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July 18, 2017

Should the US fight the war on drugs by actually fighting an actual war with Mexico?

The perhpas remarkable question in the title of this post is prompted by this remarkable commentary in US News authored by Matt A. Mayer, who is the CEO of Opportunity Ohio and a former senior official at the US Department of Homeland Security. The piece is headlined "To Solve the Opioid Crisis, Go to War," and here are excerpts:

Experts estimate that as many as 500,000 Americans could die from opioids over the next 10 years. Nearly all of the heroin and fentanyl hitting our streets is coming from Mexico, across the porous southern border. Mexico is also becoming, in some parts of the country, the main supplier of methamphetamine to the U.S., with overdose death rates increasing as the supply has surged.

We will spend tens of billions of dollars on addiction treatment, overdose responses, law enforcement activities, criminal justice processes and the ancillary costs associated with caring for the children of those who die from overdoses. Regardless of how much we spend, if we cannot substantially reduce or stop the flow of opioids and other death drugs across our southern border (and to a lesser extent through our mail system via China), we will continue to see tens of thousands of Americans die each year due to opioid and meth overdoses, with enormous damage to their families and communities....

To slow or stop the flow of opioids and other death drugs into our communities, we must secure the border with Mexico and methodically dismantle the distribution networks that the cartels have established in cities in all 50 states. The cartels are adaptive entities that will alter their strategy and tactics to counter each border and interior enforcement action we take to shut them down in the United States. Though the Mexican government makes some efforts to help with the cartels, corruption within the Mexican government and law enforcement is rampant. We simply can't rely upon the Mexican government for the kind of actions needed to crush the cartels.

This unfortunate reality raises a very uncomfortable question: Do we need to go to war with Mexico to ultimately win the war against opioids and other death drugs? By "go to war," I mean a formal declaration of war by Congress against Mexico in which we use the full force of our military might to destroy the cartels, the poppy fields and all elements of the drug trade. Ideally, as our fight is not with the Mexican government, its military or its people, which try to weaken the cartels, we would try to partner with those entities against the cartels, much as we partnered with the South Vietnamese government and military against the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army.

It sounds crazy, I know – unless you acknowledge we are already fighting a war with Mexico.

Short of such an all-out military effort, has anyone offered a realistic way to defeat the drug cartels and stop the flow of death drugs? Crushing the supply of opioids and other death drugs from Mexico will allow our treatment activities to gain ground against the epidemic and one day get ahead of it. If inexpensive heroin laced with fentanyl, or carfentanil, continues to be easily accessible in our communities, the wave of the opioid epidemic will simply continue to build. We must do something to force the wave to crest and to crash.

Let me put this issue in perspective. Since the first al-Qaida terrorist attack in Yemen in 1992, fewer than 5,000 Americans have died in terrorist attacks, with many of the deaths occurring on Sept. 11, 2001. In response to terrorist attacks, we waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and spent hundreds of billions of dollars on external and internal security measures to detect and to prevent future attacks.

If we did all of that in response to radical Islamic terrorism, why is it so crazy to consider using our military power to defeat the Mexican drug cartels which have inflicted far more death, mayhem and costs on America than al-Qaida and the Islamic State group combined? Unlike terrorists living in far-off places, halfway around the globe, the Mexican drug cartels are operating right next door and within our communities, pushing enormous amounts of heroin, meth and other death drugs across the southern border and into the veins of our communities.

War with Mexico may sound crazy, but allowing militarized drug cartels to run drug production facilities aimed at supplying opioids and other death drugs to Americans within 1,000 miles of our southern border is even crazier, especially as the death count hits 50,000 people per year. We can continue to fight this war for decades with walls and arrests, or we can win this war in years with aircraft carriers, jets, bombs and the United States Marines.

Imagine how many lives we can save of those 500,000 Americans predicted to die because of Mexican opioids and meth. War with Mexico doesn't sound so crazy anymore, does it? 

July 18, 2017 at 10:58 AM | Permalink


i don't think the idea is crazy so much as a I think it is deeply misguided. What a war doesn't do is address the disrepair, hopelessness, and alienation the drives people to use drugs in the first place. To be sure, I don't think one will every get the result to zero. But if you ask me the single biggest thing we could do to reduce the demand for drugs is not to attack Mexico but to attack domestic income inequality. That seems unlikely to happen because it is easer to go shoot up a bunch of over-matched brown skinned people than it is to raise taxes and engage in wealth redistribution. It is the American way. Whatever the problem it not our own fault it is the fault of some guy over there in some foreign country.

Posted by: Daniel | Jul 18, 2017 12:03:30 PM

"much as we partnered with the South Vietnamese government and military against the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army"

This does not help me to be convinced. Citing Al Qaeda doesn't do much for me either. I'm actually somewhat curious why there haven't been more attacks than there on there. I can think of low level attacks that would cause a lot of trouble that even one or two terrorists can do rather easily. I unsure how much our military actions did much to prevent that any more than Israel is free from terrorism by using the military. Finally, writ large, granting certain military actions as acceptable (not trying to be full pacifist here), our strategy there left something to be desired too.

The first comment touches upon the heart of it & overall think a "war" mindset worsens the situation, including usage of "us" vs. "them," including regarding many of the victims here. And, there will likely always be some demand. The best we can do is cushion the blow some. War worsens things more often than not.

Posted by: Joe | Jul 18, 2017 1:53:48 PM

No. Drug use is demand not supply driven. I guess, lawyers may not entirely be the stupidest people in our country. Our entire elite is idiotic, and should be fired as an elite.

"... has anyone offered a realistic way to defeat the drug cartels and stop the flow of death drugs?"

Yes, me. Stop demand by the lash. No drug abuse in Saudi Arabia, nor in Singapore. There are no ethnic differences in mental health.

This author also does not consider the benefits of opiate overdose deaths, such as marked drops in criminality by attrition.

Posted by: David Behar | Jul 18, 2017 2:05:50 PM

The War should be agasinst big Pharma who encourages doctors to prescribe pills d nauseam to patients who become addicted and then resort to heroin, fentanil, etc. when doctors refuse to renew the prescriptions.

Posted by: anon2 | Jul 18, 2017 3:10:37 PM

Anon2. What are you, a Commie?

Try to not fall. Try to not break a kneecap. Your doc will be denying you opiates, thanks to people like you. Try Extra Strength Tylenol. Report back.

The lawyer witch hunt is on for pharmaceutical companies. Their lawyers are working for the other side, and will not destroy the lives of the adversary, including DOJ scum. Start with total e-discovery on the prosecutors and on the judges.

Posted by: David Behar | Jul 18, 2017 6:24:06 PM

We certainly could offer ground support to rid the cartels and head off shipments.

Its true, drugs are demand driven, but with all the dollors being wasted after the fact and lives lost, its worth a try.

No Im not saying bomb Mexico, not in the beginning anyway. ( who knows outcome )

But patrol the hell out of them, they dont have nearly the petty laws on frisking, profiling etc that we do. Then maybe Mexico will build Trumps wall, fat chance on that one.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Jul 18, 2017 8:48:37 PM

In both Afghanistan and Iraq a rabble using light infantry weapons and scrounged explosives fought the most powerful military known to history to a draw.

Posted by: Fred | Jul 18, 2017 8:54:37 PM

You know, these American "thinkers" will do literally anything, except legalize drugs. I am convinced they will do literally anything. They would nuke the entire planet Earth to stop illegal drug usage.

That'll fix them dang drug addicts!

So, yeah, let's invide Mexico. Then we could invade Canada. And we could build 800 new prisons. How about we up the time in prison for all drug offenses. Why not make it life in prison. Then we could have 40 maybe 50 percent of the population in penitentiaries.

Literally anything, except the most simple thing. Legalize drugs.

Posted by: Stephen Douglas | Jul 18, 2017 10:16:04 PM

Fred. So true. But your forgot, "after taking our $trillion." That amount will explain quite a bit of the unexplained.

Posted by: David Behar | Jul 19, 2017 1:43:57 AM

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