What happens when you start a war and lose it?

That’s the question Sara Carter asks about Mexico in the Washington Examiner:

The violent deaths of nearly 35,000 in Mexico in the past four years symbolize a growing crisis for the United States as its southern neighbor is increasingly destabilized by competing drug organizations that have infiltrated every level of government, according to numerous U.S. officials.

President Felipe Calderon’s efforts to dismantle the drug gangs since taking office in 2006 has increased the number of grisly killings without diminishing the strength of the various criminal groups so far, experts said. That has placed U.S. security and Mexican security at risk.

“Mexico needs to take down the major cartel players or ask for our help to get it done,” said a U.S. official who is familiar with operations in the region. “Mexico is at a crisis point, and the situation is getting worse. We are left with an insecure border controlled by drug cartels, and our ability to limit their operations starts on our side. Unfortunately, that’s not good enough.”

There’s no doubt the situation in Mexico is bad and getting worse; as Carter points out, cartel-war related killings have increased 60% in just a year. The border city of Reynosa actually saw the Mexican Army trapped on its base as rival cartels fought a gun battle in the streets. The State Department has warned Americans to get their children out of Monterrey, because of the danger of kidnapping and being caught in a crossfire. Ciudad Mier is now a ghost town — government control is a sick joke. The discovery of beheaded corpses is now commonplace.

And that anarchy is more and more spilling over the border onto our side, most recently in the murder at Falcon Lake, the killing of a Border Patrol agent, and shots fired at a Hudspeth County, Texas, road crew.

Treating it as a law-enforcement matter looks less viable with each passing day. The corruption of local and state authorities in Mexico is notorious — and often fatal to those seeking redress under the law. It’s even a serious problem at the federal level.

And yet, to ask Lenin’s famous question, what is to be done? President Calderon has already involved the Mexican military, with at best mixed results: Mexican Marines, for example, captured 30 gang members in Reynosa,but then there’s that embarrassing incident with the Army. Should Calderon declare formal state of insurrection, give up any pretense of this being a law-enforcement matter, and go to full-scale war? And, to be blunt, is the Mexican state up to the task?

The anonymous US official cited above hints at more than police cooperation between our two countries, yet US military involvement would be controversial, to say the least. Even if it were limited to intelligence and Special Forces assistance, Mexican pride has been sore ever since that little dust-up between us from 1846-48, and any Mexican president openly acquiescing to US military operations on his country’s soil would pay political Hell for his choice, no matter how logical it may be.

But it may come to that, especially if the violence spills over to our side in ways that even Washington cannot ignore, whether directly or from a flood of refugees.

The risk of Mexico becoming a failed state is a serious problem for us, and it is one that has no good answer.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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5 Responses to What happens when you start a war and lose it?

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Phineas Fahrquar. Phineas Fahrquar said: Public Secrets #tcot What happens when you start a war and lose it?: That’s the question Sara Carter asks about … http://bit.ly/hRWY5a [...]

  2. Tim says:

    Too bad we can’t build a, you know…fence. Or wall.

  3. MadAlfred says:

    As I have said before, we need to militarize the border. We should also consider military operations should the violence continue to spill over.

    • Phineas Fahrquar says:

      I like your idea for mines*.

      *(Dear Homeland Security. That was a joke. I am not under the mind-control of Sarah Palin’s map.)

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