A US War on Mexico Wouldn’t Win the US War on Drugs

Cartel violence in Michoacan. Photo by LaVerdad. reative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Cartel violence in Michoacan. Photo by LaVerdad. reative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

“A violent drug cartel is suspected of leaving a severed human leg found hanging from a pedestrian bridge Wednesday in Toluca, just west of Mexico City,” CBS News reports. “[T]he trunk of the body was left on the street below, near the city’s center, along with handwritten signs signed by the Familia Michoacana cartel.”

Familia Michoacana, which apparently specializes in the production and distribution of methamphetamine, “has become known for carrying out ruthless, bloody ambushes of police in Mexico State and local residents in Guerrero” to protect its lucrative business.

Meanwhile, over the last several months, opportunistic US politicians have used increasing US drug overdose numbers linked to increasing use of fentanyl as an excuse to get an “invade Mexico to fight the cartels” bandwagon rolling.

Given the history of stupid US foreign policy ideas, it seems like it should be incredibly hard to come up with one that out-stupids the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq combined, but with not so much as a “hold my beer” warning, these idiots seem to have managed it.

If any of those past fiascoes could be said to have had any saving graces at all, the main one was that they were conducted far, far away, versus enemies who lacked much ability to bring the war home to America.

Mexico, as you’re no doubt aware,  shares a 2,000-mile border with the US. Millions of people cross that border every year, with or without permission from or even detection by the US government. And the major cartels, as part of their drug distribution operations, already maintain a permanent presence in the US.

Any “war on the cartels” would be fought at least partly on US soil, and it would be fought by the kind of people who don’t quail from things like leaving severed human legs hanging from bridges to send their messages. Do we really want more of that kind of thing here? I have to ask, because sending US troops barging into Mexico is how we get things like that here.

The US government has been fighting — and losing — a “war on drugs” for most of a century now.

That war created the cartels.

That war empowers the cartels.

Expanding that war would unleash the cartels’ most vicious behaviors on US soil, while reducing unsafe drug consumption little if at all.

Legalizing drugs, on the other hand, would devastate the cartels’ profit and loss statements, put production and distribution of substances Americans obviously want into the hands of reputable/peaceable businesses, and reduce overdose deaths and other negative side effects of drug use by bringing standardized dosage and quality to American consumers.

Whose side are the “invade Mexico” demagogues on? Not yours.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.