The Dept of Justice has published an update on one of our longest wars, declared by President Nixon at a press conference on 17 June 1971 (more explicitly to Congress here). Only the War on Poverty (declared by LBJ on 8 January 1964) has run longer. (I have not found a date for first use of “War on Cancer”; it was not used by Nixon in 1971).
Overall, the availability of illicit drugs in the United States is increasing.1 In fact, in 2009 the prevalence of four of the five major drugs–heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, and MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine)–was widespread and increasing in some areas. Conversely, cocaine shortages first identified in 2007 persisted in many markets.
… Although drug use remained relatively stable from 2007 through 2008, more than 25 million individuals 12 years of age and older reported using an illicit drug or using a controlled prescription drug (CPD) nonmedically in 2008. Each year, drug-related deaths number in the thousands, and treatment admissions and emergency department (ED) visits both exceed a million. These and other consequences of drug abuse, including lost productivity associated with abuse, the impact on the criminal justice system, and the environmental impact that results from the production of illicit drugs, are estimated at nearly $215 billion annually.
There are 2 cartel wars currently raging in Mexico that have combined to produce record levels of violence in 2009.
The first war is the struggle between the government of Mexico and the drug cartels.
The second, a parallel war, is the fight among the various cartels as they compete for control of lucrative supply routes.
Shortly after his inauguration in December 2006, President Felipe Calderon launched an all-out effort to target the cartels, which he viewed as a major threat to Mexico’s security and stability. Over the past three years, the government’s effort has weakened and fragmented some of the major cartels (namely the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels), but this government progress has upset the balance of power among the cartels, which has resulted in increased violence. Former cartel allies have been pitted against each other in bloody battles of attrition as rival cartels have tried to take advantage of their weakened competitors and seize control of smuggling routes.
In this year’s report on Mexico’s drug cartels, we assess the most significant developments of the past year and provide an updated description of the country’s powerful drug-trafficking organizations as well as a forecast for 2010. This annual report is a product of the coverage we maintain on a weekly basis through our Mexico Security Memo as well as other analyses we produce throughout the year.
Gunmen posing as police officers entered the Amadeus strip club in Juarez, Chihuahua state and methodically executed six people in the early morning hours of Nov. 4, including U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Booher Montanez.
The Secretary of Public Security for the city of Garcia, Nuevo Leon state, retired Brig. Gen. Juan Arturo Esparza, was killed along with four of his bodyguards in a firefight that took place outside of the Garcia mayor’s home in the afternoon of Nov. 4. The mayor of Garcia, Jaime Rodriguez, exited his home to find a group of eight trucks with armed men outside. Rodriguez then issued a call for help; Esparza and his four bodyguards were the only ones to respond. The governor of the state of Nuevo Leon, Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz, promptly relieved the remaining 70 officers of their duties and ordered the Nuevo Leon state Investigative Agency to investigate their inaction. … The inaction by the rest of the Garcia police department underscores the remaining corruption issues that continue to plague the Mexican security apparatus.
(2) “The Fall of Mexcio“, Philip Caputo, The Atlantic, December 2009 — This is very much worth reading in full. Excerpt:
While we squander our resources on the other side of the world, our neighbor to the South deteriorates — desperately needing aid. In Mexico we see the decline of the State accellerating into what might soon become an advanced state of decay. As Martin van Creveld said over a decade ago, Mexico might turn out to be the greatest threat to America’s sovereignty that we have even encountered.
The Mexican army’s increasing role in the war against drug cartels has prompted concerns about a potential overstretching of its deployed troops and the impact this could have on morale as well as the army’s capabilities for traditional responses, including natural disaster relief and stationary deployments for guarding strategic facilities and infrastructure such as oil pipelines.
During the Calderon era, the number of soldiers assigned to antinarcotics operations has almost doubled from 23,000 to 45,000. At the same time, the number of soldiers deserting the army has increased to unprecedented levels, without the Federal Government taking meaningful steps toward reversing this trend or making the army more efficient.
The army’s reputation as a professional, well-disciplined force is being eroded as respected watchdog groups, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, document escalating allegations of human rights abuses by the Mexican military.
Summary: the McChrystal’s Assesment consists of layers of absurdity, piled high. Future generations will study it as a prime example of early 21st century madness, when such a thing was taken seriously.
This is a statement by an officer of the modern U.S. Army, an institution with a broad disdain for the legacy of Gen. William Westmoreland. As first commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam (1964-1968) and then Army chief of staff (1968-72), Westmoreland’s legacy has come to be seen as that of having asked for more and more American troops without a winning strategy. In other words, he continued to commit more American soldiers to a conflict without a strategy that had any real chance for success. While one can debate the history, many in the U.S. Army’s officer corps today consider Westmoreland an officer who did the ultimate disservice to his country — and perhaps more importantly, to his men — by allowing a failed political and military strategy to continue to consume American lives. … With this report, McChrystal has clearly differentiated himself from this path.
Absurd. For example, the report’s language on page 2-20 could come from DoD report about Vietnam written up to the very end:
Mexico offers perhaps the greatest foreign policy challenge to the United States. Few nations’ internal problems have greater potential to hurt America; over few nations do we have so little ability to influence their developments (as our shared history makes them allergic to our assistance).
U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske is in the middle of a four-day visit this week to Mexico, where he is meeting with Mexican government officials to discuss the two countries’ joint approach to Mexico’s ongoing cartel war. In prepared remarks at a July 27 press conference with Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, Kerlikowske said Washington is focused on reducing drug use in the United States, supporting domestic law enforcement efforts against drug traffickers and working with other countries that serve as production areas or transshipment points for U.S.-bound drugs.
Absent from his remarks was any mention of the U.S. position on the role of the Mexican military in the country’s battle against the drug cartels. Kerlikowske’s visit comes amid a growing debate in Mexico over the role that the country’s armed forces should play in the cartel war. The debate has intensified in recent weeks, as human rights organizations in Mexico and the United States have expressed concern over civil rights abuses by Mexican troopsassigned to counternarcotics missions in various parts of the country.
Here is one expert’s view on Mexico’s overall situation, comparing the current crisis with past events: “The Coming Tequila Crisis“, By John R. Taylor, Jr. (Chief Investment Officer), FX Concepts, 9 July 2009 — Excerpt”
The recent elections in Mexico are the final nail in the coffin for the Mexican economy and the peso, and could lead to the unraveling of the country’s social fabric. The victory of the PRI over President Calderon’s PAN party in the mid-term elections has put the lower house in the opposition’s hands. We feel this will effectively paralyze the government, tying its fiscal hands, as the economic and social situation in Mexico continues to deteriorate. Although the commentaries we have seen even after the election have tended toward the positive and even the Pollyanna, our experience with Mexico over the past 36 years tells us that we all should fear for the worst.
Mexico is economically bound to the United States and, in the past, when the US came down with a mild cold, a year or two later Mexico’s cold became a bad case of pneumonia. Now, the United States has pneumonia and we wonder what Mexico will get.