“Mica” for BorderlandBeat.com
This is an opinion editorial in The Wall Street Journal by William P. Barr two, time 77th and 85th Attorney General under Trump and George H. W. Bush.
Why read it? Because it’s a really good read and gives you insight into Washington. It’s come to a point where Republicans want to give a Democrat President more power to combat cartels.
The U.S. Must Defeat Mexico’s Drug Cartels
By William P. Barr
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.
Overdose deaths every year—more than 100,000—exceed the number of Americans killed in action during the bloodiest year of World War II. But the devastation from drug abuse goes much deeper. A 2017 analysis, accounting for the costs of healthcare, criminal justice, lost productivity and social and family services, estimated that the total cost of America’s drug epidemic was more than $1 trillion annually, or 5% of gross domestic product. Given the explosion in illicit drug deaths since then, this estimate now seems conservative.
Almost all illicit drugs coming into the U.S. are controlled by the Mexican cartels, principally those based in the states of Sinaloa and Jalisco. These paramilitary organizations use bribery and terror tactics to entrench themselves as essentially states within the state, controlling large areas of Mexico. They have become so powerful they can confront the Mexican government with the narcoterrorists’ stark choice: “plata o plomo”—silver or lead. If they can’t buy off officials, they try to cow them with threats of violence.
An antidrug strategy that leaves the drug supply chain untouched will have minimal impact. Realprogress requires aggressively attacking the drug supply at its source. The head of the snake is in Mexico, and that is where the main thrust of our efforts must be directed. Experience in the early 1990s proved this, when the U.S. and Colombian governments joined in an all-out attack on the Medellín and Cali cartels inside Colombia, successfully eliminating them. Unfortunately, in the mid-1990s, we pulled back from this kind of extraterritorial engagement.
Mexican cartels have flourished because Mexican administrations haven’t been willing to take them on. The exception was President Felipe Calderón (2006-12) who wanted to go full bore against the cartels, but American priorities were elsewhere at the time. Today, the cartels’ chief enabler is President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO. When he came to power at the end of 2018, he announced the switch to a policy of “hugs, not bullets” and shut down counternarcotics cooperation with the U.S. Under strong pressure from President Trump, he occasionally engaged in a high-profile operation to create the illusion of cooperation, but these were smoke screens. In reality, AMLO is unwilling to take action that would seriously challenge the cartels. He shields them by consistently invoking Mexico’s sovereignty to block the U.S. from taking effective action.