Alex Massie Alex Massie

Mexico is the new Colombia?

That seems to be the message from the Obama administration anyway. Mind you, that was the message from the Bush administration too as the War on Drugs – so successful in Colombia and, for that matter, Afghanistan – was expanded to Mexico. Hillary Clinton is in Mexico City today, just as her boss announces that Washington will send hundreds more federal agents to police the Mexican border. All in all:

The administration will spend $700 million this year and more in the future on a wide variety of bilateral security programs, including improving cross-border interdiction efforts, upgrading intelligence-gathering methods and establishing corruption-resistant police agencies and courts.

The White House also pledged to redouble its efforts to diminish the demand for illegal drugs in the United States and staunch the flow of weapons and laundered money into Mexico, two issues that have prompted criticism that Washington wasn’t doing its part in the fight. What could possibly go wrong with this? (Incidentally, the latest anti-drug plan also draws $40m from “economic stimulus money” which, though a drop in the ocean of Washington’s largesse, might not be the most obvious use for that cash). Then again, since nationalisation is all the rage, why not apply this logic to the drug trade? Not that a state monopoly should be encouraged, of course… Anyway, the Obama administrations seems likely to discover that Mexico’s drug cartels are indeed “too big to fail”. In any case, “victory” in Mexico would most probably mean “defeat” somewhere else as the drugs find another route into the United States.

The violence in Mexico – more than 7,000 murders in recent months – is indeed horrific. But it’s a symptom not a cause of a much wider failure: the entire premise of a War on Drugs that though first called that by Rochard Nixon really dates as far back as the Eisenhower administration.

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