistant with the William S. Boyd School of Law