The limits of military power: we need to pay attention to Mexico's problems.


Mexican Drug Cartel'sIn today’s Washington Post in an article entitled Mexico weighs options as lawlessness continues to grip Ciudad Juarez we clearly can see the very real limits of even massive military power.  At some point, a nation reaches the point of diminishing returns.  Mexico is now there.  This provides a clear lesson to us relative to our "anti-Taliban" adventures overseas. We must not look away.  We must see the dangers here.

The article is enlightening and speaks directly to the problems involved when a nation is forced or otherwise chooses to use the army to combat social evils, in this case, a massive drug-driven underground economy that feeds and employs millions of Mexicans.  To state this simply, it apears that Mexico is losing this ever escalating drug war within its own borders because the people apparently either want it that way or they do not have enough resolve to force the drug lords to capitulate to the government.  Violence is now routinely spilling over the border into the U.S. Why?



Well, the answers are legion of course. 

There is the problem of unemployment in Mexico and the U.S. which essentially makes drug dealing look like a viable option to people who are desperate. 

There is the massive mountains of money that can be made by virtually anyone willing to take a chance at making or transporting drugs. 

There is the allure of the danger , of the criminal life for those who nurture their sociopathic tendencies. 

There is the threat of bodily harm or death for snitches or those who will not go along with the drug lords. 

And frankly, there is just the natural human tendency to refuse to get involved with the local thugs.  Life just seems easier that way for all concerned. And it saves on constantly getting one’s broken legs placed in a caste after the druglord’s henchmen visit the neighborhood once again to "talk to you".

But like us, the Mexicans are continually turning to their armed forces to control violent elements of their national life relative to international dangers.  I am not preaching, they probably have no other choice.  But this is a blatant example of how the application of more and more military power does not necessarily yield the desired results.  We see that now in Afghanistan and Iraq.

At some point, we are going to have to realize that all the armed forces’ interventions in the world will not make us a safer nation if we continue our ever-escalating "slash and burn" economic policies overseas.  To quote an often used African-American phrase, "what goes around comes around".

This means of course that our continual military industrial complex and psudeo-defense related "brush fire" wars that we always seem to get ourselves involved within have a price.  And only the Patrician class seems to make money off these wars. This is just like the rich and powerful that are at the very head of the drug war profit machinery in Mexico.  Very few poor people outside of the drug lords seem to benefit from the drug trade.

We need to take a hard look at Mexico.  It could very well be a picture of us in the coming decades.  At some point, the people stop caring about the needs of the central government and that is usually a point reached when the people start realizing that the central government operates to protect its own needs, and not their needs. 

In large part Mexico has a massive drug trade problem because for hundreds of years the Patricians in that country have simply taken from the Plebes.  They saw it as their right.  The Plebes to some degree identify much more closely with the drug lords than they do with the central government.  They are desperate and the elegance of political argument may not be an option for the hungry.

At that point, as far as the people are concerned, it is simply a matter of choosing one bad group of thugs over another bad group of thugs.  And at that point, the central government often loses out to more violent elements.

We desperately need to see this.  We may not be all that far from it.

Waging constant low level wars for the benefit of the portfolios of the patrician class using the kids of the plebes is an open invitation to civil unrest in this country.  And if that happens, the army will be of no use to us.  Because at that point, the entire concept of "us" will be up in the air for interpretation.

CWO3 Tom Barnes, USCG (Ret.)


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